Donna Klein and Anise Wiley-Little are featured in an article about workplace flexibility written by Ruth Mantell for MarketWatch, part of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network. Donna is Executive Chair and Founder of Corporate Voices for Working Families. Anise is Assistant Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Allstate Insurance Co., and a member of the Corporate Voices’ Board of Trustees.

The article — “Flexible workplaces benefit workers and employers” — follows last week’s historic White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility, and it examines a number of issues and benefits associated with workplace flexibility.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

While there is evidence that productivity increases at firms with workplace flexibility, it’s difficult to confirm causation. Still, flexible arrangements can save U.S. businesses billions of dollars a year, according to a recent report from the Council of Economic Advisers. Read full report.

Flexibility can reduce absences due to sickness and employee turnover, an intriguing trait as firms chase productivity.

The article continues:

Donna Klein, executive chair and founder of the nonprofit Corporate Voices for Working Families, said some firms haven’t adopted flexibility because training for managers does not cover the topic. Further, managers may simply not be used to flexible arrangements.

“For managers who have been in the workforce for a long time in a nonflexible environment it’s easier if they don’t have to worry about flexible scheduling,” Klein said. “Flexibility requires decisions and analysis on the manager’s part. Part of the issue is for employers and managers to be creative and not follow the cookbook they’ve been taught.”

Different levels of flexibility

It’s not realistic for all workers to have the same degree or kind of flexibility, experts said.

“You can’t be a waiter at home. Clearly you have to be present at that job,” Klein said. “But that creates an opportunity for a different type of flexibility.”

When it comes to scheduling, less-skilled workers have less workplace flexibility than more highly-skilled workers, according to the CEA report. One way to introduce flexibility for lower earners is by giving them more control over the start of their work day.

“This has to be a win-win for managers and employee. It’s not going to work otherwise,” Klein said.

Anise Wiley-Little, chief diversity officer at Allstate Insurance Co., said more than 90% of the firm’s employees make some use of flex time. Jobs such as analyst or manager are more conducive to telecommuting. But workers at call centers can also take advantage of flexibility by arranging their starting times with their managers.

“We want managers and employees to work collaboratively together to determine what’s best,” Wiley-Little said. “Every flexible arrangement doesn’t have to be formal.”

Corporate Voices has released two comprehensive toolkits that serve as guides for implementing flexibility with an hourly and nonexempt workforce. Developed for Corporate Voices by WFD Consulting and supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, these toolkits are derived from the research highlighted in our study, “Innovative Workplace Flexibility Options for Hourly Workers.”

These and other toolkits, publications and research studies on a host of workforce readiness, flexibility, family economic stability, and work and family balance issues are available on the Corporate Voices Web site.