If your company isn't yet offering some sort of flex time to employees, be it through a set policy or a more fluid approach, it's about time you looked into it.

Flex time can be a lifesaver, especially for working parents. When a child is sick and needs to be taken to the doctor, the ability to work remotely or take a few hours off can be crucial for a father or mother.

The good news is that flex time is becoming more popular at companies nowadays, but there's still room for improvement. Especially when it comes to how flex time is perceived in the office. Even if it is technically allowed, some companies tend to view it as undesirable, prompting workers to attach a stigma to taking time off. That's why it's important to both create some sort of policy or guideline as well as stress the validity of flex time as a part of office culture.

A new report from the Working Mother Research Institute looked at how flex time impacts parents, fathers in particular in this study, and why it's important for companies to offer some sort of flex time.

As Scott Behson, a professor of management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, writes in a Harvard Business Review article, "the ability to carve out small, informal flex solutions can be really important for employee well-being, engagement, and retention."

The good news is that the WMRI report reveals that many companies are offering some sort of informal flexibility at work. The report surveyed 1,000 working men and found that though only 29 percent had fixed flex time arrangements, 66 percent said they were able to use flex when they needed to. And it turns out that informal flex plans were preferred to more structured policies.

The report also found that 73 percent of the men surveyed were happy with their ability to work from home, and 78 percent were at least somewhat comfortable using the flexibility offered to them. Sixty-two percent said their employers encouraged taking flex time to some extent, and that same segment was more likely to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled at work.

"By huge margins, men believed that work flexibility helped them be more productive, happier, less stressed, more motivated at work, more effective at home, and more committed to their employers," Behson writes.

The report gives hope, showing that flex time is more common than one might think. But it should also come as a call to action for those remaining companies that don't offer any flex time, as well as those that might not encourage taking the flex time offered.

While some companies have full-blown flex time policies, that doesn't mean that your company needs to jump in head first. You can start with small steps and evolve over time.

"Flexibility doesn't have to be all-or-nothing -- it can be a gradual process, the first steps of which can take many different forms," Behson writes.

Published on: Dec 5, 2014