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« Question: Attorney Seeking Opportunities to Work From Home | Main | Success Story: Nathan Sawaya: Lawyer Turned Master Lego Builder »

The ROI From Work Life Balance Programs

ComputerworldA superb article reviewing the ROI from work life balance programs recently appeared in Computerworld. Entitled Work Life Balance: What's It Worth?, the article is directed at IT firms, but shares a message equally pertinent to the legal industry: don't overlook the business case for work life balance benefits such as flexible work schedules, telecommuting, and job sharing.

The article starts with the story of a talented, young programmer who approached his supervisor, Mary Finlay, CIO of Partners HealthCare System Inc. in Boston, with an unusual request: after just a year on the job, he wanted to work a "compressed" workweek - four 10-hour days. Why? So he could have every Friday off, which would allow him to play Thursday night gigs with his rock band without worrying about the next day's work. Finlay said yes. "He was smart and talented, and we wanted to keep him," she explains. Ten years later, the programmer/musician is still with the company. One could easily envision a similar scenario unfolding at a law firm involving a young lawyer and a partner - but would the average law firm partner okay the arrangement?

The article observes that calculations like Finlay's are gaining broader acceptance as more employers find that flexible working arrangements pay dividends in the form of improved retention rates, increased employee morale and productivity, and a more committed, loyal workforce.  Additionally, given that it costs, on average, 150% of a departed employee’s salary to find a replacement (including advertising the position, time spent reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates, and training a new hire, but excluding the new employee's salary), accommodating the personal needs of a valued employee makes economic sense.

Another believer in flexible working arrangements cited in the article is Barbara Wankoff, national director of workplace solutions at KPMG LLP -- a large professional services provider analogous to a large law firm. KPMG offers flextime schedules and telecommuting options to its employees - "study after study shows that it is extremely cost-effective and very good business to provide flexibility to your employees," says Wankoff.

We encourage lawyers at firms experiencing retention issues to read the article and bring it to the attention of their firm's management. The more that law firm partners understand the business case for work life options, the more likely those options are to be implemented.

P.S. - see here, in the online version of the Boston Herald, for another recent article plugging the positive ROI from work life balance programs.

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