Career Center Blog

November 29, 2012

How to make a case for 'workflex' policies in your office


In August of this year, released a list of the top 25 companies in terms of work-life balance, as voted on by their own employees. Kent-based REI (ranked No. 6) and Seattle's Slalom Consulting (No. 15) were the two local representatives (see the whole list here). Most of the top 25 firms had similar employee-friendly perks, such as flex time, total health care coverage, gym memberships, telecommuting, performance incentives, ample vacation and many others.

However, many firms in the top 25 shared a not-so-enviable trait. Almost all of the employee reviewers who mentioned a great work-life balance under the "pros" section also added under the "cons" heading that either their salaries were usually not competitive within their markets or the company was resistant to change. While the correlation isn't proven, the data suggest that many employees are giving up higher salaries and innovation in exchange for more flexible schedules and benefits.

So is it possible to earn a top-tier salary and have a perfect work-life balance? That's a question the Glassdoor survey can't come close to answering, but it's an issue that the Families and Work Institute (FWI) is trying to solve. This workplace research nonprofit group recently teamed up with the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) to create the Workflex Employee Toolkit, a new reference guide for job seekers, employees and HR personnel about how to propose, implement and maintain flexible work arrangements, which they define loosely as "workflex."

According to FWI, the toolkit is "a blueprint for making workflex a reality" for virtually any employer — even for those who may not have a history of offering flexible work programs. By listing more than a dozen types of alternative schedules (flexible hours, compressed work weeks, shift trading, job sharing, family leave, etc.), the guide allows users to compare the benefits of each one and explains how it can be customized to boost productivity, improve morale or reduce costs.

What's even more impressive is how the guide encourages employees to make their own case for workflex implementation. At most firms that adhere to the standard 9-to-5 model, workflex can be dismissed as being "not part of our company culture." But via the resources in this guide, employees can provide concrete, persuasive examples of how workflex can be instituted with relatively little cost and without a major cultural overhaul.

The toolkit includes sections on self-assessment (e.g., What life goals could be achieved with workflex? How will it affect my income? Can my co-workers also benefit from workflex?) and provides tips on how to approach your supervisor about implementation. Using worksheets and checklists, the guide gives step-by-step instructions on presenting a workflex business case, listing the goals of the policy, the specific benefits for the employer and a system to measure performance. There's even a section about how to revise your plan if your initial proposal is denied or how to adjust an existing plan to meet unexpected challenges.

The Workflex Employee Toolkit, free to download from the FWI reports page, is packed with resources for supporting workflex and contains scores of testimonials from workers who have overcome employer resistance. In most cases, SHRM notes, workflex policies are introduced only after a request is made by the employees themselves. Perhaps it's time to ask your employer the same thing.

Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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