The line between employees’ work lives and personal lives is shifting. A growing number of U.S. workplaces are adapting to the needs and wants of a changing workforce. This week, NPR looks at these trends in an excellent series on flex-work and work-life balance. The broadcast of each segment lasts just under 8 minutes; print articles are also available. Each segment has also elicited an interesting range of comments from listeners, which are worth exploring.

Part 1: When Employers Make Room For Work-Life Balance – with enhanced technology and changing employee attitudes, rigid work schedules make less and less sense. Experts say that the traditional 9 to 5 40-hour work week was designed for an era when one parent worked, and Moms stayed home with children, but in most families today, both parents work. Combine this with a young, mobile, “untethered” workforce and other changing work factors. Increasingly, employers are offering a range of flex work options to meet these changing needs.

Part 2: The End of 9 To 5: When Work Is Anytime – a case study of the Hennepin County offices that are experimenting with a results-only work environment, or ROWE, which gives everyone in a company the freedom to do their job when and where they want, as long as the work gets done. Is it working? Productivity has jumped. In one example, a 2.5 week processing backlog was reduced to under 5 days. Hennepin County is not alone: It’s estimated that about 3% of all workplaces are now practicing ROWE, the ultimate in flexible schedules. There is a sidebar adjunct to the article that lists the ROWE Basics.

Part 3: How To Make Shift Work Family Friendly – National Institutes of Health staff members are studying and working with low wage employers to help them understand that more flexibility for their employee is in their best interest – particularly in terms of health and wellness. They conducted research with employees at Best Buy headquarters, which had implemented an aggressive flexible work program, and also at grocery stores, hotels and nursing homes. Employees with the most rigid managers “had about a two-fold risk of having two or more cardiovascular risk factors and slept about 30 minutes less per night than people whose managers were more open and creative.”

Related resources
Can Working Moms Have it All? Ha!
Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE)
Workplace flexibility programs on the rise


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