Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Diary of a Recession Baby - Employers see benefits of workplace flexibility

By Ruth Mantell, MarketWatch
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Workplace flexibility — telecommuting, flexible hours and other employee accommodations — is an idea growing on employers who are trying to grow their companies out of the recession.
While the idea of workplace flexibility is familiar — companies have been working for years on strategies to enable employees to have some say over when and where they work — it may become more appealing for firms looking to retain workers stressed by higher productivity demands, and attract those searching for a better spot, industry participants said.
“Employees are maxed out,” said Kyra Cavanaugh, president of Life Meets Work, a Chicago area flexible workplace consultant. “[Companies] just can’t get anymore productivity out of employees coming out of the recession, and they are starting to leave their workplace. People are fed up. Market forces are making flexibility a more strategic alternative to some of the other ways that companies used to manage growth.”
Longer-term trends may also push firms to adopt more flexible policies. Women are continuing to obtain high levels of education, incentivizing them to remain in the workforce, and creating demand from families for increased flexibility. Also, there’s evidence that younger workers, who will be make up a larger chunk of the workforce as baby boomers retire, place strong emphasis on their work product, rather than hours spent in a cubicle.
According to a 2010 report from the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, the benefits of flexible workplace arrangements — less absenteeism and turnover, and improved worker health and productivity — can outweigh costs.
Coming out of the recession, Cavanaugh said, she is seeing companies shifting to more structured policies about flexible work, and away from one-off arrangements for individuals. Much of the recent growth at Life Meets Work is from companies that already have programs, but want to make them better, she said.
“Companies are saying that they need to be more formal about flexibility,” Cavanaugh said.
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