Flexibility Equals Productivity


Concierge services: Sometimes flexibility means giving moms a helping hand. Originally, companies offered access to high-end concierge services to executives as a perk. Now they're beginning to realize that if they help mom out with the chores, she can work longer hours without neglecting her family duties -- services like dog walking, on-site laundry and access to home maintenance gurus are offered. Hospitals throughout the country are starting to do more of this for employees at all levels because a looming shortage of health care workers means longer hours for everyone. This is one step in keeping workers balanced, satisfied and appreciated.

Maternity Leave: The accounting giant Ernst & Young is piloting a program that focuses on pre- and post-maternity counseling and support. The firm will provide a coach to work with the mom before she leaves to have her baby and talk about what life will be like when the baby comes and how she'll be able to manage work when she's ready to return. She's also paired with a mentor internally who's been there and done it successfully. This is especially important since company culture and precedent play a big role in determining success.

This is a brilliant business move because it helps a woman be a whole mom and a whole employee without feeling overwhelmed or guilty. And from the firm's perspective, it lets it keep a valuable employee engaged and committed to returning to work, which is less expensive than losing her entirely. The more we promote these benefits and the more other companies see that the Ernst & Young program may be a gold standard, the more it'll become a reality across the workplace.

Working at Home: It's the dream of moms everywhere -- to work from home!

Telecommuting has grown in popularity. In 1999, only 18 of Fortune's best companies to work for offered telecommuting. Today, 79 do. Some people just do it a day or so a week -- so there are lots of options.

We're also seeing a huge surge in the number of home-based customer service agents, the majority of whom are women. These are hourly, work-from-home employees across the county who take customer service calls for clients like J.Crew, 1-800-Flowers, Office Depot, the major airlines and more. These women set their own hours based on whatever works for them -- averaging about 20 to 25 hours a week. You can earn $8 to $15 an hour -- no commuting costs, no fancy business attire. It's the ultimate in flexibility if you have a computer, high-speed Internet access, a land line and a quiet work space.

If you're interested in this type of work, consider applying through the leaders in this industry, including Golden, Alpine Access in Colorado; LiveOps in Palo Alto, Calif.; or Working Solutions in Texas. You don't have to live in these cities to work for these companies. They employ women throughout the country.

What's in it for the employer? Smart companies do these types of things to keep good employees, and to keep them happy. It's not all altruism -- it makes economic sense too. The average cost of losing an employee is 1.5 times the employee's annual salary because of lost productivity while the position is open, plus the cost of recruiting, hiring and training a replacement. By implementing these programs, employers benefit from increased retention and improved employee satisfaction, which boosts productivity and the bottom line.

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