Flexibility Equals Productivity

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When asked what they want most at work, most women say flexibility -- smart, efficient ways to do a good job both at the office and at home.

As part of Good Morning America's "Mothers Make it Work" series, we're committed to answering the question that so many of you have asked on GMA's Web site and message board: How can we get our employers to help us better balance work and life outside the traditional 9 to 5 model without compromising the quality of or commitment to both?

Often we don't ask for various benefits or accommodations because of fear of rejection. But the good news is that flexibility comes in all shapes and sizes. It doesn't look like one specific thing. There are many options to consider when trying to determine what might work best for you and your company. In fact, all 100 companies on "Working Mother" magazine's list of best companies to work for offer a range of benefits for flexibility.

Compressed Work Week: Some employers -- ranging from retailers and grocery chains to banks -- allow employees to work a compressed work week. Instead of working eight-hour days, five days a week, they'll work four days at 10 hours. This frees up a day a week to focus on personal/family needs or to save on child care costs on that fifth day.

In addition, some employers -- including the federal government -- will allow employees to devise an alternative schedule for start and stop times. If you want to see your child off to school, a woman may elect to come in later. She can put the kids on the bus herself, and save the cost of morning child care. In such a case, she stays later at the office.

This is also great if you live in a city with terrible traffic. Coming in an hour or two later could save you time -- and sanity. By avoiding the rush hour, you'll get to work faster and save that dead time on the road, which you don't get paid for.

Vacation by the Hour: This really works well for workers paid by the hour. If they miss a shift, their pay is docked. It's also ideal for small businesses because it doesn't cost a penny to implement. For example, you might need to take your child to the doctor. Instead of missing an entire shift, you could take off the hour you need and then return to work. Your vacation time becomes like a debit account -- you deduct the hours you needed to take.

This allows you to take care of family matters without losing a day's pay. And it works well for the company because doesn't lose out on a full day of your productivity.

Some companies will allow you to convert unused sick days into vacation days. Most employers only let you use sick days if you, the employee, are sick. If you don't use them, you lose them. This tweak in policy allows moms to use them if children are sick or for doctor's visits, instead of cutting into vacation time.

The computer maker Dell gives all its employees -- from factory workers to management -- up to 10 personal business days instead of calling them sick days. This is something that many small businesses I spoke to are willing to do as well. It costs nothing, but is a big help to staff.

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