Top Places to Work | Flexibility

Get a life

Balancing work with other demands is tricky. The best companies know this - and help

Nooshi Robertson joined Bright Horizons in part because of its generous child-care policy. (Michelle McDonald / Globe Staff Photo) Nooshi Robertson joined Bright Horizons in part because of its generous child-care policy.
By Maggie Jackson
Globe correspondent / November 9, 2008
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In the information economy, punching a time clock is passé. Need to get to a doctor's appointment or the school play? As long as you get your work done, just go.

That's the culture being sown at state employers best at giving workers the support they need for real balance between life and work.

Even in a volatile economy, many employers nationwide are taking steps in this direction. Nearly 80 percent of US employers allow at least some workers to periodically arrive and depart when they wish, up from 68 percent a decade ago, according to the Families and Work Institute. But top local employers tend to offer more types of flexibility across all ranks, and they try to value those on different schedules.

Employees at more flexible workplaces report higher job satisfaction and stronger loyalty to the company. Here are three firms with this winning "bendability."

Headquarters: Boston

After Dave Porter bought this small, venerable Boston financial firm in 1996, he quickly tossed the company time clock in the trash. "If you want to coach your daughter's soccer team and leave at 3, you won't be penalized," said Porter, the firm's managing partner. "We're results oriented."

Now, Baystate offers employees a general pool of days off, which can be tapped for holidays or sick time, along with such options as telework and flex hours. The benefits seem effective: Nearly two-thirds of the company's 100 workers in Massachusetts have been with the company five or more years. Another nearly 200 employees work elsewhere in New England.

Jill Joyce, a compliance officer, works from 5:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. four days a week and half-days on Fridays so she can have more time with her two toddlers. "As long as you get your work done, there's no micromanagement," Joyce said. "As long as you give in the effort, they give you 110 percent back."

Headquarters: Cambridge

Last year, software engineer Amy Fedyk stepped forward to keep a client project on target after a team member abruptly left the company. Later, she won an incentive bonus for her help.

That's not so unusual - except that Fedyk only works 24 hours weekly, a schedule that would leave her career sidelined at many companies.

"I'm still given a lot of opportunities," said Fedyk, a mother of two who has worked part time since her first child was born in 2001. At the Cambridge-based research and development firm, she chooses when she wants extra work, and feels valued for whatever work she does. Now, she's training for her first marathon. "I only have time to do this because I have a flexible schedule," said Fedyk.

Such flexibility is simply a smart way to do business, according to BBN spokeswoman Joyce Kuzmin. "We hire people for their brains, and we really mean that. We aren't hiring to have their bodies here eight hours a day," Kuzmin said. The workforce gets the message. Most of the company's Massachusetts employees - about two-thirds of the total workforce - say they don't want to leave in the next year.

Headquarters: Watertown

Affordable day care was high on technologist Nooshi Robertson's wish list when she was job-hunting. So she joined a company whose business is child care: Bright Horizons Family Solutions.

Bright Horizons manages nearly 700 corporate child-care centers in the United States and the United Kingdom, and full-timers on its workforce of 16,600 pay half price. That saves Robertson $1,000 a month on care of her 3-year-old son. "It was one of the key companies I was targeting for that reason," said Robertson, who is helping the company unroll a software system.

Other benefits offered to full-timers include up to 26 weeks of unpaid sabbatical after two years. All employees receive 20 days of back-up child care. And working from home is accepted. Almost 93 percent of the company's nearly 1,700 Massachusetts employees say they have the flexibility they need to balance work and personal life.

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