Case Studies

Workplace Flexibility Case Studies

by Ken Giglio

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AFLAC's Full-time Schedule Options

Company: Aflac (

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Company profile: Founded by brothers John, Paul and Bill Amos in 1955, Aflac has grown into a Fortune 500 company. Based in Columbus, Georgia, Aflac offers a variety of insurance products to more than 40 million people worldwide. The company had in excess of $59 billion in assets at the end of 2004, with annual revenues of more than $13.3 billion. Of Aflac's 4,000 employees, about 70 percent are women, many of whom are working mothers and some of whom are single mothers.

Program profile: As part of its flexibility offerings to employees, Aflac includes several opportunities to work various full-time shifts. While the variety of shifts is designed to meet the family needs of its workers, it must also serve the company's business needs. In addition to offering its workers an opportunity for different start times, Aflac has a 4-by-10 work week and a 3-by-12 work week. In the 4-by-10 work week, employees put in four 10-hour days, with three days off per week. Employees who choose a 3-by-12 work week work three 12-hour days and have four days off per week. These compressed schedule options have been used at Aflac for about six or seven years. Alternate schedules have been in place for about two years. Requests for an alternate schedule or a change in schedule must go through a supervisor. It is an employee-driven system in which the company attempts to put the worker more in control of choosing their own schedule. Much of this is done through the use of employee focus groups and other forms of feedback. Aflac believes that if it takes care of its workers, those workers will take care of the business.

The challenge: After operating with a standard 8 am to 5 pm shift for its workers for many years, Aflac saw a business need and a worker need to go beyond the one-shift-fits-all work schedule. In an effort to experiment and expand, it started offering these alternative schedules, first trying a compressed schedule and later adding an early morning shift (which runs from 6:30 am to 2:30 pm) and an evening shift (which runs from 3 pm to 11 pm).

Benefits to employer: Aflac says that with happier, more effective employees they get more productive workers and that helps the company's bottom line. One benefit is less employee turnover, which can be a costly process. Within Aflac's call center operations, employee retention has gone from 87 percent to 94 percent.

Lessons learned: Aflac management believes that when employees are given the opportunity to better manage their lives at work, they will become better workers and put more pride and effort into their work. The result is not only positive for the worker, but for the company as well in that it gets the most out of its employees.

Personal profile: Tamesia Paschal is an accounting specialist who services payroll accounts for the company. She has worked at Aflac for six years, having advanced from a customer service position after three years. Tamesia currently works a 6 am to 2:30 pm shift, a schedule she started about two years ago after the company approached her with the change. She says she took the opportunity because she feels she is a more productive worker in the morning hours, which helps the business as well. Essentially, Tamesia says, it's a win-win situation, "You're meeting the company needs because you have the option to work the shift you want. I'm more productive in the early morning, and getting off at 2:30 in the afternoon, I have the option of going to meetings or appointments after work." She adds, "I love it, it works for me. I think it's a good thing."

Company Contact: Yolonda King,

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ARUP Laboratories and the Seven-On/Seven-Off Schedule

Company: ARUP Laboratories (

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Company profile: As a national reference laboratory, ARUP Laboratories' primary function is to perform testing on blood and tissues, which helps physicians and surgeons correctly diagnose their patients' diseases. ARUP specializes in performing more than 2,000 complex or unique tests, ranging from tests for cancer and leukemia to those which identify rare genetic disorders. These tests are available at only a limited number of laboratories in the United States. In addition, ARUP conducts blood-related research and has a blood services unit that is responsible for supplying nearby hospitals with approximately 25 percent of all blood transfused in the state of Utah. An enterprise of the University of Utah, ARUP's clients include more than half of the nation's university teaching hospitals and children's hospitals, major commercial labs, military and government facilities, and major clinics.

Program profile: ARUP offers several options for flexible work schedules, including a "Seven-On/Seven-Off" schedule for workers in its technical and support sections. Under this arrangement, employees work seven 10-hour days in a row, and then have seven straight days off. Though employees work a total of 70 hours under this plan, they are paid for 80 hours. Because the employees are off work 26 weeks of the year, they are not offered any extra paid time off. The company acknowledges that this type of schedule is not for everyone. However, the success of the program speaks for itself: ARUP has had a "Seven-On/Seven-Off" option for employees since 1991, and it remains very popular among workers.

The challenge: ARUP is a deadline-driven facility that requires rapid turnaround times for the testing it performs. As a result, it is a 24-hour a day, seven-day a week workplace. It is an ongoing challenge for the company to staff afternoon and night shifts as well as weekends and holidays, but the company feels that "Seven-On/Seven-Off" certainly contributes to the solution.

Benefits to employees: ARUP employees have the ability on this schedule to have seven straight days off, allowing them to spend more focused time with their families. Many workers also find it allows them to pursue further education, many in graduate programs including those offered at the University of Utah. There are also some working couples in which one partner works the Seven-On, while the other is on their Seven-Off. That way, they have two full-time jobs but there is always one parent home to take care of children and other family needs.

Benefits to employer: This schedule, along with other non-traditional schedules employed by ARUP, allows the company to continuously remain open for business. This provides ARUP with a competitive advantage, in that it is able to quickly turn around its testing results, meeting clients' needs. It has realized a reduction in employee turnover rates in recent years, which it credits to its flexible scheduling options.

Lessons learned: ARUP's family-friendly philosophy allows employees to balance family, work and school by choosing from a wide variety of flexible job schedules including traditional hours, days, nights, weekend shifts, four- or three-day work weeks, or - as detailed in this case study - seven days on, seven days off.

Personal profile: Zakaria and Zahia Ibrahim are among the employees at ARUP who take advantage of the Seven-On/Seven-Off schedule. The Ibrahims immigrated to Utah from Egypt in 1997. Zakaria went to work in 1998 as a lab assistant in ARUP's Special Chemistry Laboratory and Zahia began work at ARUP as a laboratory sample sorter shortly thereafter. She now works as a technician in ARUP's Cytogenetic Laboratory. The Ibrahims work opposite Seven-On/Seven-Off schedules so that one can be at ARUP working and the other can be at home with their children. "Although we don't see each other as much as we'd like, this arrangement helps us to balance out work and family in a unique way".

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Cisco Systems and Telework

Company: Cisco Systems (

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Company profile: Cisco Systems is the world's largest provider of networking systems for the Internet, with revenues of $22 billion in the 2004 fiscal year. It is ranked 95th on the Fortune magazine list of largest U.S. companies. Cisco's vision is to change the way people work, live, play and learn. Cisco employs nearly 39,000 people worldwide. The company is based in San Jose, CA.

Program profile: Cisco Systems began a formalized teleworking program for managers and employees in 1993, becoming one of the first companies in the Silicon Valley to do so. The program allows workers greater flexibility in the scheduling of their work hours by, in many cases, eliminating the need for a daily commute. By taking advantage of broadband technology in remote locations, employees are able to work full speed at reduced time and cost to both the employee and the company, resulting in what the company believes is a general improvement in the quality of life for its workers. More than 90% of Cisco's employees utilize residential broadband services, allowing them to telework at least some of the time.

Benefits to employees: Because of the company's commitment to technology, many employees are able to do their work from virtually any location. Employees leverage that flexibility to balance the needs of their family and personal commitments. The company doesn't so much require a set schedule for workers as it does the completion of work objectives as set forth by leadership. Under that system, as long as those objectives are met within appropriate time frames, employees are free to work when and where they like. In one company trial, teleworking participants reported they gained an average of 30 minutes per day based on no commute time. Workers also reported being able to stay at home and tend to sick family members while still fulfilling work obligations.

Benefits to employer: Cisco is able to take in significant cost savings by having workers available through teleworking. In 2003, it realized $195 million dollars in increased employee productivity. Essentially, by allowing employees to be working - whether at home or while on the road - as opposed to commuting, they are more focused and dedicated to completing the task at hand. In addition to reducing Cisco's operational costs, the company's telecommuting policies and procedures allow the company uninterrupted access to mission-critical information and resources in the event of a natural disaster or homeland security threat. In cases of severe inclement weather such as ice storms, employees are able to work from home with peace of mind. Cisco also sees its endorsement of telecommuting as supportive of President Bush's goal of national broadband availability by 2007. The company's turnover rate averages about 3% per year. As a result of its experience with telework, Cisco has begun to redesign its workplaces and workspaces in a popular, cost-effective manner.

The challenge: The challenge for Cisco was being able to better utilize its global work force in 97 countries around the world. Many of those employees travel as part of their work. As a result, company leaders felt a need to enable employees to work "any place, any time." Cisco was also looking for a way to realize real estate savings despite locations in many high rent districts worldwide.

Personal profile: Corporate Vice President and Global Managing Director Steve Du Mont has been with Cisco for four years. While his office is technically in San Jose, he telecommutes from around the world. He lives part-year in northern Utah and part-year in Chicago. Du Mont says he would not have taken his current job with Cisco had it not been for the flexibility offered through teleworking. He continues to serve on the boards of directors of several outside firms, although he reduced that number as a condition of his employment. Nonetheless, Du Mont says he would not be able to successfully juggle all of his various activities were it not for the dramatic increase in productivity realized through telework. "Teleworking has allowed me to regain my life, and to conduct a wide range of activities - some personal, some related to Cisco. It empowers individuals to run their lives in ways that were not previously possible."

Company contact: Linda Hightower,

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KPMG LLP and Job Sharing

Company: KPMG LLP (

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Company profile: KPMG LLP, an audit, tax and advisory firm, is the U.S. member firm of KPMG International, with headquarters in New York. KPMG International's member firms have nearly 100,000 professionals, including 6,800 partners, in 148 countries.

Program profile: KPMG has been offering a job sharing option to its employees for several years. Requests for job sharing are primarily generated by the employees themselves. The request usually comes from an employee who wants to work a reduced schedule and knows of someone else in a similar situation with compatible desires and skills. All of the company's flexibility programs are available to all employees throughout KPMG. The process begins with an employee filling out a request form and submitting it to his or her manager, who is trained to approach such requests with a "how can we make this work" attitude. The company estimates that more than fifty percent of its employees take advantage of some form of workplace flexibility, including flextime, telecommuting, compressed work schedule and job sharing.

The challenge: Job sharing was initially undertaken at KPMG in response to a specific need - two individuals wanted to reduce their hours - and it worked for that specific job. After a few more successes, the firm began to promote it more actively, soon making a more formalized program in support of KPMG's Employer of Choice initiatives, which include a number of programs built around workplace flexibility, career development and mentoring, employee wellness, diversity and community involvement.

Benefits to employees: Job sharing allows employees to have greater flexibility in their lives, both at work and outside the job. Through job sharing, employees gain a job partner, making them less likely to have to worry about job-related matters when they are not at work. In other words, they know the job is still getting done, even when they are not there, because there is someone else equally as committed to getting the job done.

Benefits to employer: KPMG says the first obvious benefit of having a job sharing option is that it is able to retain two valuable employees who otherwise might have felt the need to look at other arrangements, including the possibility of leaving the company. As a result, continuity is preserved and client needs are better met. In addition, flexibility in the workplace supports the firm's recruiting and Employer of Choice initiatives.

Lessons learned: KPMG believes that its job sharing program helps the firm retain talented and valued employees trying to balance the demands of career and family. Job sharing arrangements can be a win-win situation for the individual and the firm. They also visibly demonstrate to others that the firm is flexible and supportive of working mothers and others who have interests and responsibilities outside of work.

Personal profile: Kerri Lein is a senior administrative assistant at KPMG's Montvale, New Jersey office, where she has worked for almost seven years. She began as a temporary worker for six months before being hired full-time. After she had her first child, Kerri came back to work four days a week. When she returned to work in August 2003 after the birth of her second child, she began the job share. Originally, one of the job share partners would work from Monday through Wednesday morning, with the other partner working from Wednesday afternoon through Friday, handling the same job duties. Beginning in September 2005, the job share arrangement changed so that Kerri now works more than 50% of the time. The change came about after the job partner needed to alter her work schedule to better handle the needs of her family. Kerri says the change has worked out "wonderfully," noting that she is able to volunteer as a scout leader for her older daughter and also take her younger daughter to gymnastics class. She adds that the overall experience of job sharing has been equally pleasant. "I feel like I can have a career, but still have extra time with my daughters and that's what I was looking for initially with the job share. It has given me peace of mind, knowing that I am doing my best in my role here at KPMG and as a mother as well. It has made such a huge impact in my life and my children's lives, and for my husband, to have this kind of job flexibility."

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MITRE's Flexible Work Arrangement

Company: The MITRE Corporation (

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Company profile: MITRE is a not-for-profit organization with expertise in systems engineering, information technology, operational concepts and enterprise modernization. MITRE manages three Federal Funded Research and Development Centers: one for the Department of Defense, one for the Federal Aviation Administration, and one for the Internal Revenue Service. MITRE was formed in 1958 and currently has about 5,800 full- and part-time employees, about two-thirds of whom are male. MITRE has no unionized workers. The average age of company employees is 47 with ten years of service. In its engineering staff, 15% have earned a bachelor's degree, 65% hold a master's degree and 20% have a PhD. The company has headquarters in Bedford, Massachusetts, and McLean, Virginia, with employees at more than 60 sites around the world.

Program profile: MITRE's Flexible Work Arrangement allows employees at all levels to choose from a variety of flexibility options, including a shortened work week, flexible hours and telecommuting. The program was begun formally in 2001 following a work/life and benefits survey in which employees identified a need for more flexibility. Approximately 90% of MITRE employees engage in some form of workplace flexibility.

The challenge: In a survey, MITRE employees had identified two flexibility barriers that existed prior to the company's decision to implement its Flexible Work Arrangement program. Specifically, employees were required to work a minimum of 5 days per week. In addition, employees were not pleased with a requirement that they be forced to take a full-day absence for a missed partial day of work even if they essentially worked a full week the other four days of the week.

Benefits to employees: In surveys, MITRE employees rank flexibility as one of the top reasons to work at the company. One of the things they like the most about flexibility at MITRE is the fact that the flexibility is flexible. In other words, employees can decide, with their manager's approval, to opt to work a shortened work week or an alternative hours schedule for a limited time, as it suits their needs. As a result, employees report a greater feeling of having their work and their life in balance. In addition, employees say they enjoy an enhanced level of trust between staff and management due to MITRE's flexibility opportunities.

Benefits to employer: MITRE says it has realized a significant increase in its employee retention rate since adopting its flexible work arrangement program. While the entire improvement can't be credited to the program alone, the company does believe it has made a big difference. Consider that before the program, its voluntary attrition rate was about 8 percent (slightly higher for certain employees with high-demand skills). In the past 5 years that the program has been in place, MITRE's attrition rate has dipped to as low as 3 percent, currently standing at 4 percent. MITRE is not able to provide any specific statistics on worker productivity, but it notes that the average hours worked by employees has remained steady, so it feels confident that productivity certainly has not decreased as a result of greater flexibility. Anecdotally, many employees tell managers that they feel they are more productive and that they work hard to support the company since it supported them in trying to achieve greater work/life balance.

Lessons learned: In order to have a successful flexibility program, MITRE officials believe it is necessary to get top-level support and involvement, as well as to train both employees and managers up front. They also stress the need for good communication, including the expectations for the program as well as any modifications that are made along the way.

Personal profile: Tom Ervin is a principal engineer for MITRE in the company's Cyber Analysis and Investigations department. He lives in Olympia, Washington, with his wife and their young son. He has worked for the company since June 1997 and has been a telecommuter since the summer of 2002. Tom is in regular contact with his supervisors and co-workers through e-mail and phone conversations. He is able to telecommute from home full-time. This arrangement has also allowed him to keep the same job despite having moved twice in recent years. He has become the primary care provider for his son, given that his wife is on active duty with the U.S. Army as a pediatrician. Says Tom, "The telework program has just been great, not only to allow me the flexibility to work from home but also the flexibility to do other things. Telework hasn't hurt my effectiveness at work; in fact it has enhanced my productivity - I've won more awards with the company than before I teleworked." Tom says he has earned 1 or 2 citations per year for projects he's worked on since starting to telework. "In addition to making work more productive, it also benefits me on the family side. I'm a volunteer in my son's school, where I run a chess program. And I can do so because of our flexible hours policy, as long as I satisfy the time reporting requirements of the company. My kid loves it. The flexibility really pays dividends on the family side. Also, my son would not have been in half of the sports programs he's been in if we hadn't been in the telework program."

Company Contact: Andrina Buffong,

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PRO Group's School Leave Policy

Company: PRO Group (

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Company profile: PRO Group is an international consortium that develops merchandising and marketing programs for its distributor and retail members in the United States, Canada and Europe. PRO Group's operating units include PRO Hardware, GardenMaster, FARM MART and GOLDEN-LINK, representing more than $3 billion in annual buying power. The company is based in Denver, Colorado, and employs 33 people, with a roughly equal number of male to female workers, many of whom are college-educated. PRO Group is a non-union workplace.

Program profile: PRO Group's school leave policy is designed to encourage employees to help children succeed in school and to improve the education process through volunteerism. Employees are granted paid time off to participate in the program. Specifically, salary exempt and non-exempt full-time employees are given up to 16 hours per year to participate in school-related activities that take place during hours in which they would normally be required to work. Part-time employees who generally work 30 hours or more are granted 12 hours of school leave per year. Absences are to be taken in minimum segments of two hours, and must receive prior approval from a supervisor. For parent employees, the program allows them to spend time aiding in their own child's educational experience. Non-parent employees, who make up about 50% of program participants, are able to take part in educationally-based activities such as being a career-day speaker or a classroom volunteer. The program, which is run by the company's Human Resources department, was implemented in 1998 after the company's chief executive read about a similar program at a major toy manufacturer. Approximately 25% of PRO Group's employees participated in the School Leave program during 2004.

Benefits to employees: Workers who are parents or guardians are allowed to use their School Leave time for such things as parent-teacher meetings, field trips, school programs and other activities without using up vacation or sick time. The company has found that non-parent workers have also taken advantage of the program to be career day speakers, classroom volunteers, or to help a school set up a computer system.

Benefits to employer: PRO Group says its benefit lies mainly in the knowledge that it is providing a positive program to employees and to the local community. As company Chief Executive Richard Paige puts it, "We just thought that giving help to schools was the right thing to do." In addition, PRO Group offers a Flex-Hours policy to its employees, which makes for a 39.5 hour week for workers but also allows the company to service customers for 44.5 hours per week. It additionally allows the Colorado company to better meet the needs of its East Coast customer base. As with the School Leave program, Flex-Hours is available to all employees.

The challenge: PRO Group implemented its School Leave and Flex-Hours policies simply because company leaders felt it was "the right thing to do." They see the options as being able to give something back to the community as well as offering a benefit for employees and customers. It sees employee satisfaction and retention as ancillary benefits of these offerings. Interestingly, PRO Group went through something of a learning curve when it first began offering flexible work hours. The company found that it needed a bit more structure than was originally offered. The resulting Flex-Hours policy has proven positive for the company, its employees, and customers.

Lessons learned: Company leaders, such as Chief Executive Richard Paige, have tried several times to convince other companies to consider a school-leave policy as a benefit for the local community. They argue that the benefits the company receives as a result of its program are simply "a plus." And, while Paige believes that a flexible hours policy is purely up to each individual company to decide on its own, he says "it works for us."

Personal profile: Executive Administrator Deb Boe uses PRO Group's school leave policy to volunteer at the Emily Griffith Center Ranch, a school/rehab center for boys who have suffered from mental, physical or sexual abuse. All of the boys at the center have been kicked out of other facilities. The center serves as the final chance for them to avoid being sent to jail or out on the street. Boe leads a group of volunteers who provide two special meals for the boys each year, a Christmas dinner and a summer barbecue. Boe has been volunteering at the center for about seven years, and originally took a day of vacation, but now is able to use her School Leave to cover her absence from work. She says she probably wouldn't be the coordinator of the special meals if she still had to take vacation time. "The School Leave Policy enables me to volunteer twice a year …" [and the organizers are] "… very grateful that my company allows me time off to take care of these special meals."

Company Contact: Steve Synnott,

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Rossetti and Flexible Schedules

Company: Rossetti (

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Company profile: Founded in 1969, Rossetti is an award-winning design company with expertise and experience in architecture, interior design and graphics. The company employs approximately 58 workers, most of whom are based at Rossetti's Detroit headquarters. Rossetti also has offices in California.

Program profile: Rossetti employees are able to take advantage of several different kinds of scheduling flexibility. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Rossetti utilizes a Summer Hours policy, in which employees work four 9-hour days and then work 4 hours on Friday mornings, allowing them to leave early for their weekend. As an alternative, employees are also able to come in late on Monday and then work their four 9-hour days from Tuesday through Friday. In addition, the entire staff at Rossetti is allowed to work a flexible schedule whenever Summer Hours are not in effect. Under that plan, they are expected to report to work sometime between 7 and 9 a.m. and end their day between 4 and 6 p.m. The company has found that most employees tend to keep to a fairly consistent schedule, but the flexible hours policy allows them to come in late, leave early, or take a long lunch to handle personal needs as they see fit.

The challenge: Because Rossetti is essentially a creative design environment in which abstract thought is valued, it can often be difficult for employees to remain motivated. However, the company has found that with a flexible schedule policy, employees are more in control of their work and personal lives, resulting in better focus on the job. The company does admit that it often can be difficult to monitor so many employees coming and going at different times. However, it believes that the vast majority of its workers are honest, self-supervising employees who take responsibility for their own hours. That process takes the pressure off upper management to keep workers under a microscope.

Benefits to employees: The company has found that its employees enjoy the feeling that they have control over their schedules. Rossetti says, a main reason that it offers flexible scheduling is to help motivate its workers. In fact, employees cite flexibility as a key reason for working at Rossetti.

Benefits to employer: Rossetti says, quite simply, that by having flexible work schedules, it is able to attract better employees. And, by having their work and personal lives better in balance, those workers are able to stay better committed to their jobs. The bottom line is a better overall performance for the company.

Lessons learned: When employees are given the opportunity to essentially set their own hours, it's unrealistic to expect that all employees will always be 100% forthcoming in reporting the hours actually worked. However, as a company, Rossetti feels that it is usually not worth the effort to try and track down a few offenders. On the contrary, it feels that since the flexibility program is so beneficial, it's willing to look the other way when minor violations occur.

Personal profile: Chiquita Martin is an Intermediate Staff Accountant who has worked at Rossetti for nearly five years. She began as a receptionist and then, after getting her associate's degree, moved into the company's accounting department. She has been able to enjoy flexibility in a variety of ways while at Rossetti. After giving birth to a son in June 2003, Chiquita initially worked part-time for a few months and then transitioned into a four-day work week. She now is back to a full five-day work week. She was also able to take a week off from work this past summer so that she could take a course that she needed for her bachelor's degree. Chiquita says while there have been other job offers available, she couldn't imagine leaving her job at Rossetti and the flexibility it provides. Says Chiquita, "You have a feeling of family here. They know there are other things outside of work - that's the reason you come to work. It's great to work for a company that understands that you work better when you are able to keep the other things in your life in order."

Company Contact: Val Hodge,

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RSM McGladrey and the Flexyear Option

Company: RSM McGladrey (

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Company profile: RSM McGladrey offers a variety of business services to mid-sized firms, including business and tax consulting, wealth management, retirement resources, payroll services and corporate finance. It is part of RSM McGladrey Business Services, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of H&R Block. With more than 90 U.S. offices, the firm employs about 4,500 people, none of whom are represented by labor unions. Education levels vary greatly throughout the staff; some administrative employees have no college education while many professionals have advanced degrees or CPA licensures. Among entry level workers, 55% of RSM McGladrey employees are male, 45% are female. At the director level, just 24% are female.

Program profile: RSM McGladrey offers what it calls a Flexyear or "teacher contract" to its employees, which is essentially a program for part-year employment. While the schedule varies from employee to employee, a typical arrangement would be for an employee to work full-time hours during the company's busiest time of the year, roughly from January through April. They would also work either full-time or part-time hours for most of the rest of the year while taking off during the summer months. Employees who work under this arrangement have their salary prorated over the course of a year, just as a teacher would. And, provided they work at least the equivalent of half-time over the course of the year, they qualify for all the same benefits that a full-time employee would receive. They also qualify for promotions and pay incentives, but Paid Time Off is prorated according to how much they work. There are currently about 30 employees on Flexyear schedules at RSM McGladrey. All employees are eligible to submit a request for a Flexyear schedule, or for some other type of flexible schedule. It is incumbent upon the employee to build the business case for their plan and explain how it would work. That request is then evaluated by supervisors and can either be approved or denied. That process may continue indefinitely until both parties are satisfied.

The challenge: The highest levels of corporate leadership at RSM McGladrey decided to make a culture of workplace flexibility one of the company's six top imperatives. With a comprehensive rollout, flexibility is seen more as a strategic business tool than as an employee initiative. As a result, the challenge is in establishing flexibility as a company-wide priority. In part, this comes from the realization that, prior to establishing its flexibility policy, the company identified WorkLife issues as the number one reason that employees were leaving RSM McGladrey.

Benefits to employees: Employees are able to work schedules that better fit their lives without sacrificing their careers (see example, below, in Personal Profile). They can work reduced hours for part of the year and/or take summers off, still be eligible for all the same benefits as full-time employees, and have a consistent income throughout the year.

Benefits to employer: RSM McGladrey began to overhaul its WorkLife strategy about 1 ½ years ago and develop ways to create a culture of business-based flexibility across all offices in the company. Exit surveys with departing employees showed that an inability to balance work and life was the number one reason people left the firm. In order to improve retention, use flexibility as a strategic business tool, and truly transform the culture, RSM McGladrey needed a robust approach. It now sees itself as doing more than simply offering flexible work options. With a more comprehensive approach to flexibility, it is encouraging employees and firm leaders at all levels to think differently about their work through trainings, interactive dialogue sessions, online tools, and support from the top. As a result, it is more successful in meeting its business needs, and employees say they are happier at work and feel more creative on the job. For one thing, many of the flexibility options now in place are the result of employee suggestions. Additionally, the firm is able to retain valued employees who are willing to work for less pay with greater flexibility. The company has begun to gather anecdotal evidence that its commitment to flexibility has allowed it to recruit new workers.

Lessons learned: In rolling out the pilot for its Flexyear program, the company learned of the value of face-to-face training for the leaders of a business unit. It initially attempted to educate its partners via a one-hour web cast. In follow-up focus groups, many employees said they felt there wasn't enough leadership to give them confidence that the program would truly work. RSM McGladrey ended up having a partner retreat that included a discussion about their concerns about flexibility as well as a chance to challenge their thoughts and behaviors about when, how and where they do their work, helping the partners to gain a better understanding of their role in supporting the effort.

Personal profile: Michelle Hickox is a Director of Audit for RSM McGladrey's Financial Institutions Group in Dallas. She has been with the company since 2001, when the previous firm she worked for was acquired by McGladrey. Hickox began at an entry-level position 15 years ago and recently made Partner - the company's first Flexyear worker to achieve such a position with the firm. This year marks the fifth summer that she has worked on a Flexyear program, having first begun the schedule with her original firm. She then proposed the idea to McGladrey when it took over Hickox's previous employer. Hickox works approximately 75% of the time throughout the course of the year, with most of her hours coming during the busy months of January through May. In the fall, she tries to work about 30 to 35 hours per week, and her goal is to not work at all in June and July, although she does check her email and voice mail from home on a regular basis. "I love my job. I've had opportunities to go elsewhere but I didn't want to give up my schedule. I'm still with the firm after all these years and I have no plans to do anything differently. For me, the flexibility is more important than the money I would make if I worked more hours."

Company Contact: Teresa Hopke,

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Sojourner House and Flexible Schedules

Company: Sojourner House (

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Company profile: Sojourner House is a non-profit domestic violence services agency located in Providence, Rhode Island. Founded in 1976 by Brown University students, Sojourner House has served the needs of more than 50,000 individuals. The organization has 19 full-time employees and three part-time workers at its three locations.

Program profile: As a provider of services to victims of abuse, Sojourner House works hard to level the relationship between its employees and its clients. The organization's executive director, Betty Bailey, feels the need to do the same thing for her staff. Toward that goal, she has instituted a workplace flexibility policy at Sojourner House, addressing employee requests for flexibility on a case-by-case basis. Since Sojourner House needs to keep its shelter staffed 24 hours a day, it's not possible for some employees to vary their work schedules. But for those for whom it is possible, Bailey is open to requests. She says that non-profit workers tend to be passionate, committed workers for whom burnout is often a problem. One answer, she has found, is to allow workers the ability to change the hours they work as well as the number of hours they work.

The challenge: Prior to adopting a flexibility policy, Sojourner House was struggling with employee burnout, which tends to be a problem in the non-profit services world. Because workers dedicate themselves to their jobs with great passion, they often find themselves at greater risk of career fatigue. As a result, Sojourner House was seeing unacceptably high rates of employee turnover, which it wanted to address.

Benefits to employees: Employees are given more direct control over their own hours and scheduling, which leads to a greater feeling of being in the driver's seat with regards to their work and personal lives. The goal, according to Sojourner House, is to help its entire work force feel like leaders, not followers. This provides them with increased responsibility and accountability. On a more practical level, employees are simply better able to arrange their lives - both inside and outside of work - helping them to worry less and be more effective.

Benefits to employer: Retention is a key benefit for Sojourner House. By reducing the potential for burnout, workers tend to be more satisfied in their jobs for longer periods of time. That leads to more experienced, wiser employees. Sojourner House has also found that by allowing workers more flexibility in their schedules, it has been able to retain a more diverse staff, which is significant given the diverse background of the clients it serves.

Lessons learned: Executive Director Betty Bailey says if the manager of another company or non-profit asked her about implementing workplace flexibility she would tell them to "Do it now." She says you'll see the benefits of flexibility in time - maybe sooner.

Personal profile: Monica Niquette is the officer manager at Sojourner House, where she has worked for 5 years. After becoming pregnant, Monica decided she wanted to change her 40-hour work week into a 35-hour work week, a request that Sojourner House embraced. It means that Monica works generally from 10 am to 5 pm, allowing her more time to relax or get herself ready in the morning. She is also better able to schedule doctor's appointments before coming to work. Monica also realizes that she is more effective and less worn out at work. The bottom line is that she is able to get done in seven hours what she used to take eight hours a day to do. "It's made it a lot more relaxing," says Monica. "When I was working eight hours a day, I was totally exhausted, and I wasn't as effective at doing the work. Now, coming in at 10 am, I can relax or even sleep in in the morning, helping me feel personally more relaxed. Flexibility is a big part of the reason why I choose to stay at Sojourner."

Company Contact: Betty Bailey,

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Texas Instruments and Flexibility

Company: Texas Instruments (

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Company profile: Texas Instruments is a Dallas-based technology company that manufactures digital signal processors and analog technologies for the Internet. In addition to its semiconductor business, T.I.'s businesses also include Sensors & Controls and Educational & Productivity Solutions. The company has manufacturing, design or sales operations in more than 25 countries, with a global work force of approximately 35,000 employees, including 19,400 in the Americas. Of those, approximately 72% are male. T.I. is ranked 166th on the list of biggest U.S. companies by Fortune magazine in 2005, with $12.6 billion in revenues for Fiscal Year 2004.

Program profile: Texas Instruments offers what it describes as an "ad hoc" flexibility policy to most of its employees. Those in the manufacturing process are excluded from this type of program because of the demands of their job. They are, however, allowed to work under a compressed work week schedule. For nearly all other employees, T.I. has instituted a policy that allows them, on a case-by-case basis, to adjust their work schedule to meet their personal needs. For instance, if a worker has a sick child, they might opt to work from home that day. If another worker has a doctor's appointment, they can come in late and work late. If still another worker has a late-night conference call with an overseas office, they can come in late the following day. The bottom line for the company is that employees are focused on getting their job done and meeting their performance goals in a company-approved time frame that works for them. As a technology company, T.I. provides its employees the tools it needs to work from home or other remote locations. The company also encourages different work units to try out different kinds of flexibility that work for them, and that there's no need for a one-size-fits-all kind of flexible work arrangement.

The Challenge: Texas Instruments initially began its workplace flexibility program after conducting a needs assessment survey of its U.S. employees in 1993. Flexibility emerged as a key item that employees cared about and that the company, at the time, was doing little about.

Benefits to employees: This type of "flexible" flexibility program allows employees to fit their work schedules around their personal schedules instead of the other way around. The way Texas Instruments see it, its employees are all adults and so it treats them that way. The employees then spend less time worrying about outside matters, resulting in a reduction in stress and, ultimately, more productive workers. T.I. has found that it is this type of flexibility that most workers really desire - the ability to deal with the day-to-day things in their life while still being an effective worker.

Benefits to employer: The company does not actively measure the benefits of its flexibility program, although it believes the benefits include higher retention of employees, lower stress and more effective workers as well as greater "bench strength." In other words, as team members help cover for each other in times of flexibility, they develop broader and more diverse skills. Despite its lack of measurement in this area, Texas Instruments has no doubt that it benefits from flexibility. As evidence, it cites the fact that no one in the company, whether employee or manager, ever asks that the company stop providing this kind of flexibility. It is a benefit that clearly is embraced at this point by all levels of workers.

Lessons Learned: It's important to understand your own corporate culture and what will work best for your company. At Texas Instruments, the "ad hoc" type of flexibility program works best, although it might not be the answer for all companies. Conducting the work/life needs assessment was a good starting point for T.I., it allowed them to understand that flexibility was an issue and an interest for its workers.

Personal profile: Liz Moyer is T.I.'s Environmental, Safety and Health Public Affairs Manager. She has been with the company for 28 years. In her current role, she is responsible for developing and implementing various forms of company communication, outreach and advocacy efforts in the areas of the environment, safety and health. Her job requires that she work with teams from many different time zones. In addition to working from home one full day per week, Liz often will spend part of a day working from home and part of the day working from the office. In addition to being able to better coordinate timetables with overseas teams, this schedule also allows Liz to be around home more for her family and helps her to avoid the busy commute hours. She says it requires well-disciplined goal setting and project management as well as coordination and agreement with corporate leadership on tasks. "Workplace flexibility has enabled me to improve my focus and performance," says Liz. "I am very pleased that T.I. has the leadership to recognize objective delivery, not face time, as the most productive performance measurement."

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The Ad Council's Flexible Work Schedule Policy

Company: The Advertising Council (

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Company profile: The Ad Council is a private, non-profit organization that produces, distributes, promotes and evaluates public service campaigns in an effort to effect social change and improve the lives of Americans. Its highly-successful campaigns began in 1942 with its original "Loose Lips Sink Ships" effort during World War II and have also included Smokey Bear's "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires," "Take a Bite out of Crime" and "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste." With main offices in New York and Washington, D.C., the Ad Council employs approximately 100 people, 75 percent of whom are women. Across the organization, there are eight women who have children under age 12; six of those women have a flexible work arrangement while two work full-time. And of the six who have a flexible work schedule, four work from home one day a week while the other two work part-time. All of these workers have at least three years of experience with the Ad Council.

Program profile: The Ad Council has been offering its workers the opportunity to utilize a flexible work schedule for at least three years. The policy is open to all workers, provided they can show that their productivity won't decline, that there is no financial burden placed on the organization, and that all business operations remain covered during normal business hours. Employees wishing to work a flexible schedule are told to discuss their wishes with their immediate supervisor. The matter is then reviewed by the Ad Council's Human Resources department and a determination is made on whether the request can be accommodated. When appropriate, the Ad Council's flexible work schedule policy allows for workers to put in a reduced or part-time schedule; other employees arrange to work from home one day a week. If the needs of the organization and its clients are not being met because of an employee's flexible work schedule, the Ad Council has the option of terminating the arrangement. It has not needed to take such a step to date. It's worth noting that in one case, a worker's request to work from home one day a week was denied due to the obligations of her job. After a further review of the needs of the organization and the worker, the employee was able to switch to a part-time schedule.

The challenge: The program began with a single employee who asked that she be allowed to work from home one day every week so that she could spend more time with her young child. For the Ad Council, the challenge was in attempting to keep a valued employee happy while still making sure the same level of work was maintained.

Benefits to employees: The Ad Council says the flexible work schedule benefit is designed to help keep its employees happy at home and happy at work because they are able to spend more time with their children while at the same time doing work that saves lives and makes a difference through social marketing. The organization also believes that it's a good thing for kids to get to spend more time with their mother; with a happier family, you get a happier worker.

Benefits to employer: For the Ad Council, this policy improves employee recruitment and retention as well as worker satisfaction - all positives for the employer. Potential new recruits (with or without children) see the agency as a worthwhile place to work that values its employees. Current employees who have young children are given the opportunity to continue their career in their current position, but with more flexibility to have work/life balance. In general, the organization believes its workers tend to be more loyal and dedicated to the Ad Council because of this kind of flexibility.

Lessons learned: The Ad Council wants to be the kind of organization that "walks the talk." As a group that oversees many ad campaigns that are geared towards children, it wants to find flexible work options for all of its employees, including moms with young children. Most workers who fit into that category are taking advantage of some type of flexible work benefit. There has been no downside (loss of productivity; loss of revenue; loss of clients) in offering flexible work options, and only a positive upside (keeping valued employees; helping to foster happy, well adjusted families; being viewed as socially responsible and pro-family).

Personal profile: Deborah Leiter is a vice president and campaign director for the Ad Council's New York City office. She has been with the agency for about six years and in her current job nearly two years. Deborah began a one-day-from-home schedule three months ago, after having spent three months on maternity leave following the birth of her first child. Deborah retains her regular babysitter on the days she works from home, which allows her to truly focus on her work. Says Deborah, "I think it's important that if your company is supportive enough to allow you to have this kind of flexibility, it's my responsibility to be really focused and do the same work that I would do from my office, at home. And I can." In fact, Deborah thinks she is a better worker from home. "In a way, I'm able to be a little more productive at home because I don't have as many interruptions as I would have at the office."

Company contact: Paula Veale,

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The Detroit Regional Chamber's Flexible Work Schedules

Company: Detroit Regional Chamber (

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Company profile: The Detroit Regional Chamber is the largest chamber of commerce in the country, with more than 21,000 business members. The Chamber's mission is to lead business growth and member success through business attraction efforts, public policy advocacy, strategic partnerships, and products and services for its members. The Chamber employs 88 people, 54 of whom are female, 34 of whom are male. The average age of its workers is 40, with the vast majority having worked at the Chamber for 15 years of less. Most of its workers have received a bachelor's degree, with nearly one-quarter having achieved a master's degree or higher.

Program profile: As part of its effort to offer a flexible workplace, the Chamber works with its employees to produce a flexible schedule that is tailor-made to meet the needs of both the Chamber and the individual employee. For instance, between 10%-15% of Chamber employees are engaged in a standard flexible schedule, whereby they come in earlier and leave the office earlier than they normally would. For others, it means a reduced lunch hour, allowing them to leave early. Others still telecommute from home 1-2 days per week. The Chamber also has one long-time employee on a part-year schedule (see Personal Profile, below). The key for the Chamber is to make sure that jobs are being done and objectives are being met by each employee. The Chamber's chief financial officer lives and works in Japan, where her husband was transferred by his job. For the Chamber, flexibility also includes offering a variety of programs for its employees during work hours such as "lunch and learn" sessions, kick-boxing, aerobics and Pilates classes. The Chamber has come to believe that many employees would seek out these healthy options on their own, but time and convenience often prevent them from taking advantage. This way, the classes are convenient and the employees don't have to sacrifice their own personal time to attend. As long as the employees get their work done, the Chamber is eager to arrange such options. It is incumbent upon the employee who desires a flexible schedule to speak with his or her supervisor about any such plans. Again, as long as individual work objectives are being met, the Chamber is happy to work with the employee on a flexibility plan.

Benefits to employer: The Chamber has realized a significant increase in its employee retention rate since implementing its multifaceted flexibility program for employees. The Chamber says over the past five years, its retention rate has ranged between 88% - 90%. Prior to 2000, when many of its flexibility options were begun, retention was at 75%. The high rates of retention also compare favorably with employee retention in the region. According to the American Society of Employers, its 2005 Salary Survey for Southeast Michigan showed turnover rates of 8.5% for exempt employees and 17.6% for non-exempt workers. Average tenure for Chamber employees is 7 years.

Benefits to employee: Employees feel that the Chamber's package of benefits, including its flexibility offerings, tend to attract and keep valued employees, making it a highly desirable place to work. In that regard, employees feel a great sense of camaraderie and pride towards their coworkers and their job. Employees also report a strong sense of belonging and fulfillment from working in an environment in which employees are given so much flexibility. Ultimately, they speak of a feeling of being refreshed and recharged by the many flexibility options available to them, which translates into improved performance and productivity. Recently, in a survey conducted by the Great Place to Work Institute for its 2005 "Best Small & Medium Companies to Work for in America", Chamber staff responded 100% to the statement, "I am able to take time off from work when I think it's necessary."

The challenge: The Detroit Regional Chamber's main concern in considering a more flexible workplace was to find a way to recruit and retain top talent. In order to do so, the chamber says, "You have to be flexible." There are some positions, such as receptionist or switchboard, where certain types of flexibility are more difficult to accommodate. But, the company says such situations are covered in its employee manual and are often discussed in the interview process. Sometimes, it implements a probationary period to make sure a particular flexibility option will work within the confines of the job.

Lessons learned: At the Detroit Regional Chamber, having workplace flexibility is just something they do. It's not something they "think too hard" about, however, in terms of whether individual flexibility options will work out. That's not to say they don't keep an eye on such things, though. The Chamber utilizes a thorough performance review process so that employees are fully aware of what's expected of them.

Personal profile: Kay Wasinger, Manager, Signature Events, works part-year, from December to mid-June. She has been at the Chamber for 11 years and works in a five-person department, that handles local events put on by the Chamber. Her primary responsibility is a conference that takes places around Memorial Day. After having begun her career at the Chamber on a temporary basis, she grew into a full-time position, which she held for about three years. At that point, she realized that she wanted more time off and approached her managers, saying that she would either work part-time, or have to quit. They jointly came up with the part-year plan. During the months that she works, she puts in full-time hours. Kay continues to have access to benefits, including her 401(k) and health benefits. She is also eligible for merit increases and bonuses.

"As I grew older and had more grandchildren, time became more important to me than the money I would get from working full-year. And, while I still enjoy the work I do, I wanted to scale back. This part-year schedule has given me the combination of having the mental stimulation and social interaction I get from work along with having the time off to do other things I enjoy."

Company contact: Michelle Hansel,

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The University of North Carolina and Phased Retirement

Company: The University of North Carolina (

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Company profile: UNC is a 16-campus university whose combined enrollment exceeds 183,000 students. There are approximately 10,000 full-time faculty in the University of North Carolina system, which employs a total of about 36,000 full-time workers. UNC campuses collectively offer degrees in more than 300 disciplines. Each of the constituent institutions in the UNC system also are engaged in research and public service. Chartered in 1789, UNC was the first public university in the United States.

Program profile: The University of North Carolina phased retirement program allows full-time tenured faculty an opportunity to transition into retirement by retiring, relinquishing tenure and returning to work on part-time status. The program, which is the first flexibility initiative offered by UNC, is designed to provide flexibility and support for individual faculty members who are nearing retirement. Enrollment in the program is voluntary and is open to qualified, tenured faculty who are at least 50 years old, with at least five years of full-time service at his or her current institution, and eligible to receive retirement benefits. Under policy, phased retirement contracts can range from one to five years in length. Responsibilities and schedules are individually negotiated at the campus level. The phased retirement program was begun as a trial in 1998 and was approved as a continuing benefit for UNC faculty in 2001. Since the program's inception, 524 faculty members have taken part. In fall 2004, the most recent semester for which statistics are available, 69 faculty members were actively participating in phased retirement on UNC campuses, down from 208 participants in fall 2003. Among faculty responding to a university survey on the program, the overwhelming majority were male, white and married, paralleling the broader demographic characteristics of senior faculty within UNC. The mean age of respondents was 65 years; some 80 percent were male; nearly 93 percent were Caucasian; approximately 84 percent were married. In addition, 74 percent held the rank of professor before entering the program. Respondents had spent an average of 30 years in service at their current institution. The university has considered expanding the program to include administrators within the faculty personnel system, but so far has not done so.

The challenge: UNC's challenge was twofold: it needed to be able to better anticipate and plan for the eventual retirements of its tenured faculty, and it wanted to be able to assist those long-term professors as they transitioned into a new phase of their lives. The university and its participating faculty members agree that the phased retirement program has thus far been successful in addressing those challenges.

Benefits to employees: Research by the university suggests that the program is fulfilling one of its primary goals of allowing faculty members the opportunity to gradually transition into retirement. The vast majority of respondents are satisfied with the program: 93% said they would make the same decision again, if given the chance; 90% said they would recommend the program to a colleague. Participants use their new-found free time in a variety of ways, including self-employment, volunteer activities and caring for a sick relative. Phased retirees report teaching slightly fewer classes than they did while working full-time. They spend slightly more time on research and scholarship, slightly less time in public service, and significantly less time in administration. The phased retirement program allows participants to plan for full retirement in an orderly and predictable manner.

Benefits to employer: The university has found that the program, as designed, is allowing UNC to improve its personnel planning related to retirement. There are concerns that some faculty who would have otherwise continued working full time have opted to work part time under the phased retirement program. In other words, instead of protecting the university from losing valuable senior faculty, it is potentially allowing those faculty members to reduce their workload earlier than they had planned. However, UNC research also indicates that with improvements in the economy and faculty salaries and an aging faculty, the phased retirement program is likely to increase the university's ability to recruit and retain valuable faculty members. Also, phased retirement is seen as a more humane way of allowing faculty to approach and plan for retirement than might otherwise be the case following the removal of a mandatory retirement age for faculty in 1994.

Lessons learned: The university has found that the program is quite popular with participants, who generally report being very satisfied with their decisions to participate. For its part, the university feels that its phased retirement program is well-designed and equitably applied, benefiting faculty as well as the university system's institutions

Personal profile: Following the deaths of his father and father-in-law, economics professor Jim Wilde at UNC Chapel Hill decided to take advantage of the university's phased retirement program so that he could attend law school. The way the program was set up, he was able to alternate semesters spent teaching and attending law school over the course of four years. In the fifth year, he dedicated himself full time to his law studies, as required by the American Bar Association.

"I am grateful that phased retirement as offered by UNC has allowed me to be supremely faithful to the Lifetime Learning ideal that I preached as a professor throughout my academic career. I trust that our increasing longevity can be matched by an extended productivity."

University Contact: Betsy Brown,

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Timberland and the Path of Service

Company: Timberland (

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Company profile: Timberland designs, makes and markets consumer footwear, apparel and gear. Its goods are sold in department and specialty stores as well as in its own retail locations. Founded in 1973, Timberland has grown into a publicly-traded corporation with annual global sales of more than $1.5 billion. It employs approximately 5,200 people. The company is based in Stratham, New Hampshire.

Program profile: Timberland employs a number of workplace flexibility programs, many of which began as suggestions from employees and reflect the company's corporate values. Says President and Chief Executive Jeffrey Swartz, "We believe that companies have the power and the responsibility to affect positive and lasting change in the world and that's just one of the things that makes this a great place to work." The cornerstone of the company's flexibility program is its Path of Service initiative, in which full-time employees are granted 40 hours of paid time off per year upon hire, allowing them to spend time serving in their community. In order to qualify for this benefit, the employee's service activity must advance, assist or enrich the community in the environment, education, health or social/human service. Employees may use their Path of Service benefit for company-sponsored service events, such as Earth Day or Serv-A-Palooza, which occur once a year. Nearly 95 percent of company employees use their Path of Service benefit. All told, Timberland employees have contributed more than 300,000 hours of service to their communities since 1992. In 2005, the company's North American business units recorded more than 23,000 hours of community service through the Path of Service program, a 42% increase from the year before.

One extension of the Path of Service is the Sabbatical Program in which employees can apply for up to six months paid time off, allowing them to contribute to positive change in the community.

In addition to Timberland's Path of Service program, Timberland offers flexible work arrangements to its employees, allowing individuals the flexibility to manage their work hours around personal needs such as child care services or working their full-time schedule in four days rather than five to allow more time at home with family. Employees are also provided with three flex days off per year in addition to normal holidays and vacation days.

Benefits to employees: In addition to making it possible to pursue activities outside of work, employees are able to feel a sense of commitment and connection to their local communities through their volunteer work. Participants also cite a greater sense of purpose towards their work and a feeling of being invigorated about their job and their employer.

Benefits to employer: Timberland believes that its Path of Service and Service Sabbatical programs allow it to serve the dual purpose of investing in its communities and in its employees. The company feels that not only are program participants enriched by their experiences but so are their coworkers as well.

Personal profile: Maureen Franzosa is a service merchandise analyst who joined Timberland in 1994. She took advantage of her Path of Service hours by volunteering at Sexual Assault Support Services, a Portsmouth, NH-based facility that provides counseling and support services to women affected by sexual assault. As a volunteer counselor to the organization's toll-free crisis line, Maureen worked three shifts a month. Still, she felt that she wanted to do more. In 2001 she applied for, and was granted, Timberland's first ever Service Sabbatical, allowing her to extend her volunteer opportunities at SASS. In her first week, two top executives of SASS left for other opportunities. As a result, Maureen was able to develop and improve new skills in leadership and operations, helping out in ways that she couldn't have imagined before her sabbatical. Her sabbatical experience has given her new vigor for her job at Timberland as well. Says Maureen, "In any job it's easy to get caught up in the tasks you have to do on a daily basis. The Sabbatical provided me with a chance to step back, see the bigger picture of what Timberland does, and feel a renewed sense of purpose upon my return."

Company contact: Jackie Mitchell,

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Ward's Furniture and Flexible Schedules

Company: Ward's Furniture Appliance Co.

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Company profile: Ward's Furniture is a family-owned retail operation in Long Beach, CA, that sells household furniture and appliances to the general public. The company also sells appliances to property management companies. It has been in operation since the 1940s and has 17 employees, four of whom are women. The average age of its workers is approximately 34. There is a core group of employees who have been at Ward's for between five and 17 years; the others have been with the company for less than two years.

Program profile: Rather than having a formal flexibility policy, Ward's Furniture handles flexibility requests on a case-by-case basis. For instance, the company worked out an arrangement with one employee to do much of her work from home so that she could care for a child with special needs (see Personal Profile, below). Of the company's 17 employees, Ward's has worked out some sort of flexibility arrangement with about a dozen of them. The company has seen a jump in the number of flexibility programs it has arranged over the past five years. As long as Ward's is able to coordinate its schedule to make sure the store is appropriately staffed, flexibility requests are approved.

The challenge: The company began to look at flexibility options for its employees as a way to retain valuable employees. Specifically, Ward's wanted to be able to keep its office manager on board despite greater family demands. Ward's has since been able to extend its flexibility offerings to other employees.

Benefits to employees: The company says it attempts to treat every one of its employees like family. And, as a result, employees are able to feel more connected to their jobs and still be free to attend to personal matters outside of work. For instance, some employees use their flexibility at work to be more active in their children's lives, including spending time volunteering in such activities as their school PTA or Boy Scouts.

Benefits to employer: Ward's Furniture says there is no question it benefits from the flexible work schedules it is able to set up. It ends up being able to retain many employees who would no longer be able to keep working at the company. It says those employees, in addition to remaining loyal to the company, are more dedicated and productive as a result. It all adds up to a stronger bottom line for Ward's Furniture. In addition to minimal costs associated with hiring new employees, and strong productivity ratings for its workers, the company has enjoyed 5 to 10 percent annual increases in sales during periods in which nearby competitors have struggled or shut down.

Lessons learned: Ward's Furniture President Brad Ward says he has learned that being able to accommodate employees with flexibility is not only good for the employee but for the employer as well. He says he realizes for some employers that it might be a hard transition to make, but he suggests trying to rely less on scheduling responsibilities and more on getting the job done.

Personal profile: Maria Whitney has worked at Ward's Furniture for 17 years, including the last four as office manager. She is also the mother of four children, including a six-year-old who is autistic. Shortly after that child was born, she asked the company if she could set up a more flexible work schedule, a request they granted. Now, she spends 2 days a week in the office and works an additional 6 to 8 hours a week from home, where she does most of the billing. "Having a flexible schedule helps me a lot," says Maria. "I'm able to take care of my family's needs at home, as a mother, and I'm able to provide some material things for my family as well, since I work." She says she probably wouldn't have been able to stay in her same job if she didn't have such a flexible work schedule. "As a mother and as a worker, I really wish there were other businesses that would be able to do this for other workers - to do whatever it takes to have flexible schedules."

Company contact: Brad Ward,

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Xerox and Social Service Leave

Company: Xerox (

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Company profile: Xerox is a $15.7 billion technology and services company that employs 58,100 people worldwide, including 32,100 in the United States. Of those, about one third are women. There are about 2,500 Xerox workers represented by labor unions in the United States and Canada. Xerox is ranked 130th on the Fortune 500 list and is based in Stamford, CT.

Program profile: Social Service Leave is a program that Xerox has been conducting since 1971. It is considered the oldest such program in the country. Employers are given fully paid leaves of absence for periods ranging from 3 to 12 months to work full-time on social action projects of their own choosing and design. The company estimates that each year approximately 50 to 75 requests for leave are considered, with generally between 6 to 12 requests granted. Over the years, hundreds of employees have taken advantage of the program, working on such efforts as counseling drug addicts, providing legal aid to the poor and building a model classroom for mentally disabled children. The program is open to employees from all job categories and functions. The only requirement for eligibility is that employees must have at least three years of seniority at Xerox before applying; there are no service or other requirements following completion of the program.

Through 2004, 266 men have participated in the program while 187 women have participated (men make up two-thirds of the company's U.S. work force). Interested employees must make a formal, written request to participate in the program but they do not need a supervisor's approval. Applications are evaluated by an employee selection committee made up of a cross-section of Xerox employees. There is a correlation between employees who take advantage of Xerox's Social Service Leave program and those who take part in a separate program, called Xerox Community Involvement Program, which helps support volunteering by providing capital to employee teams pursuing volunteer projects on their own time.

Benefits to employees: Leavetakers are able to become involved in worthwhile causes and return to their previous jobs refreshed and energized by their experience. They are able to retain all of their company benefits and continue earning vacation time while keeping their union seniority. The program was begun as a way to help Xerox employees enrich their lives beyond their jobs; feedback from participants suggests the program is effective in doing so. There is an additional benefit as well, realized by the co-workers of those who participate in Social Service Leave. Company officials say that not only do participants take pride in their selection to participate in SSL, but so do their team members.

Benefits to employer: Xerox believes that one of the benefits it receives from offering the Social Service Leave program is that it gives employees a feeling of support from Xerox. In other words, it allows the company to assist employees in achieving personal goals and gives them the flexibility to be able to do so. Xerox feels that process translates to improved employee satisfaction and motivation, which ultimately can lead to stronger loyalty to the company. This loyalty helps reduce turnover costs for the company. Additionally, it allows Xerox to enhance its corporate self-identity as a socially responsible company. Xerox officials have a deeply-held belief that when volunteers pitch in to help build stronger communities, everyone benefits - including local employers.

The challenge: Because Xerox conceived its Social Service Leave program as a benefit for employees and the communities in which they live, it wasn't developed as a result of a particular challenge. However, the company was responding to employee requests for ways to get more out of their lives than just work. In addition, communities were hoping for more from business and industry.

Personal profile: Sales executive Nancy Scott, from Durham, North Carolina, took part in the Social Service Leave program in 1998, volunteering at the Durham Literacy Council to help promote adult literacy. She says it was gratifying to her to be able to bring the problem-solving skills she learned at Xerox to a local nonprofit and to see immediate, positive results. "I was struck by the difference even one person can make…and of the applicability of business principles to nonprofit organizations."

Company Contact: Kara Choquette,


Wharton Work/Life Integration Project—Case Studies

Click here to view the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project case studies.