Be flexible, and you

The next time an employee asks for a change in his work schedule, show some flexibility. Your shareholders will be glad you did. Flexible work arrangements actually boost the bottom line, according to a new study from HR consultancy Watson Wyatt & Co. Holdings, entitled In The Human Capital Edge. In it, researchers Bruce Pfau and Ira Kay present the results of a comprehensive study of the effectiveness of standard work practices and HR policies. Companies following Pfau and Kay’s findings can expect a substantial jump in shareholder returns, they say.

One of the single most effective work practices is flexibility in work arrangements. By itself this policy is said to increase shareholder returns by 3.5 per cent. The authors point to two factors that make flextime so valuable: a “surge in productivity” created by workers using their time more efficiently and an increase in employee retention.

There are different kinds of flextime, including flexible scheduling, compressed workweeks and telecommuting. Employers and employees don’t view these policies equally, according to Measuring the Impact of Workplace Flexibility, a study published in October 2000 by Boston College’s Carroll School of Management.

The practice that’s most effective in creating a satisfactory balance between employees’ work and their personal life, according to the report, is daily flextime giving employees freedom to vary their hours as needed. Almost two-thirds of survey respondents making use of daily flextime policies said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their work and life.

Telecommuters in the survey found it difficult, however, to draw a line between work and personal life. They reported feeling a time crunch and believed they were often passed over for the best assignments. Their managers concurred, saying telecommuters had less positive relationships with those at work.