How the flexible approach pays off

Flexible working initiatives can increase productivity and help retain staff. Forward thinking companies show how such schemes can work in the IT department

For organisations that are Best Places to Work, ensuring that staff maintain a healthy work/life balance is crucial. This fosters a positive working environment and helps to retain valuable staff members.

To maintain this balance, firms are increasingly open to flexible working patterns. They are also making using of mobile and web-based technologies to give employees greater opportunities to work remotely.

As well as day-to-day choices, flexibility can take the form of offering staff sabbaticals. The evidence is that this is a growing trend, although some employers place restrictions on where and how sabbaticals may be spent. Others are taking a more laissez-faire approach, which may appeal to a younger generation that favours long stints of travel in long-haul destinations.

Insurance group Aviva has the concept of flexibility embedded throughout the company, with several general schemes available. Local initiatives, tailored to a department's needs, are also encouraged.

Aviva's IT department does not work fixed hours. Instead, team members are trusted to record their time accurately and do the hours required to get the job done.

A spokesman said this mature approach allowed staff to take time off in lieu, leave early or start late on certain days, and was acknowledged by other staff members as simply "taking back" some of what they have "put in".

Working from home is also offered by the insurer on a needs basis. For example, a team member who is unable to work from the office due to family commitments but is able to provide a support role from home can be set up with a laptop and teleconferencing facilities, which are available externally.

Aviva also recognises and supports government initiatives that encourage mothers to return to work and local arrangements such as job sharing for those wishing to return on a part-time basis.

Book a table at the awards ceremony

The Best Places to Work in IT Awards 2007 will be presented on 2 March at the Grosvenor Marriott Square Hotel in London.

Now in its fifth year, the lunchtime ceremony will play host to the UK's best UK IT employers.

With IT departments from leading companies of all sizes, representing every sector of UK business life, the awards offer a unique networking opportunity.

To guarantee your place, and secure your opportunity to network with the UK's best IT employers, go online or contact Siobhan Abbott:

020 8652 3887

[email protected]

Best Places to Work in IT 2007 shortlist

Read more on IT jobs and recruitment