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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Will employers be flexible?

Remember the days when accounting firms used to be tough places for women to move up and for men to get any kind of flexibility? Today, Grant Thornton, announced it ranked as the top accounting firms for work/life balance in a survey of about 1,200 accounting educators from 173 universities. The firm has formal flexible work arrangements and a workplace culture that encourages them.

Expect more of these formal flexible work policies going forward, says Kathie Lingle, director of the Alliance for Work/Life Progress. Lingle cites three reasons: First, companies offering flex arrangements on an individual basis, run the risk of being accused of favoritism. Second, by having formal policies and tracking who uses them, an organization can measure results. (Are workers as productive?) Third, these formal policies usually are accompanied by training programs and guidelines to make them effective.

Lingle says in recession when there's less money to go around, companies can offer flexiblity which costs them zero but gives them an uptick in morale. Click here to read Kathie's blog.


A Fort Lauderdale law firm, WardKim, recently wrote me on this subject. Here are some ways that partners Jay Kim and Greg Ward say they have made their Fort Lauderdale law firm WardKim more flexible.

  • Most law firms rigorously pursue hourly billing requirements for attorneys and paralegals. We view our billable structure as goals rather than a requirement.

  • We recognize that employees have a variety of legitimate reasons for needing personal time. We are generally very accommodating to our employees’ schedules, even when they request last-minute changes.

  • Most law firms monitor and limit staff usage of the Internet. We expect our employees to exercise good judgment regarding the use of the Internet for personal reasons and don't limit their usuage as long as they do their work.

  • We decided not to create a calendar of fixed events. Rather, we meet with our team members on a regular basis to discuss what types of office events they would enjoy. Everyone welcomes this spontaneity.

  • We work hard to ensure our employees are comfortable approaching the senior members of our firm. We back this up by delivering on our promise to keep our minds open and find newer and better ways to run our firm to ensure everyone’s job satisfaction.


"In today’s competitive corporate environment where it’s increasingly difficult to hire and retain high-quality employees, law firms that establish a corporate culture of flexibility will help ensure greater employee satisfaction and position themselves for greater long-term success," says partner Greg Ward.

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