Work-life balance opportunities are important to your company's recruitment and retention strategies. Consider this: If job applicants have a choice between a company that allows them to work where they want, when they want, and how they want, and another company with a one-size-fits-all policy and no flexibility-which do you think they will choose? Which company would have better retention rates?
A 2007 survey by the Association of Executive Search Consultants reveals that 85 percent of recruiters have had candidates turn down a job because it lacked work/life balance. Ninety percent of recruiters believe that work/life issues are more important than they were in 2002.
What's In It for Employers?
Many companies that offer flexible work arrangements (FWA) are finding it gives them an edge over their competition in recruitment and retention. Some employees work full-time at one company and then move to part-time performing the same job or a new one. Others choose to shift gears entirely and seek employment in a new industry. In fact, in a 2005 Merrill Lynch retirement survey, two-thirds of boomers said they wanted to pursue a different line of work.
FWAs can be also good for employers, too. In a 2007 survey by the nonprofit Corporate Voices for Working Families, employers--by a 9-to-1 margin--said that FWAs had a positive effect on helping them to reach their business goals. However, employers also said that their main reason for providing flexiblity was to help employees achieve work-life balance.
The Sloan Foundation reports that the accounting firm Deloitte saved $41.5 million in turnover costs in one year because of workplace flexibility. And Netflix, the online movie retailer, has a broad menu of these options and realized $1 billion in sales last year. (Its salaried workers can work at home any time and take as much vacation as they like.)
An Age-Neutral Advantage
AARP research shows that many boomers would defer retirement if they could work fewer hours on a less rigid schedule. What's more, younger generations increasingly expect and demand work flexibility. As four generations find themselves under the same roof with a myriad of different needs, companies will find that they have no choice but to be flexible.
Defining Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA)
FWAs come in a variety of configurations, but flexible work arrangements essentially mean four things:
When to work. This includes flex time, in which employees have flexible start and stop times or take time off during the day, but still work a regular 35-40 hour work week. (Some companies require all employees to be at work during certain core hours.) Other options are compressed work weeks, where (for example) instead of working five days a week, employees work four 10-hour days; part-time work, which could mean reduced weekly or annual hours; seasonal work i.e. clocking in just six months of the year, such as during the busy winter season in Florida. Still more FWAs include summers off, weekends only, or even three months on, three months off.
Where to work. Options include telecommuting, or working from home either all week or part of the week; or working in more than one location if an employer has more than one office or branch.
How to work. This might be job sharing, which means splitting one job between two employees, with salary and benefits prorated; phased retirement or cutting back on hours over a period of time before fully retiring, often continuing to receive pension or healthcare benefits; temporary, contract, or even per diem work.
What to receive for working. This involves choosing specific benefits, whether it's for childcare or eldercare, for instance, or a flexible spending account. Benefits depend on an employee's needs and stage of life.
The Workplace Flexibility 2010 initiative offers more definitions of flexible work arrangements, along with a wealth of resources.