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Time On Their Side

You need good employees. They need increased flexibility. Here's how the twain shall meet.

Is the 9-to-5 workday, once the centerpiece of U.S. business, taking its last breath? A stunning 55 percent of companies recently surveyed by the Society for Human Resources Management say they offer flexible work scheduling, or flextime, to their workers.

The trend is clear. In May 1991, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 15.1 percent of the nation's workers had a flextime option; by May 1997, that figure had risen to 27.1 percent. Not surprisingly, workers are cheering this increasing implementation of flextime. "Employees are clearly saying they want more flexibility in how they manage their work hours," says Fred Foulkes, director of the Human Resources Policy Institute at Boston University's School of Management.

Listen up, because offering flextime may allow you to compete head-to-head with the biggest companies for top workers. "Offer flextime, and it will definitely help your recruiting efforts," says Anne Chamberlain, a human resources consultant with Buck Consultants Inc., an employment benefits and consulting firm in New York City. Research demonstrates that prospective employees attach a great deal of weight to how much schedule flexibility a company offers, Chamberlain says. And in an economy where the best workers have no shortage of tempting job offers, not providing flextime may just steer terrific job candidates elsewhere.

Giving employees a choice isn't just a great recruiting tool; it'll also keep employees loyal longer. "Flextime is the number-one driver of employee retention," contends Kathie Lingle, National Director of Work/Life at KPMG LLP. Money, she adds, isn't necessarily the key to holding good employees: "Time now is as scarce as money," says Lingle, "and employees are much more likely to stay with an employer who gives them a say in setting their work schedule."

Robert McGarvey writes on business, psychology and management topics for several national publications. To reach him online with your questions or comments, e-mail

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This article was originally published in the July 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Time On Their Side.

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