The State of OpenWork

Four recent studies outline where we are and where we can grow.


On the OpenWork website you’ll find “10 Reasons to Open Work,” sourced from a broad spectrum of organizations and methodologies. The results are clear: for most firms, some combination of workplace flexibility and results-oriented policies can have a big impact on employee satisfaction, productivity and bottom-line ROI.

Here we look at four recent studies that further illustrate why opening work is vital to the success of employers, how far organizations have come in embracing workplace innovation and where opportunities for improvement lie.

1. Controllable Turnover is Costly.

Most employers know that there are tangible costs associated with filling open positions, but many underestimate just how expensive it can be. In 2012, The Center for American Progress analyzed 30 case studies in 11 research papers and determined it costs roughly 20 percent of a position’s salary to fill a vacancy. That cost is significant when you consider that about one-fifth of employees leave jobs voluntarily each year, many due to work-life balance issues that could be addressed if employees and employers collaborate to reinvent how work is done, for the benefit of all.

2. Telecommuting Employees Are Productive Employees.

The Society for Human Resources Management surveyed a random sample of 525 members to develop its 2014 Workplace Flexibility Survey. The report outlines the types of flexible work arrangements offered and how widely they’re used. The study found that absenteeism decreased by one-third among telecommuting employees while productivity increased or remained the same for 92 percent of telecommuters.

3. Open Work Is Prevalent, But Informal.

In World at Work’s 2015 Trends in Workplace Flexibility study, 80 percent of surveyed organizations offered some type of workplace flexibility, such as telecommuting, flex time or compressed workweeks. However, only 37 percent of organizations describe the program as formalized (that is, supported by written philosophy and policies) and only 15 percent provide training for supervisors on how to successfully manage employees with flexible work arrangements. This points to a significant opportunity for firms to not only offer, but embrace workplace flexibility with a formalized, structured program. As Anne C. Ruddy, CCP, CPCU, president and CEO of World at Work notes, “Without a formal program in place, it’s difficult to measure flexibility’s effectiveness.”

4. Smaller Companies Are Leading the Charge.

The 2014 National Study of Employers by the Families and Work Institute shows that across nearly all measures, firms with 50 to 99 employees are more likely to offer flexible initiatives than firms with 1,000 or more employees. This includes initiatives like periodically changing starting or quitting times (33 percent of small firms, 20 percent of larger firms), working some paid hours at home (11 percent of small firms, 4 percent of large firms) and returning to work gradually after childbirth or adoption (53 percent of small firms, 37 percent of large firms). Smaller firms are frequently more agile, making them ideal proving grounds for instituting flexible work policies and measuring the ROI they deliver.

While research shows that many firms are picking up the mantle in terms of offering flexible workplace arrangements — and are seeing measurable value from doing so — there are still opportunities to ensure these initiatives are beneficial to both employers and employees. In order for open work practices to be fully successful in an organization, they need to be fully integrated. That means training, guidelines, and most importantly, management support.

For more information on the state of open work and how companies are reinventing work, visit