September 14, 2012

Four out of five couples today have dual careers.

Six in ten women with children under age 6 work outside the home.

One in five employees provides care to an elderly parent or relative, a number that will more than double in the near future.

With statistics like these, it’s no wonder that flexibility at work, or work-life balance, consistently ranks at the top of employee surveys, often ahead of a pay increase.

man working at home

Of course, flexible work arrangements aren’t compatible with every job or work setting. Some jobs can’t be done by telecommuting and require a full-time, on-site person. But, to the extent your business needs allow you to be more flexible, consider the following options and benefits of added flexibility.

The Options

  • Flex-time: Allowing employees to choose their start and stop times, within a certain range of hours
  • Compressed work week: Allowing employees to work their required weekly hours within a shorter number of days, such as four 10-hour days per week
  • Schedule adjustments: Letting employees take off for doctor appointments, children’s events, a sick child, or elder care and make up the time elsewhere during the week
  • Part-time work: Allowing employees to work fewer hours per day and/or fewer days per week, and have their pay and benefits reduced accordingly
  • Job-sharing: Permitting two employees to cover the duties of one position and divide the pay and benefits
  • Sabbaticals or leaves of absence: Leaving for a period of time with the ability to return to work
  • Telecommuting: Working from home on a full-time or part-time basis

The Benefits

Providing flexible work arrangements to your employees may help to:

Attract top talent. The best candidates usually have multiple job offers. You may not be able to offer higher pay than your competitors, but work flexibility is attractive to employees and costs the company little or nothing to provide.

Retain high performers. In a survey of 614 companies, half ranked flexibility as their most effective retention tool.

Improve job satisfaction and morale. A meta-analysis of 59 studies confirmed that employees of companies that provide flexible work arrangements have better job attitudes. This was true even for employees who do not use the programs, but know they are available.

Increase productivity. The preceding meta-analysis also found that employees are more productive in workplaces that provide flexible scheduling.

If your company is considering starting or expanding the flexible work arrangements it offers, here are some steps to help you get the best results:

Consider how flexibility fits into your strategic business plan. What kinds of problems are your employees experiencing that could be improved by greater flexibility? What are they asking for? What are your competitors offering their employees?

Review your company’s past experiences with allowing flexible scheduling. What worked and what didn’t? How much was each program used? Ask employees who are using the programs what they like and don’t like about them.

Find out what kinds of flexibility your employees want. The most cost-efficient way to do this is with email surveys. However, it often helps to start with focus groups, so you will know what to ask in your email survey.

Train supervisors on how to manage employees who choose flexible scheduling. Managers need to learn how to problem solve and find win-win solutions. They also need to know when it is appropriate to say no to a request.

Communicate the new policies. Make sure that both managers and employees know about the options for flexibility you are offering. The best corporate communications involve multiple media and repetition.

Evaluate the effectiveness of your flexible scheduling programs after a year. How are they working for employees, supervisors and business needs? Make changes accordingly.

The time and effort you put into making your workplace more flexible for employees could pay off many times over.

This article was originally posted on September 14, 2012 and the information may no longer be current. For questions, please contact GRF CPAs & Advisors at