New report touts benefits of flexible work schedules for women

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

Funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the study profiles 15 companies in Wisconsin that say businesses should allow employees to work reduced hours without penalizing them in pay, benefits or career opportunities.
"The good news is, we found employers in a variety of sectors offering such options on an equitable basis," said Ellen Bravo, lead trainer at 9to5. "They do so not as a favor to employees, but as a better way to do business."
The No. 1 reason cited for offering these options is retention.
"Over and over, managers talked about the value of retaining talent and maintaining continuity of organizational know-how, along with saving the significant costs of replacing people and training new staff," Bravo said. "Other arguments in favor of quality part-time options include recruitment, higher morale, efficiency and productivity, greater flexibility, improved customer service, employee well-being and enhanced reputation in the community."
"It’s absolutely been worth the investment," says John Horky, a principal at the Kahler Slater design firm in Milwaukee.
Horky said replacement costs can run three times a worker’s salary.
Anne Wakeham, director of client services at Covance Inc. in Madison, said, "How can you not do it? It’s so easy."
Some employees want to reduce hours at work to have more time with family members, or for school or volunteer activities, to phase into retirement or for leisure activities.
"It was a workaholic culture – you didn’t want to let your guard down," said Linda Pucek, an employee at GE Health Care in Waukesha, "But it’s changed for the better in order to keep people and to recruit them."
Pucek was allowed to work reduced hours after her young son was diagnosed with cancer. Most employees who are profiled in the report say they would have left their jobs without the flexible options.
"It took some time for me to recognize that success comes in many flavors, like the pride in having a relationship with your son such that he asks you to be the coach of his basketball team," said Dave Adams, vice president of corporate finance at the Johnson Financial Group in Racine.
"What’s critical to success is seeing quality part-time options not as fringe policies but as a key part of how work is done," Bravo said.
According to Pat Pearman, global manager of diversity at GE Health Care, "It’s not just how you design the time, but how you design the work environment."
Respondents to the survey also identified health and retirement policy changes that would help promote quality part-time options. These include lowering the cost of health insurance – and for some insurers, changing the rules – to make it easier to offer to part-timers; changes in Social Security to allow older workers to keep more supplemental income through earnings; and changes in pension plans to allow workers to reduce schedules in later years without harming their pensions.
9to5 was formed in 1973 to improve corporate and public policies affecting working women. The new report is available at www.9to5.org.
February 18, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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