As I've written before, "soft" benefits such as flexible work schedules are an increasingly big deal in today's workplace. Twenty-five percent of respondents to a TheITJobBoard.com survey published last summer said they had turned down a job offer because it lacked a flexible work option. Forty-six percent of the respondents were allowed to work flexible hours.
Young employees, in particular, expect a flexible schedule. A VP of human resources interviewed in a Computerworld article explained that his company has begun letting employees work one day from home and to adjust the times they come in and leave the office in an effort to attract talented young hires.
Experts say a similar strategy might be especially beneficial for SMBs, which often have trouble matching the salaries and other "hard" benefits such as pensions offered by their larger competitors.
Nearly three-quarters of SMBs in the UK offer flexible work options, according to a survey commissioned by Citrix Online. Managers at SMBs cited employee satisfaction, improved retention rates and a better work-life balance for working parents as key benefits of flexible schedules, reports ITPro in a story about the survey.
Working mothers rated working away from the office as their top benefit, above a pension, health insurance and bonuses. (I, a working mom who regularly works at home, am surprised by this. Maybe these moms have access to insurance through other family members?)
Then again, in a survey released late last year by WorldatWork, flexible schedules topped paid vacation and medical plans as a benefit offered to retain employees. Eighty-two percent of companies offer flex-time, according to the survey.
Marcia Rhodes, the group's head of public relations, told me in an interview that she expects to see strong growth in these kinds of benefits which, in addition to being highly valued by employees, don't cost employers much. Some large companies are even creating new roles within their human resources departments focused specifically on managing such arrangements, says Rhodes.
So how can employers ensure they offer benefits that are meaningful to their employees? Rhodes offers a simple suggestion: Ask them. She says:
As my dad used to say, you'll arrive at the solution just by asking the right question. Employers should regularly survey employees to make sure the benefits offered are still relevant and valued. You might be surprised to find that while you offer dependent care flexible spending accounts, the majority of your employees don't much care if you do or not. On the other hand, employee ownership is a big driver of employee satisfaction and retention, and yet very few companies (less than 10,000, in fact) offer employee stock ownership plans.