Flavors of Flexibility

IT workers crave flexibility and variety in their work lives. Thanks to some creative thinking, employers are giving them what they want:

Flexibility in schedules: Some employees like to start their workday at the crack of dawn. For others, it's important to start later in order to drop off a child at school or avoid rush-hour traffic. While the core set of employees works the typical 9-to-5 day, top IT departments recognize the importance of striking a good balance between work and home.

"You want to make sure that employees' needs are met and to make sure the job gets done," says Paul Costello, executive director of administration and budget control for IT at the University of Miami.

"By being flexible, you and the job become important to the individual," says Costello. "Flexible job hours or time arrangements are not always easy to achieve. But if you make the job fit the employee, that employee will want to keep the job and to do it well."

At Cabot Corp., a Boston-based specialty chemicals company, critical projects often require long hours, but the extra time doesn't go unnoticed.

"We have a fairly young staff, so the ability to balance family and work is very important," says Marian Cole, director of IT infrastructure at Cabot. "If you work a lot of overtime, you get time off. [Compensated] days are very much a part of our culture."

Variety in assignments: The ability to select some assignments and vary long-term work tasks scores big points with IT workers, who relish the challenge of new technologies and the opportunity to flex their intellectual muscles in new assignments.

At Home Depot, new jobs get posted on the company's intranet, and staffers get to select which assignments they'll take on next, which may include setting up training courses to obtain required skills.

At Avon Products, CIO Harriet Edelman recognizes that IT work is a form of creativity for many technologists.

"If you're in a reactive role with no creativity, then you're more vulnerable to turnover, because your employees will go somewhere else where they can use and develop their talent," she says. - Lee Copeland

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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