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Building the best workplace

Suppose you want to design the best company on earth (or maybe just in Eagle County or Colorado) to work for. What would it be like?

Studies of employees and employers, conducted by “When Work Works,” have found that flexibility is a key ingredient in creating effective workplaces that can yield important work-related outcomes for employers. Their research has shown that employees in effective and flexible workplaces report:

• Greater engagement on the job



• Greater job satisfaction

• Greater desire to stay with the organization



• Better overall health

• Lower stress levels



This type of work environment could very well play into the design of the best company on earth as employee satisfaction typically leads to higher production.

Taking this to a local level, you may have seen the recent work-flex survey and community meeting information hosted by Business Champions, an initiative to make Eagle County the best place in Colorado to work and play, and also the best place to grow a business and a family.

More than 635 local employees responded to the survey, representing businesses of all sizes and representing more than 20 different industries. One attendee of the community meeting where the results were shared stated, “That presentation was the best HR seminar I’ve ever been to — we actually walked away with ideas we can implement. Thank you!”

The survey showed some perceived value from employees in managing where they work, with some value placed on working remotely occasionally. Of interest, there was more perceived value in taking an extended break from work for continuing education, family matters or general sabbatical.

Not surprisingly, generational differences were highlighted in the survey results. Baby boomers saw the greatest value in additional paid sick leave, reduced hour weeks, part-time positions for high level jobs, comp time instead of paid overtime, ability to work remotely, four-day work weeks or ability to work a weekend day in exchange for a weekday.

Generation X, the sandwich generation with aging parents and young children at home, saw the greatest value in child care (on-site, nearby and affordable), companies who value family-committed employees, work schedules that match school schedules, ability to work a weekend day in exchange for a weekday or a four day work week, flexibility to take care of aging parents, comp time for overtime work and paid time off instead of personal/sick/holiday time.

Millennials, newer to the workplace, value a four-day work week, ability to work from home at times, flexible work hours to do whatever and work whenever, wellness programs and incentives, flexible managers, paid time off to include vacation, sick and holidays, child care access and affordable health insurance.

Generational differences can and should be taken into account when building the best company on earth, but there are some consistent themes across industry and business size.

The top-five overall flexibility options shown via the survey were:

1. Ability to take an extended (three months or more) career break for family, education or career

2. Option to work a four-day, 10-hour work week

3. Option to work some hours from home

4. Option to ease into retirement

5. Employer incentives to make healthy lifestyle choices

Important to note across all of these various options is that your workplace benefits and flexible options need to be valued by your employees; there is nothing worse than taking the time and effort to build a plan with various options that your employees don’t view as important.

As our economy shows continuing signs of improving — and most metrics are pointing in this direction as unemployment continues to fall and retail sales taxes continue to increase, among other indicators — competition for employees is likely to once again increase.

A variety of research exists showing the benefits of work flex to both employers and employees. As noted earlier, a great resource is http://www.whenworkworks.org, founded by Families and Work Institute in 2005, in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce and the Twiga Foundation. The partnership’s mission is to share the research on how effective and flexible workplaces can benefit employers and employees, to share best practices and to help employers develop workplace cultures that fully embrace and implement strategies that will move work forward.

Take the time now to recognize the value and increased productivity that is possible by creating the “best place to work” and you’ll be rewarded with more engaged and higher producing employees.

Chris Romer is the president & CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.


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