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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Flexibility boosts productivity, cuts costs, but stigma remains

A pilot program at some of the country's largest corporations is injecting a dose of flexibility into work schedules, making employees happier, boosting productivity, and cutting costs for the companies. But sadly, parents still fear the stigma associated with taking advantage of flexible work hours.

Maggie Jackson published a column in the Sunday Boston Globe called, "Team-based flexible work programs are pushing into the mainstream." As part of the pilot program, employees at 10 corporate giants were given the option of starting earlier in the day or working later in the evening. They also had the option of working 80 hours over nine business days, instead of 10, giving participants an extra day off every two weeks. If this program--or others like it--becomes more widespread, it could be a small boon for parents who want to be home when their kids get home from school, or just want extra days off.

The 10 companies participating in the BOLD program include Chubb, Frito-Lay, Gannett, Johnson & Johnson, Macy's Northwest, Pitney Bowes, Puget Sound Energy, Prudential Financial, Weyerhaeuser, and Nextel Communications. But executive at these corporate giants aren't participating out of the kindness of their hearts. The bottom line? The bottom line.

And a separate study released Tuesday, by Corporate Voices for Working Families, found that not only do flexible work options make employees happier (equaling lower job turnover), but they also boost profits. Some of the examples, reported by the Christian Science Monitor, included:

  • Deloitte: Saved $41.5 million in employee turnover costs in 2003, based on the number of professionals who said they would have left if they didn't have flexible work hours.
  • AstraZeneca: Employee attitudes were 28 percent higher for employees who said they had the flexibility they needed than for those who said they did not.
  • PNC Financial: Staggered schedules allowed customers to be served for an extra hour and a half each day. Absenteeism and turnover declined.

But sadly, fewer than half of all companies in the United States offer flextime plans and two-thirds of working mothers say there's a stigma attached to using flexible work options, Working Mother Media CEO Carol Evans told the Monitor. "Changing a whole corporate culture is like turning a giant ship in the ocean," she said.

The good thing about that--if the analogy is accurate--is that you can turn a giant ship. It just takes time and patience.

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