Two little words shocked an entire nation on July 16 when Marissa Mayer divulged, “I’m expecting” only hours after her appointment as CEO of Yahoo! The news spread like wildfire and placed her at the center of media controversy – pregnant and leaving a well-established career at Google to head up a company scrambling to make a comeback in a crowded market.Regardless of your view on her decision, we can all agree, pregnant or not, Mayer is a pioneer, sparking the conversation in our nation about the reality of today’s workplace, particularly the responsibility and accountability of a business to offer flexible work arrangements as part of its culture.

With work/life balance high on the radar in today’s global business world, it’s no wonder flextime is getting more and more attention. Technology has made it possible for most employees in many industry sectors to garner equal (if not better) results fitting work into busy schedules rather than the other way around. 

This is a growing trend in America and yet it still makes CEOs, particularly of small businesses, very uncomfortable.  When small businesses are in their early life stages, CEOs prefer to remain very hands-on. They want to have a critical eye on the day-to-day operations of the company and often fail to realize that employees, while invested in the company’s success, have different degree of loyalty to giving all of their time and “being” to the firm. 

Studies show that employees are happier when they have a healthy work/life balance. New research from the University of Minnesota finds that flexible work schedules promote better health.  According to their findings, which included surveys of more than 600 employees, Best Buy’s Results Only Work Environment program, which “redirected the focus of employees and managers toward measurable results and away from a set work schedule and location,” reduced turnover by 45%.

As a first step, talk with each of your employees about what flexible work arrangements may be most valued by them. Do they have a child who requires regular doctor visits? Would coming in and staying a few hours later be acceptable? Could working remotely be an option? Once you've established the unique circumstances of each of your employees, and made them feel valued by even taking the time to ask, consider these flexible work options to provide an improved work/life balance for your staff, and in turn, a happier, more productive workforce:

  1. Telecommuting
  2. Flexible schedules
  3. “PTO” or paid time off instead of dedicated vacation, personal and sick time

The secret to any business’ longevity rests with its employees…the happier the employees, the more engaged they’ll be at work and the longer they’ll contribute to the success of the company.

Marissa Mayer is seen as the trailblazer for bringing this issue into the limelight, but it has been in existence for a long time. The needs of your employees are your responsibility if you want a high performance workforce. 

By Shirley Engelmeier, author of Inclusion: The New Competitive Business Advantage, and CEO of InclusionINC, a leading global consulting and learning organization specializing in linking inclusion and diversity to better business results through greater engagement, productivity, innovation and retention.