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Ultraflex jobs: You choose hours, venue

Some companies even let you decide how much time off to take. The result is more productive workers, not less.

By Margaret PriceCorrespondent / July 8, 2011

Phil Marden

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New York

If long hours at the office are ruining your personal life – or 9-to-5 just seems too robotic – take heart: There's a whole new way to work. Call it the ultraflex job.

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Consider the deal at Ryan LLC, a Dallas-based accounting firm that employs 900: Since 2009, professional employees have been able to work anywhere, anytime, as long as their tasks get done. Support personnel do have to report to the office to keep the place humming. Still, they coordinate schedules with each other and with supervisors.

"Companies that cling to traditional approaches to managing the workforce are already behind the curve," says Delta Emerson, Ryan's chief organizational development officer and leader of the team that created the three-year-old program, called myRyan.

At DMC Athletics & Rehabilitation, 95 percent of staff members make their own hours, and employees enjoy unlimited vacation, reports David Cunic, the founder and president of the 14-person physical therapy facility, based in Cedar Knolls, N.J.

Performance bonuses, which averaged $4,800 per staffer last year, help prevent abuse of DMC's innovative structure, Mr. Cunic says. "We're not here to baby-sit," he says. "You get your work done and go home."

To be sure, firms like Ryan, DMC, and others may be extreme examples of flexible work cultures. But in today's worldwide marketplace – with advances in technology, changing demographic needs, and the drive to cut costs – ever more firms are ditching the 9-to-5 routine for a new and more independent form of work.

"I don't know how you work 9-to-5 anymore" in today's global market, says Rose Stanley, work-life practice leader at WorldatWork, a global human resources association based in Scottsdale, Ariz. "For many employers and employees, an individual way of working is happening already."

Although the recession may be causing a temporary dip in telecommuting, according to a recent WorldatWork survey, the number of firms offering the option has jumped. Some 63 percent of organizations now offer some kind of telecommuting, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). That's up eight percentage points in a year. Moreover, 20 percent of organizations now allow full-time telecommuting, up from 17 percent last year.

Workplace flexibility is no novelty for top executives and certain professionals. What's changed, experts say, is that such perks are being extended to the entire workforce.

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