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Diversity in the Workplace

Workplace Diversity

Needs, values and priorities of employees and employers have changed dramatically over the last decade. On all rungs of the corporate ladder, men and women are seeking new ways to manage the time they spend working so they can spend more time living. In the boardrooms, executives are seeking ways to attract - and retain - the best employees so they can continue to survive and thrive in a highly competitive global economy.

Interestingly enough, solutions to the changing needs and priorities of both groups are being found in the same place: flexible work arrangements are proving to be a win-win strategy in today's leading-edge organizations.

The 1990's have witnessed dramatic change in the attitude of corporate America regarding flexible work arrangements. Once used as an ad hoc response to individual employees' needs, companies have begun to realize they can use flexibility as a cost-effective strategy to accomplish business goals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of US workers work other than a 5-day, 40-hour week and nationwide, about 12 million full-time workers have flexible work schedules. In a 1998 Families and Work Institute Business Work/Life Study, most of the 1000 participating companies reported that FWAs had a positive return on investment (46%) or were cost neutral (36%), while only 18% believed the costs of FWAs outweighed the benefits.

Many companies are beginning to recognize the value of workplace flexibility, and see it as the way work needs to be done in an information age. A 1991 Catalyst study found that since 1989, most of the 70 participating large companies had expanded the number of employees using flexible work arrangements and had formalized their initiatives. Many organizations have experimented with flexible work arrangements with positive results.

There are several aspects of flexible work arrangements:

FlexTime: Allows employees to take advantage of a range of starting and ending times for the work day.

FlexPlace (or Telecommuting): Enables employees to work from a different location - such as home or another facility. For this arrangement to be successful, the employee must demonstrate an ability to work independently. Job responsibilities must also allow for the employee to spend time away from the office. The amount of time worked off site can vary, from a few hours a week to a full five day work week schedule.

Compressed Work Schedule: Enables employees to perform their full-time job in less than a customary work week. Examples of...

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