The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a huge increase in remote working. This is an important form of flexible working arrangements (FWAs), which enable employees to determine how, when and where they work. Here, we examine the evidence underpinning the impact of FWAs on inclusion and diversity (I&D) through an evidence review and shorter evidence summary.

  • See the practice summary for the main insights and practical recommendations for action. 
  • See the scientific summary for our methodology and technical information on the research and study references.

Flexible working, teleworking and diversity: An evidence review | Evidence summary

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Flexible working, teleworking and diversity: An evidence review | Scientific summary

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How do FWAs support I&D?

FWAs are argued to support workplace inclusion and diversity because they help people manage work and family responsibilities. This in turn is explained by employees being able to manage their resources to balance the demands of work and home life. In addition, because of social exchange, it is theorised that people are likely to give back and be committed to employers who help them. 

What is the effect of FWAs?

Reduced work-life conflict and increased job satisfaction and commitment

FWAs do indeed help employees reduce conflict between balancing family and work roles. The effect is small, however, and is determined by the type of FWA, with flexibility of time more likely to help than flexibility of location.

Greater job satisfaction is another positive outcome, although this decreases over time. This increase occurs whether or not employees take up the option of flexible working, suggesting it’s the perception of an organisation as supportive or family-friendly that counts.

There’s a positive but weak link between FWAs and employee commitment, with younger workers displaying greater commitment when flexible working is an option. This may be a tool for attracting younger talent.

Autonomy is critical to ensure positive outcomes

Simply giving parents more time with their families is not enough; positive outcomes like job satisfaction and reduced work-life conflict are only likely when employees, rather than the employer, can control their working arrangements.

FWAs may in fact lead to negative outcomes; women who find it easy to bring work home report worse mental health than those who find it difficult. In short, these arrangements can cause a blurring between work and home life.

Teleworking is not without its challenges

Teleworking, which relies on computer-mediated technology, can cause challenges, given the lack of non-verbal cues, such as warmth and tone of communication. For insight and practice recommendations, see our evidence review on developing effective virtual teams.

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