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9 ways to cut costs with strategic work/life & flex benefits

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in Employee Benefits Program,Hiring,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Amid layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts and frozen salaries, most organizations are holding onto their work/life benefits during the recession. And some of them are using flextime, telework and other employee favorites as cost-cutting strategies.

A new study by the New York-based Families and Work Institute (FWI) shows that 81% of employers continue to offer workplace flexibility; 13% have increased it.

Reason: “A number of employers have recognized that if they provide flexibility, they can save jobs,” FWI president Ellen Galinsky testified during a July hearing of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. “Being a flexible employer tends to pay off for the business.”

Although businesses typically view flextime, compressed workweeks and part-time schedules as recruitment and retention strategies, just 6% percent of employers have ditched those practices, even as they cut staffs and freeze hiring.

Good for employers & employees

Galinsky says flexible scheduling helps retain the key employees businesses need to help them through the tough times—and also helps employees stay more engaged and productive on the job.

Here are nine ways your organization can make strategic use of work/life benefits to cut costs, save jobs and pump up employee morale during the recession.

1. Offer financial counseling. Help employees manage the recession by helping them manage their finances. Even a slight reduction in pay can have a huge impact on employees who are struggling to pay their bills—and that includes some with high salaries who have made financial commitments based on their full incomes.

Tip: Extend the financial planning assistance to your laid-off employees as well. Between 34% and 44% of employers in the FWI survey offer counseling to pink-slipped employees.

2. Ask for volunteers to cut their own hours—before you do it for them. While 28% of employers in the study have imposed involuntary reductions in hours, 29% have asked employees to voluntarily work shorter schedules.

Tip: Allow employees who volunteer to reduce their hours to keep full-time benefits.

3. Tie recession-induced sacrifices to saving jobs. Most employees will accept a temporary pay cut or furlough if they know it will prevent layoffs.

A sure morale-buster: Using the money saved on pay cuts to fund an acquisition.

4. Promote the EAP as a go-to resource for recession-related employee problems. Employee assistance program counselors can help workers deal with the scourges of hard times, including home foreclosures, bill collectors, loss of income, rising health care costs, depression, stress and anger.

5. Compress the workweek. Your organization won’t save on salaries, but it could save on operating costs. Example: When utility prices soared last summer, many organizations saved by working four 10-hour days a week instead of five eight-hour days.

6. Encourage telecommuting. For organizations that rent space, it can save money. Example: The Virginia Department of Taxation, whose employees once filled 2½ floors, was able to give up half a floor once it starting having some employees work from home. The savings: $130,000 a year.

7. Give employees some choices. Among organizations that have encouraged employees to choose flexible work arrangements, 57% sought at least some employee input about their new working arrangements.

8. Offer flexibility equally to men and women. Managers tend to view work/life benefits as most attractive to women. However, the FWI survey reveals that, in reality, men are more likely to favor employers offering flex work.

9. Have some fun—or at least try to. Especially during stressful times, employers in the FWI survey report they are trying to improve morale and add some levity to the workday.

Examples: Offer fun rewards to employees who do an especially good job, arrange potluck lunches, hold raffles for inexpensive prizes.

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