It's National Flex Day. Do You Notice Where Your Employees Are Working?

With companies like Yahoo and H-P calling their workers back in from the home, Working Mother Media issues a battle cry for workplace flexibility and declares this National Flex Day to put a spotlight on its role in a productive workplace.

"Flexibility is the biggest shift in American working conditions since the five-day workweek, " says Carol Evans, president of Working Mother Media.

Purists will say the term "flextime" is not the same as working from home. But Working Mother links the two for the purposes of a new survey of 1,516 working mothers released today in conjunction with professional services consulting firm McGladrey LLP.

The ability to start and stop your workday as needed often means doing a portion of that work from home.

"Flex is a wonderful benefit," said Jennifer Owens, editor-in-chief of Working Mother and director of its research institute, in an interview with AOL Jobs. "Every study says it's powerful, cheap, increases productivity. It's also a little hard to do. You have to do more managing if you're dealing with people who are remote."

So what does Working Mother want to have happen on this day?

"We want people to start talking about flex. Flexibility is still often given to people when they are walking out the door and they can't make their jobs work," Owens said. "Maybe it's an elder care issue or they can't stand the commute anymore. They'll make the offer and say, 'Don't say anything about it to anyone..

"We want to celebrate what flex is out there. Have people talking about it and saying 'this is important to me.' Also bringing it out of the closet where it's a special perk.

Flex got some brouhaha in the press this year when Marissa Mayer took back work from home at Yahoo! Best Buy also got rid of its results-oriented work environment. Meg Whitman was the latest to strongly recommend H-P employees work at the office, All Things D reported.

The concern, Owens says, is that other companies might take their cue from Mayer, an executive with a reputation for superhuman work habits.

"Well, look, if this new young mom is taking back work from home, maybe we should do that."

"When that Marissa Mayer story broke," Owens recalls, "I saw Tina Brown on Good Morning America talking about how she didn't like work from home because people are in their pajamas and you know they're playing a video game while you're talking to them, and I thought: What are you talking about?

"We wanted to do something positive to talk about the fact that flex is here. It has so many different shapes and sizes for how it works for people. Teams are global, especially in the white-collar world. We all have to learn how to manage dispersed and diverse teams," she adds.

The survey showed that when their bosses also flex, power and job satisfaction increases all around.

According to the "How We Flex" report, 59 percent say their employers allow for flexibility when work is done, while 53 percent say their employer is flexible on where the work gets done.
  • 44 percent of respondents who use flexible work arrangements say their commitment at work is challenged by their boss or co-workers.
  • While 65 percent of working mothers report they could have a flexible schedule, only 37 percent actually take advantage of it.
  • Women whose bosses work flexible schedules report greater job satisfaction. Of the respondents whose managers often or always work from home, 71 percent report they are satisfied with their job security/stability, compared with 65 percent of respondents whose managers do not work from home.

"Working mothers are often the point of the wedge. They have more complicated lives, they're trying to support their families. Right behind them are working dads, people with eldercare responsibilities, people trying to go to college at night.

Flex works best when it's informal. No paperwork to fill out. Companies just train managers on it.

"I used to work with someone who played solitaire four hours a day, but he was in the office," says Owens. "Did being in the office make him a more productive employee? I don't think so."

(Full disclosure: AOL is on Working Mother's 100 Top Companies for 2013 and offers a flex policy for all employees who coordinate schedules with their managers.)

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