But sometimes those good intentions don't work out so well.
Employers might say they're being more flexible, but if their flexibility strategies aren't administered very well, they're headed for disaster. It isn't long before they claim "We tried flexibility and it didn't work", when the problem was not with the idea, but with how it was run.
Here are a few classic foibles:
It's not consistent. Maybe only management is allowed to take advantage of these programs, or maybe only new mothers or salaried workers. Employees can smell unfairness miles away, and it won't be long before you hear complaints of favoritism or of some employees being overloaded while covering for others.
It's just different hours, not the hours employees need. The state of Utah tried this a few years ago. You could work 9-hour days and then have every other Friday off. That really works well for some people, and not for others. What if your kids' daycare closes at 5:30? What if you want Wednesdays off instead of Fridays so you can take your child to his standing orthodontist's appointment?
Job expectations are not well-defined. This causes every employer's nightmare. The people who are working from home are getting suntans in their backyards instead of working on their projects, and getting information or completed projects from people turns into a constant nagfest. But if every employee and every manager has a clear idea of what needs to get done and when, it won't matter much if the employee is at home or at the office.
Inconsistent management. I have heard so many stories about work/life policies varying from department to department at the same employer. Someone has the perfect arrangement, they get a new manager, and the arrangement's gone. One person gets to work from home once a week but his co-worker a few cubicles down doesn't get the same privilege. Everybody has to be on board for a flexibility policy to work. Leaving it up to somebody else's whims does not create a unified corporate culture, nor does it guarantee the flexibility the employer brags about.
So I think it's time we bring flexibility out of the warm-fuzzy nebulous regions of corporate-speak and give it some sharper definitions. It needs to be carefully measured, well-defined, and consistent. It's not just one of those "soft" values---it has the potential to really change things, and to improve profitability not just for the companies who administer it, but for the entire economy.