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Employers turn to flexible workplace options to reduce need for lay-offs

In the face of a recession, and at a time of cost cutting, the overwhelming majority of employers (94 percent) are maintaining or increasing their workplace flexibility programs, according to a study released by the Families and Work Institute (FWI). In fact a quarter of the employers (26 percent) specifically used flexible workplace options—from reduced work weeks to telecommuting—to minimize the need for layoffs. The study is based on a May 2009 survey of U.S. employers with 50 or more employees.

"It is hardly surprising that our survey finds that 77 percent of employers are cutting and controlling labor and operational costs during the recession," said Ellen Galinsky, co-founder and president of FWI. "What is surprising is that that between 34 percent to 43 percent of employers are actively helping employees weather the recession, that employers are largely retaining or increasing workplace flexibility as way to manage through a difficult economic environment, and that 57 percent of employers are giving employees some or a lot of input about the flexibility they use."

According to survey results, a large majority of employers are either maintaining the workplace flexibility options they offer (81 percent) or increasing them (13 percent). Only 6 percent have reduced such options. And, 26 percent of employers have specifically used flexible workplace options to minimize the need for lay-offs.

"Employers are increasingly recognizing the value of work-life balance policies to their bottom lines—now we see it's true in good times and in tough times," said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Chair of the Joint Economic Committee. "Offering flexibility to workers is a low-cost way to boost morale, loyalty, and productivity. This new report by the Families and Work Institute, confirms that smart employers are working with their employees to avoid layoffs. More employers should see these policies as an essential element of the 21st century workplace. Leaders in Washington must work with leaders in the business community to further increase workplace flexibility that works for both employers and employees."

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