By Michelle V. Rafter
Gone are the days when office-based employees had to be at their desks all day every day, so managers could make sure they were getting their work done.
Today, flexible schedules have become the rule rather than the exception, especially as scientific research backs up anecdotal information that employees can be more productive and happier working remotely rather than in an office.
A recent Stanford University study found that employees who telecommute are 13.5 percent more productive, and quit at half the rate of office-based workers. A separate University of Minnesota study found that offering flexible schedules as part of a larger shift to a results-oriented workplace led to a 45 percent drop in turnover. According to the study, employees also were less likely to say they planned to quit in the future.
If you’re job hunting and having flexibility over where or when you work is important for family, school or other reasons, it’s important to research what potential employers offer, so you don’t end up interviewing with organizations that don’t offer the options you need.
A full 86 percent of the 2014 Best Companies to Work For offer employees some type of flexible schedule, including working from home one or more days a week.
Another 78 percent of the companies on this year’s 100 Best list allow employees to work a compressed work week, for example, working four 10-hour days, or during the summer, working extra hours Monday through Thursday so they can leave at noon on Friday to take a longer weekend. Another 51 percent of 2014 Best Companies offer job sharing arrangements where two people can split a single position.
Qualcomm, No. 32 on the 2014 list, offers a veritable smorgasbord of flexible schedules, including job-sharing, compressed work weeks, part-time shifts, and telecommuting.
“My work hours are flexible, which allows me to work remotely when I get good ideas at odd times of the day,” one Qualcomm employee says.
Another says: “This company gives me a lot of freedom to work in the way I see fit. That lets me develop on a professional and personal front, as I feel more involved in the process.”
At a fair number of 100 Best Companies, flexible schedules also include formal or informal phased retirement programs where employees who are close to the end of their careers can work some type of reduced schedule before leaving the workforce completely.
In a nod toward the large contingent of boomers who are at or approaching retirement age, 41 percent of the companies on the 2014 list offer some type of phased retirement program.
Scripps Health, for example, gives older employees the opportunity to work part-time and still get full-time benefits. “I appreciate the career and job opportunities offered to employees over 55+ years,” one employee says.
Atlantic Health System, a New Jersey health care provider that operates several hospitals in the state, offers older staff among its 8,510 employees the option of working a less than full-time schedule of 1,000 hours over a calendar year as a way to ease into retirement. The hospital system also uses the 1,000 Hours Club to hire retirees who want to return to work on a limited basis.
“I know so many people in jobs that can't wait to get out of” their current workplace, one Atlantic Health employee says. “I can see myself working here until I retire, and I know I'd immediately sign up for the 1000 Hour Club to continue to work on a per diem basis.”