Magazine article Workforce Management

Flextime for Everyone

Magazine article Workforce Management

Flextime for Everyone

Article excerpt


WHEN STEPHEN FISHER accepted a consulting position at KPMG LLP in the fall of 2005, he figured his days of playing professional soccer were over.

Mr. Fisher, who was 23 at the time, had spent his first two years out of college playing soccer for Pennsylvania's Harrisburg City Islanders. But he started to feel that it was time to buckle down and to put his degree to use.

Once soccer season began the following spring, however, he lamented to his boss that he missed playing. His boss's reaction shocked Mr. Fisher. "He suggested talking to the partners about my doing an alternate work schedule," he said.

Mr. Fisher works full time in KPMG's Philadelphia and New York offices from September to March. During soccer season, he practices in the morning, and then works in the Harrisburg, Pa., office from noon to 6 p.m.

Employers, meet the new breed of flexible worker. Flexible work has traditionally been the domain of working mothers, but tomorrow's companies will have to craft work schedules to cater to the varying needs of their work forces. Whether it's baby boomers looking to reduce their workloads, Gen X-ers juggling family and work, or Generation Y-ers like Mr. Fisher who want their work lives to revolve around personal ambitions, today's work force is more vocal than ever about the desire for greater flexibility.

Lack of work/life balance is among the top five reasons employees of all ages would consider leaving their current employer, according to a recent survey from benefits consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide.

"In the next five years, many companies are going to realize that unless they offer a menu of flexible work options to employees, they aren't going to have the talent they need to compete," said Charlie Grantham, executive producer of the Work Design Collaborative, a Prescott, Ariz.-based consortium that focuses on defining the future of work.

Yet companies can't merely create a formal policy around flexible work, said Kathie Lingle, director of the Alliance of Work-Life Progress, a division of WorldatWork, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based HR association that provides education in compensation and benefits areas.

Companies have to establish a culture around these programs, which should entail training, investing in IT systems and making sure their performance-management programs take into account employees' work arrangements, she said.

KPMG came to this realization about eight years ago after executives noticed the demand for better work/life balance was coming up repeatedly in employee surveys, said Barbara Wankoff, national director of the company's workplace solutions group.

The New York-based accounting and consulting company offered flexible work arrangements to its 22,000 U.S. employees, but was pretty quiet about it, allowing flex work only on a case-by-case basis. But over the past few years, Ms. Wankoff and her team have introduced a number of tools to make it easier for employees to request flexible work arrangements.

For example, KPMG has published a guide for employees to use when requesting to change their work schedule or location, Ms. Wankoff said. The guide suggests that employees write up a formal proposal explaining the flexibility they are seeking, how they will meet their responsibilities, how their teams will be able to reach them, what kinds of resources they might need and how the company can measure the success of the arrangement. …

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