Flexible work arrangements ride economic tides

Fri Jan 30, 2009 8:09am EST
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By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tatiana Carvajal has a new job at a telecommunications company that lets her work from home, a benefit she says lured her to leave her former position, despite fewer bonuses and raises.

"It's really nice. It was one of the things that attracted me to it and made me decide to make that change," said the mother of two who lives in Plaistow, New Hampshire.

While flexible work arrangements are nothing new, in tough economic times some companies use telecommuting or job sharing to attract, keep and encourage employees, experts say.

"Companies who can't say you're doing a great job, here's a 200 percent bonus this year, who are having to say there is no bonus this year or you might have to take a pay cut, can now look at this as another way to reward workers, get executives to stay," said Claire Shipman, co-author of "Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success," due out in June.

As companies grapple with strained budgets, tight credit, waning demand for products and layoffs, flexible arrangements are still available but it is hard to measure how many companies offer them, said Katherine Spencer Lee, a district president for Robert Half International, which provides companies with temporary and full-time staffing.

Flexibility can mean letting workers shift hours once in a while, offering choices to only a few employees or working entirely from home, Lee said.

Even so, she said, "we are seeing about the same amount of telecommuting and flexible schedules. If companies are pinched for cash, they may try to do things less cash-oriented. Certainly flexible schedules would fit into that category."

The practice of flexible scheduling more than doubled from 1985 through the 1990s, but has not grown in the past decade, according to the Public Policy Institute of the AARP, a nonprofit organization designed to help people over age 50.   Continued...

<p>A woman works at her desk in this February 9, 2005 photo. REUTERS/Catherine Benson</p>