Beware of jobs that offer “flexible work hours.”

That’s the gist of a new study on one of the most popular job perks today. It shows that 94 percent of companies now offer some flexibility in either scaling back your hours from time to time, or working from home if you need to, as long as you get your work done. But as it turns out, less than a quarter of employees at those companies ever take advantage of that perk.

  • For example: When companies claim to let you scale back to “part time” hours, this study shows that benefit only applies to 1-in-10 workers.

  • The same goes for companies that claim to offer a “leave of absence,” like if you need to leave work to care for a sick loved one. In reality, less than 1-in-10 workers get to use that perk!

What’s going on? Stephen Sweet is a workplace expert at Boston College who says most flexible work hours policies fail to consider the reality that today’s workers are constantly under pressure to meet deadlines, and maintain productivity. So, a lot of workers have a perk they either can’t or won’t use, because they know there will be negative consequences if they suddenly leave work.

Sweet’s thinking is that unless you’re a highly skilled worker, whose job is hard to replace, then your choices boil down to one of two things: 

Either leave work and risk getting fired, or stay on the job and cross your fingers when someone in your family gets sick, for example.

Bottom line: The flexible work hours perk isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.