At BDO USA, flexible work program allows for range of varied schedules

October 14, 2012

Company: BDO USA.

Location: Bethesda and Washington.

Employees: 155 locally; 2,771 nationwide.

Laurie Rocha makes her own work schedule, carefully designed so she can volunteer at her children’s school and chaperone their field trips.

But she’s not a freelancer and she doesn’t own her own business. Rocha is an assurance partner at the Bethesda office of BDO USA, a professional services firm that places major emphasis on flexible work arrangements for all of its employees.

“I know that I would not be able to do this job without the amount of flexibility that I have,” Rocha said.

The program, known as BDO Flex, began about five years ago. It grew out of a company initiative that was directed at identifying challenges facing women in the workforce.

When BDO conducted a company-wide survey tied to that project, one particular finding jumped out.

“Flexibility was incredibly important to almost every single one of our employees,” said Marcee Harris Schwartz, the firm’s national strategy adviser. In other words, it wasn’t just working mothers who wanted more adaptable schedules.

And, Schwartz said, flexibility played a part in everyone’s desire to continue working at BDO.

It was that data that led the firm to adopt a formalized flexible work program. The program takes shape in different ways across the company. Some workers adjust their hours on a given day of the week so they can shuttle their kids to after-school activities or take time to pursue a hobby.

In other cases, the desire for flexibility isn’t so much about hours, but location. One local worker uses the policy to telecommute every Friday during the summer, when crushing beach traffic on Route 50 makes his drive home from the office unbearable.

Another time, a team was working on a project that called for extensive traveling, and they used the Flex program to realign the group’s schedules. In doing that, each person had to travel less and could be home for important events such as birthdays or anniversaries.

Schwartz said the program has allowed the firm to trim real estate costs as more staffers choose to work remotely.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.
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