Flexible Workers, Stronger ProfitsThe next time an employee asks for a change in his work schedule, show some flexibility. Your shareholders will be glad you did. Flexible work arrangements actually boost the bottom line, according to a new study from HR consultancy Watson Wyatt Worldwide. In The Human Capital Edge (McGraw-Hill, February 2002), researchers Bruce Pfau and Ira Kay present the results of a comprehensive study of the effectiveness of standard work practices and HR policies. Companies following Pfau and Kay\u2019s findings can expect a whopping 47 percent jump in shareholder returns, they say.One of the single most effective work practices is flexibility in work arrangements. By itself this policy increases shareholder returns by 3.5 percent. The authors point to two factors that make flextime so valuable: a "surge in productivity" created by workers using their time more efficiently and an increase in employee retention. Putting the Brakeson TelecommutingThere are different kinds of flextime, including flexible scheduling, compressed workweeks and telecommuting. Employers and employees don\u2019t view these policies equally, according to "Measuring the Impact of Workplace Flexibility," a study published in October 2000 by Boston College\u2019s Carroll School of Management.The practice that\u2019s most effective in creating a satisfactory balance between employees\u2019 work and their personal life, according to the report, is daily flextime?giving employees freedom to vary their hours as needed. Almost two-thirds of survey respondents making use of daily flextime policies said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their work and life.Telecommuters in the survey found it difficult, however, to draw a line between work and personal life. They reported feeling a time crunch and believed they were often passed over for the best assignments. Their managers concurred, saying telecommuters had less positive relationships with those at work.John Halamka, CIO of CareGroup Healthcare System, a Boston-based hospital network, "absolutely supports" flexible work practices such as flextime and compressed workweeks, but sees problems in permanent telecommuting. "There\u2019s real value in having people collaborate face-to-face. I generally don\u2019t go for telecommuting because you miss the synergies of having people right there," he says.