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Fuel for Flex Time

6 Dec, 2007 By: Sara Sutton Fell imageSource

Fuel for Flex Time

There is an increasingly notable trend among companies that promise to
re-define the way executives and employees balance their professional
responsibilities with their personal goals. This development is not exclusive to
one group; not only dealer, vendor, VAR or sales exec; it’s a breakthrough among
all employees everywhere. This is not an isolated phenomenon among a handful of
progressive businesses. Rather, the rise of telecommuting and flextime is an
undeniable fact that combines some of the very best elements of modern corporate
life: technology, economy, time management, efficiency, productivity, proven
results and yes, satisfaction between workers and management.

This is a far cry from the days when these elements were merely speculative
arguments about a glorious future where computers would seemingly revolutionize
the traditional definitions of work and leisure. Today, it is commonplace for
most corporations, from small enterprises to household brands, to have flextime
or telecommuting positions that accommodate employees with individual needs or
newfound duties that require greater latitude at both home and the office.

Many of us are experiencing the benefits. Like millions of new mothers who
are also successful female entrepreneurs, I know firsthand that a conventional
workweek or standard commute to a corporate campus is not ideal for many of us.
At the same time, it is not smart for businesses to lose talented, experienced
employees simply because they would like some flexibility with their hours or
the option to work from a home office, especially as many other sales executives
work remotely today (men and women included). Still, it is a challenge that
requires both open-mindedness and strategic communication and is often part of
ongoing conversations throughout the business community.

When, Where, How

The demand isn’t for reduced work hours or lessened responsibilities; most
employees simply need flexibility in when, where, and how they do their work.
Take, for instance, a copier rep who is seeking further certification or
training and his/her weekly class falls in the first two hours of work. In this
case, if the rep was able to adjust his/her schedule on these days, working
later “flex hours,” there would be no negative impact on performance, and in
fact, working during the quieter “off” hours might even prove more productive.
And other employees don’t have to get resentful that someone else is getting
preferential treatment. They know firsthand that flex hours are an option for
those that need it. That includes taking time to drive a sick child to the
doctor. These types of situations can become opportunities for companies to
react more empathetically, resulting in beneficial solutions which foster
employee loyalty.

Survey Says

Surveys overwhelmingly confirm this viewpoint: almost two-thirds of
individuals cite flexible work arrangements as being either extremely or very
important to them. (This study, conducted by the Harvard Business Review, is one
of several reports that employers, to their credit, view seriously.) Many of
these same people also state that flextime is more valuable to them than higher
pay or additional vacation time. The primary reasons include caring for a child
or an elderly relative, or for health reasons, but still wanting to maintain a
career, needing different yet acceptable hours to work so as to be productive.

Companies who ignore these circumstances - and thankfully, fewer and fewer
businesses are part of this group - compromise their ability to attract and
retain top talent. A CEO of a public company once remarked that the best way to
maintain a happy workforce was to respect the employee’s  primary commitment –
that of taking care of their families. And anytime you make them choose between
career and personal duty, you chip away at the trust, loyalty, and morale that
the employee has in the company, ultimately affecting their job performance. 

A survey conducted by the Kenexa Research Institute, a recruitment and
retention consulting firm, polled about 10,000 U.S. workers where 73% of remote
and home-based workers said they were satisfied with their company as a place to
work, compared with 64% of office workers. In addition, 70% of the telecommuters
said they were "proud to tell people I work for (that) company," while only 64%
of office workers agreed with that statement. "When companies allow employees to
work remotely or from home, they are explicitly communicating to them that 'I
trust you to be dedicated to the accomplishment of the work, even if I'm not
able to observe you doing it," says Jack Wiley, executive director of the
Minneapolis institute." It boils down to respect," he says. "I respect you and I
have confidence in your commitment to the work – to do this under the conditions
and at the time you feel will be most productive for you." With the result being
still good for the employer as well.

It is also important to note that many workers who leave a company do so for
reasons that, though they are not directly related to flextime or telecommuting,
could be mitigated by these options. The pressure and rigidity of some
businesses create displeasure and anxiety; people leave these places without
much regret. And yet, this loss of talent has a lasting effect on a company's
ability to perform, from its pursuit of clients to its reputation among
prospective employees. Translation: word gets around if a business has a bad
work environment, thwarting good talent.

Meeting these challenges is often exciting as well as necessary. The broad
acceptance among companies on flextime and telecommuting are worthy of our
heightened attention. Acceptance of these tools is a plus for a business, an
advantage that can mean the difference between success and failure, between
excellence and mediocrity. When businesses embrace this option as an
opportunity, we can help build more good – and great – businesses, places where
employees are happy and productive and proud of how they are working, and living
their lives.

Sara Sutton Fell is Founder and President of
www.FlexJobs.com, a leading resource for
employers and job seekers, offering a comprehensive array of positions that
allow telecommuting or flextime, including pairing workers with companies. For
more info visit online or phone 310-472-0520.

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