Believe it or not, Lori Lorenz's boss doesn't care if she plays volleyball during working hours. He actually pays her to play tennis. And no, Lorenz is not a professional athlete. She's a mom and a full-time employee at a major accounting firm.
But in the summer, her chair at work sits empty while she's home with her children.
"I really want to focus on my kids right now," she says. "In another five years, they'll all be gone to college and on to their careers."
Thanks to a program called Flex-Year, Lorenz gets summers and holidays off, but works longer hours the rest of the year.
A regular 9-to-5 job, 52 weeks a year, is out of the question for her. "I'm the personality that would not be happy doing that," she says.
Her son, Scott, notes, "It's real nice getting quality time with her. In the summer, we wake up and see her and get to be the whole day with her."
Theresa Hopke, director of WorkLife Strategy at RSM McGladrey, says, "We have about 30 or 40 employees right now that take the entire summer off."
She helped develop the fledgling Flex-Year program for the company as a way to attract workers in a competitive environment.
Hopke says, "We have a hard time recruiting and retaining employees because the accounting field is booming right now, and so, it makes good business sense for us."
Anybody is eligible as long as it doesn't impact the company negatively. So RSM McGladrey uses an online tool to help employees present their own Flex plan to management. That's just the way Paul Rupert, a Flex-time consultant, says it should work. And it might work at your company, too.
He explains, "Make a business-based proposal. You say, "OK, here's how I'm working now. Here's how I'd like to work. This is what's in it for you if I work these ways. A good proposal made to an open-minded boss can get you a very interesting schedule."
The key is making management understand why it's beneficial to the company.
Rupert notes, "Most well-managed, well-designed flexible work arrangements work fine. And people tend to produce somewhat better in them. They tend to be somewhat more productive. They tend to have greater retention."
In short, he says it is a win-win situation for everybody.
Carol Holmes certainly thinks so. She had been a stay-at-home mom for more than 10 years and wasn't sure how to re-enter the job market. Then she heard about RSM.
She says, "I went in for an interview and found out that not only could I work that kind of schedule, but I would be eligible for benefits. I would be on the same track as other full-time professionals, and I could even get a pro-rata portion of vacations and holidays. It's a nice arrangement."
It certainly is. Holmes can bake brownies or take her kids to do volunteer work ,all while keeping her career on track.
She says, "I've been with McGladrey for a-year-and-a-half, and in that time, I've had a promotion. And I've had time to look around and realize that the assignments and responsibilities that I'm being put on are the same as any other full-time employees."
When her kids go to college, Holmes plans to return to the workforce on a normal schedule, but for now, she's very happy with her arrangement.
She says, "You can see the weather's beautiful, the living is easy. I could get very used to this schedule."
There are a lot of reasons people do these summers off schedules besides just taking care of their kids. One man fights forest fires; another wants to live on his houseboat. Other people travel. It doesn't matter why the employee wants the schedule, as long as it works for the company.
How does the pay work?
Well, you're not working a full-year so you don't get the full pay. So let's just say you work 75 percent of the year. You get 75 percent of a regular salary paid out over a full 12 months. That way you keep your benefits and a paycheck all year.