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Flexible Work Arrangements Attract Older Workers

The ability to work from home or part-time can be an attractive, and cost-effective, arrangement

When Yahoo’s CEO announced this year that she was banning telecommuting, a firestorm of protest erupted nationwide. The policy change goes against the prevailing view in the American workforce that telecommuting is an option that helps employees achieve a satisfactory work-life balance.

See also: AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50

And smart companies know that work-life balance opportunities are important to their 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 recent study by Accenture revealed that work-life balance — ahead of money, recognition and autonomy — is the key determiner for more than half of men and women as to whether or not they have a successful career.

Seventy percent of both women and men believe they can have a successful career as well as a full life outside work. However, 50 percent also said they cannot “have it all at the same time.” Further, more than half (52 percent) say they have turned down a job due to concerns about its impact on work-life balance. In fact, work-life balance tops respondents’ definitions of career success, ahead of money, recognition and autonomy (cited by 56 percent, 46 percent, 42 percent and 42 percent, respectively).

What's in It for Employers?

Many companies that offer flexible work arrangements are finding it gives them an edge over their competition in recruitment and retention. In fact, in Staying Ahead of the Curve 2013: The AARP Work and Career Study, many workers cited flexible work arrangements, including a flexible schedule (72 percent), opportunity to work part time (48 percent) and ability to work from home (36 percent), as absolutely essential parts of an ideal job.

Flexible work arrangements can be also good for employers as well. According to a February 2013 Sloan Center on Aging & Work study, the study found that workplace flexibility created “compelling” gains, despite possible issues related to monitoring, manager skepticism and the potential for declining productivity. Employers benefit from improved morale and engagement, better recruitment outcomes and workforce retention, and the enhanced productivity offered by a stable talent pool.

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 myriad different needs, companies will find that they have no choice but to be flexible.

Next page: Defining what a flexible work arrangement is. »

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