Interesting story and commentary in The New York Times by Sylvia Ann Hewlett about the value of flex time to employees and employers. Hewlett is an economist and the author of Top Talent: Keeping Performance Up When Business is Down.

Her article, “Making Flex Time a Win-Win,” looks at flexible work arrangements from the standpoint of both women and men. Here’s from the article:

From 2004 to 2009 there was a 28 percent increase in the number of professional women with nonworking husbands (unemployed or retired), according to a new survey done by the Center for Work-Life Policy, an organization I founded and where I lead a private-sector task force called Hidden Brain Drain.

What is more, the percentage of full-time working women who out-earn their husbands has reached 39 percent. A central problem, of course, is that as more wives and mothers step into the prime breadwinning role, they continue to shoulder a disproportionate load of domestic responsibility.

Some relief is on the way —for women and for men. If there’s a silver lining to the recession, it’s that smart companies are beginning to turn time into a tool to attract, retain and engage high-performing talent of both sexes.

Hewlett then focuses on an innovative program instituted by KPMG, a Corporate Voices partner company.

In January, the accounting giant KPMG, looking for a way to save payroll costs without losing valued employees, introduced an initiative called Flexible Futures. This new program offered the 11,000 professionals in KPMG’s British operations the following options: They could go to a four-day workweek and take a 20 percent pay cut; they could opt for a mini-sabbatical at 30 percent base pay; they could opt for both of the above; or they could stick with their current arrangement.

The program was hugely successful. Over 80 percent of KPMG’s professional employees (men and women) volunteered to take one of the flexible options. This allowed KPMG to achieve its goal of retaining jobs while cutting costs.

Because Flexible Futures positioned shorter workweeks and mini-sabbaticals as a strategic response to the downturn rather than a “benefit” for working mothers, it has gone some distance to legitimizing flex time. Taking this option has become an honored choice — a way to save jobs. As a result, overloaded men as well as overloaded women have felt free to vary their schedules.

Research studies, toolkits and other information about workplace flexibility are available on the Corporate Voices Web site.