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.
(Page 2 of 2)
Take the case at BDO USA, a Chicago-based accounting and consulting firm with 2,500 employees. In a strategy called BDO Flex, begun five years ago, individuals suggest arrangements that fit their needs and the firm's, says Barbara Taylor, the firm's BDO Flex chair and general counsel. Beyond minor day-to-day changes in a work schedule, employees can adopt yearlong flex arrangements: If they log, say, 50- to 60-hour weeks during the busy tax season, they can trim that back to, perhaps, 20 to 30 hours per week the rest of the year – with proportional adjustments in pay. Moreover, 85 percent of the workforce telecommutes, mainly part time, says Ms. Taylor.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Administrative staff also can suggest work setups. At one BDO office, for example, staff got approvals for a rotating compressed workweek that gave them alternating Fridays off. It has "improved morale among the administrative team while extending administrative coverage for the office and decreasing overtime costs," notes the 2011 Guide to Bold New Ideas for Making Work Work, copublished by the Families and Work Institute (FWI) and SHRM (which also profiled Ryan, DMC Athletics, and MeetingMatrix).
Certainly, overhauling work structures was expensive, acknowledges BDO's Taylor, who doesn't specify how much this "very worthwhile" investment cost. Moreover, major changes can be unsettling, experts say: Not only can they confuse some employees but can also worry some bosses, who fear employees may slack off if they work remotely.
"Initially, we worried that some employees might take advantage" of myRyan, says Ms. Emerson. But quite the opposite occurred, she says. Since the advent of that program – aimed at enhancing Ryan's ability to attract and retain valued employees – morale and productivity have climbed. As the days of rigid hours and 50-hour workweeks disappeared, voluntary employee turnover plunged – from about 18 percent annually to about 8 percent, less than half the 20.5 percent industry average, says Emerson. Moreover, "clients' ratings of us have been higher than ever and revenue is better than ever," she says.
At softwaremaker MeetingMatrix International, employees can decide on their amount of paid time off – such as sick days and vacations. The 60 staffers also can choose when and where to work. Indeed, Jmichaele (pronounced jay-michel) Keller, chief executive officer of the Portsmouth, N.H., firm, lives in the Netherlands.
But this structure, called Task Inspired Management Environment (T.I.M.E.), put in place in 2009, hasn't made the workforce invisible: At any given time, "there's maybe 25 people in the office," says Don Basler, senior marketing manager for the company, which makes floor-plan software used for events at hotels and convention halls. "I absolutely enjoy going into the office every day. It has to do with the creative management team here. It's a blast."
Evidently, MeetingMatrix is still innovating: According to Mr. Basler, the company is now implementing "tribal leadership" – a program aimed at maximizing employee empowerment, individual growth, and productivity.