Carrie Sheets is no contortionist, but she has a flexible schedule.
The mother of two hustles off to daycare early weekday mornings to drop off her little ones before heading to work as a marketing director. If she needs Friday off for a family matter – no problem. If she has to leave by midday for a doctors appointment – no problem.
Sheets employer, Sanco Industries Inc., is one of a growing number of companies that – as long as the time is put in – are allowing leeway in staff schedules. According to the 2012 National Study of Employers, an increasing number of firms are, well, not so firm when it comes to work hours.
Its the smart thing to do, said Jennifer Winkeljohn, division director of Robert Half International, a global staffing firm with offices at 9921 Dupont Circle Drive W. in Fort Wayne. One thing the recession did is that it had people re-evaluate whats important – and its family.
Winkeljohn said she has never seen a time when work-life balance has been such an issue.
I think its because people have worked so hard and doubled down in so many ways, she said. They want to know that their employer cares, and they are looking for that flexibility.
The Families and Work Institute and Society for Human Resource Management this spring released the employer study that polled 1,126 companies with 50 or more workers. The survey has a 2.9 percent margin of error.
Organizations are realizing the value in giving employees more autonomy to produce their best work – increased productivity and heightened employee engagement, Lisa Horn, senior adviser-government relations at the Society for Human Resource Management, said in a statement.
At the same time, organizations still struggling in a recovering economy are dependent on their workforce and less able to provide employees extended time away from work.
Others, though, arent willing to bend.
The survey found that a slow economic recovery has some employers not willing to allow some flex-time features. Since 2005, fewer companies permit workers to move from full-time to part-time and back again.
Businesses also were less likely to permit career breaks for personal and family reasons.
With the economy not exactly flourishing, Winkeljohn said that fact can always weigh on an employees mind. The familiar refrain Do you know how many people are out of work? might be a good scare tactic, but supervisors using it wont fare well, she said.
An ideal candidate may settle for a less-than-ideal position with an established company, but as soon as they find a job with more flexibility, theyll be gone, Winkeljohn said. Its a fact that the smart executives are already paying attention to.
Sheets said she appreciates her situation at Sanco, a manufacturer of aquatic chemicals.
When I have things going on, I can come in earlier or stay later, Sheets said. With two kids, that means a lot, because you need that kind of wiggle room nowadays.
Her boss, Kevin Appenzeller, agrees.
It would be dangerous for a business not to offer flexible work schedules, he said. Its a good way to keep good employees.
Workers with families usually have children involved in several extracurricular activities, and to ignore the fact that schedules will sometimes need juggling is foolish, Appenzeller said. In many cases, workers treasure flex time as much as pay raises, he added.
Being able to work four days a week instead of five by working longer hours, bringing the kids in a few hours in between babysitters and things like that have value, Appenzeller said. Workers recognize that when they do the math.
Winkeljohn agrees. No one is discounting a hefty paycheck, she said, but companies cant afford to take a hard line with employees trying to balance the job with home life.
Theyre going to have a high turnover rate, which in turn costs money, Winkeljohn said. Can I work on a Saturday morning, can I have some time to care for an elderly parent and questions like these are what prospective employees are asking and want to know.