Flex your benefits

Originally posted October 16, 2013 by Kathryn Layer on benefitspro.com

In case you missed it, this week marked an interesting — and totally great — holiday called National Flex Day.

Haven’t heard of it? Well, it’s new. Yesterday marked the first official National Flex Day ever, as the brainchild of Working Mother Media.

The premise? To help promote the power of flexible work arrangements.

“Flexible work is important to every single employee, whether to help them accommodate child care responsibilities, elder care needs or a marathon training schedule,” says Carol Evans, president of Working Mother Media. “It’s time for people and companies to step out from the shadows and embrace workplace flexibility as a core business strategy that will enable employees and employers to compete and succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy — while also ensuring a healthy, productive and profitable workforce in the long run.”

In a video, Evans calls the benefit a “lifesaver,” and says that publicizing — and promoting — flexible work arrangements this year is especially important because the benefit has been “under attack.”

That’s in part thanks to people like Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, who earlier this year took back employees’ work-from-home benefits, and Hewlett-Packard’s Meg Whitman who just followed suit.

Groups like Working Mother Media will tell you the problem with these examples is they’re setting a poor example for other employers — when powerhouse companies do it, won’t others follow? And these decisions reflect poorly on the executives, as well — are they really that untrusting of the people they work with? Do they not value their employees’ home lives?

Don’t get me wrong: Individual employers have to make the right decision for their company. They don’t have to allow everyone to hang out at home in their pajamas day after day, but being flexible about work schedules and understanding the ever-important work-life balance is another matter.

With benefits apparently not as important as they once were, and with many companies dropping employer-sponsored coverage, asking employees to pay a higher share of the cost, or cutting sick or vacation days — flex time is an easy, cheap and productive benefit for employers to implement.

It’s amazing people still don’t get it: When employees feel valued, appreciated and trusted, their work ethic improves, their happiness improves, they stay healthier and they’re much more likely to stick with the company. Wins all around!

According to research by Working Mother Media, a typical business saves half a million dollars in facilities costs for every 100 employees who telecommute full-time. By contrast, they spend 50 percent more in health care costs on stressed-out workers. (And flexible work lowers employee stress by 30 percent.)

Appropriately enough today is also Boss’s Day. Perhaps it’s a good time to tell your supervisor you’ll only wish him a happy Boss’s Day if he wishes you a happy Flex Day — and means it.

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