Workplace flexibility: Who’s Doing It?

by Amy Heibel

Capital One Citi DeloitteFrom small businesses to leading companies, work/life balance is an arena for constant innovation. We talked to several Forté corporate sponsors about how they provide for the diversity of employee needs—and to individual women who are “living it”, taking advantage of flexibility options to structure a relationship with their employers that is mutually beneficial.  Learn what these top companies are doing to create a supportive and positive work environment.

Deloitte:

Sara O’Reilly is the national chief of staff for the Women’s Initiative (WIN) at Deloitte Consulting LLP.  WIN has a long history of innovation and incubated Mass Career Customization, a new model for career development that has been rolled out to the entire Deloitte U.S. firms. “Having a women’s organization challenges us to think about things that impact both men and women in our workforce,” Sara says.

Mass Career Customization gives Deloitte’s workforce a framework, an approach and a set of processes to customize their careers over time.  MCC provides a structured approach for organizations and workers to identify options, make choices and understand trade-offs to ensure that value is created for the individual and the business. “What we’ve found is that these policies let people be authentic at work. The more you give your professionals, the more they give back to the firm,” says Sara.

Christina Brodzik is a manager in Deloitte’s Human Capital practice. She often spends a couple days a week in New York, but for most of the workweek she is able to work remotely from the Chicago office which allows her to pass on travel cost savings to her clients.

“For me, flexibility is about location,” says Christina. “Mass Career Customization means something different to everyone. I wanted to work the same schedule, doing the work I love with clients, but I prefer to travel less which maximizes time with my family.” Her career counselor helped arrange her Mass Career Customization profile, which has shifted as her needs and desires have shifted. “I also have a staffing manager who puts me in touch with local roles, and a regional leader who is very supportive of creative solutions,” she adds.

Citi:

At Citi, another leader in the realm of innovative work solutions, Karyn Likerman, Senior Vice President in Human Resources, says that flexibility speaks directly to the bottom line. Citi measures the impact of flexible solutions in reduced absenteeism, increased employee satisfaction and retention, and a more optimized footprint in terms of real estate required to support their employees.  Flexibility also supports the household bottom line for employees: Karyn notes that employees in the program often see savings in areas like food, transportation and clothing costs.

Citi’s workplace flexibility program began in 2005, with a variety of features, including remote work and compressed work weeks. In 2008 they focused on the space-optimization component, creating more shared office space and “hoteling” solutions for workers who are only occasionally in the office. The firm provides a formal registration program to help the manager and employee craft a work plan that suits both parties. “We know that our employees who are in this program recognize Citi as a great place to work,” Karyn notes.

Karyn uses the program herself—on the day we spoke to her she was working from home to avoid a snowstorm and maximize her workday by staying off the road.

Capital One:

Danessa Knaupp, Director at Capital One, has three small children and a demanding career overseeing incentive programs for bank employees. “When I think about flexibility at work it is really the process that enables me to meet my own expectations of myself in my professional and my personal life,” she says. Danessa telecommutes from home when she isn’t traveling.  She is part of Capital One’s Flexible Work Solutions program, which rests on a foundation that takes into account three factors: time, space and tools. Capital One provides structured options on each of those three fronts because they view flexibility as a “key driver of business performance and work/life balance.”

Planning for flexible solutions in your own career

Christina Brodzik has some advice for those seeking innovative solutions at work. “To get the flexibility I want from the firm, I need to give some too,” she says. “Always approach it from a business point of view.”

To build the business case, look into business benefits of flexible work solutions. For example, many companies report that flexibility reduces their carbon footprint, lowers travel expenses, and allows clients to benefit from a broader pool of talent, because they aren’t confined to the talent in one location.

Here are some other tips:

  • Make time for face time. If you telecommute, structure face-to-face meetings on a regular basis to build strong relationships with colleagues.
  • Don’t look for a permanent solution. Many of the women we spoke with advised that work/life balance requires frequent readjustments as circumstances change.
  • Be realistic. Set aside dedicated time and space for work, wherever you are, and don’t expect to get everything done at once.

- By Amy Heibel

Amy Heibel is a media producer and president of Here Now Communications