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Trends Impacting Flexible Work Arrangements

Posted By Arianna Campbell, Consultant, Monday, October 3, 2016

The AICPA’s 2015 PCPS Issues Survey found that attracting and retaining qualified staff was the number one priority for firms of all sizes except for sole practitioners. Many firms address this priority by instituting flexible work arrangements to reward, engage, and retain employees. Yet many companies still see flex work as an accommodation rather than a business driver. Not convinced? Consider these trends impacting flexible work arrangements.

Generational Changes

In 2015, Millennials surpassed Generation X, becoming the largest share of the American workforce. Millennials are comfortable with digital technology that allows them to work anytime, anywhere and they place a high priority on taking advantage of technology to balance work and personal commitments.

Increase in Average Age of First-Time Mothers

The average age of first-time mothers continues to increase. From 2000 to 2014, the proportion of first births to women aged 30-34 rose 28% (from 16.5% to 21.1%), and first births to women aged 35 and over rose 23% (from 7.4% to 9.1%). Today’s mothers have typically invested a significant amount of time in their careers - and with their firms – by the time they have children. If they are not given the flexibility to successfully manage their personal and professional lives, the loss of their experience and knowledge is a significant blow to the firm and the industry as a whole.

Increase in Paternity Leave

Mothers aren’t the only ones looking for flexible work arrangements. Paid paternity leave is on the rise in Silicon Valley. A 2012 survey found that Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit lead major tech companies in providing 17 weeks of paid paternity leave following the birth or adoption of a child. What starts in Tech is bound to make its way to other industries – including public accounting.

Increase in Dual-Income Households

In 1960, only 25% of married couples in America with children under 18 were in dual-income households. By 2012, that number had grown to 60%. Gone are the days when one spouse supported the family financially and the other handled child care and housework. Now, with both parents working, household and childcare duties are often distributed more evenly, but parents are stressed out and struggling to balance work and family commitments. Flexible work arrangements provide the framework to accommodate the dynamics of dual-income households.

Increase in Caregivers

In addition to working full-time at fast-paced and stressful jobs, more Americans are serving as caregivers for their aging parents. There are 40.4 million unpaid caregivers of adults ages 65 and older in the US, and these are not short-term commitments. The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP’s report Caregiving in the US 2015 found that the average length of time is four years and caregivers spend, on average, 24.4 hours a week providing care. Flexibility is needed to prevent caregivers from having to make the choice of providing care or working.

Increase in Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy in the US reached an all-time high of 78.8 years in 2012. Longer lifespans, improved health, and economic necessity mean many workers who once might have retired at 65 or earlier are less likely to do so today. They may not need or want to work full-time, but can continue to bring their wisdom, experience, and strong work ethic long after “normal” retirement age.

Increase in Diversity

Pew Research Center predicts that by 2055, the US will not have a single racial or ethnic majority. The percentage of foreign-born people in the US has increased from 5% in 1965 to 14% today. A majority of the US population growth will be linked to Asian and Hispanic immigration. Differing cultures and religions mean that employers must accommodate different employee needs for religious and cultural celebrations rather than rely on the traditional public holiday calendar.

Summary

These trends are impacting the workforce in many different demographics, making flexible work arrangements a necessity, not a luxury or reward. This is also not just for the millennials or moms. Flexible work arrangements are a critical consideration for attracting and retaining talent at all levels within the firm. A commitment to flexibility will make firms successful and future ready.

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