Flex at Work Benchmarking Initiative

Sara MacNaull and Nora Spinks

Workplace flexibility and the use of flexible work arrangements (FWAs) continue to be topics of great interest for employers and employees alike.

Organizations across Canada have been adapting their flex initiatives in response to changing demographics (aging workforce, millennial generation), technological advancements and increasing expectations of workplace flexibility among employees. Many of these organizations have also embarked on a systematic review of their organizational philosophy, policies and practices regarding flexible work.

Sponsored by a member of the Canadian Work–Life Leadership Circle, the Flex at Work Benchmarking Initiative focused on 15 organizations (professional services, financial institutions and Crown corporations) and their approaches to flex at work from their unique perspectives.

Key Findings from the Flex at Work Benchmarking Initiative

1. Flex is no longer optional: Workplaces are dynamic, and flex is a key component of talent management, in particular the recruitment and retention of top talent.

2. Organizations may slide along or back on the continuum: Some organizations have moved along the continuum from standard work arrangements (e.g. 9-to-5) to flexible work arrangements to mass career customization to agility and fluidity, while other have slowed down their pace or decreased flex opportunities.

3. Flex has become less formal, less bureaucratic, less structured: FWAs are less likely to be formalized in writing and more likely to be based on conversations between managers and employees to determine what arrangements work best from a performance and productivity perspective.

4. Consideration and team notification vs. permission-seeking: Flex work and remote work has become more about informing colleagues about schedule changes (i.e. choosing to work from home on a particular day) as opposed to asking a manager for permission to work from home.

Key Drivers for Flex

  • Productivity and performance
  • The importance of healthy workplaces, commitment to work–life quality
  • Commitment to sustainability and environmental protection (corporate social
  • Demographics
  • Transition to team-focused performance
  • Technology (mobility)
  • Diversity and inclusion


Sara MacNaull is Program Director at the Vanier Institute of the Family, and is currently working toward earning the Work–Life Certified Professional designation.

Nora Spinks is Chief Executive Officer at the Vanier Institute of the Family.

For more information about work–family, diversity and inclusion, and workplace wellness, contact the Vanier Institute of the Family at worklife@vanierinstitute.ca.

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