Being small can mean being more flexible
A training meeting for new associates is held by Chris Williams (far right)at American Income Life Arias Agencies.
Amenities are not very far away for Select International workers at its McCandless offices.
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Therapeutic Early Intervention Services in Forest Hills, therapists generally can work as many hours as they want, whenever they want.
Whether full- or part-time, "They have a certain number of kids they need to see a certain amount of time a week, but their schedule is completely their own," said Julie Hudak, co-owner of the provider of physical and speech therapy for children up to 3 years old with developmental delays or disabilities.
There's no need for employees to check-in with the office if they take a sick day or other day off. All that's necessary is a call to any families they were scheduled to see.
"Because [employees] respect us and appreciate the flexibility, we have never had a problem," said Ms. Hudak, who along with fellow physical therapist Tara Deringor founded the company eight years ago.
That kind of work/life flexibility was one reason the 50-person company came in second in this year's top workplaces list in the small employers category.
Besides Therapeutic Early Intervention Services (TEIS), other top five finishers included American Income Life Arias Agencies (first), Select International Inc. (third), Re/Max Select Realty (fourth) and PT Marketing Group Inc. Re/Max was ranked second last year and PT Marketing was fourth. Last year's leader, Tudi Mechanical Systems, is ranked seventh this year.
"I love the flexibility to work out my schedule and balance my home life," one participant in the survey from TEIS wrote.
The job "allows me the freedom to have a family life while providing an essential service to our community," said another.
Because TEIS has a predominately female workforce (one man works in the office and the company just hired its first male therapist), taking time off for a baby is pretty common.
Although the company does not have paid maternity leave, employees can take six months off without worrying that they'll be replaced, Ms. Hudak said.
The company also has a generous vacation policy, offering full-timers an average of four weeks starting the first year.
"My business partner is from England," where companies typically offer more time off than in the U.S., Ms. Hudak said. "When we started, she said, 'I really think this is important that we encourage people to take their time off.' "
Being flexible is the right thing to do, and also benefits the company, Ms. Hudak said.
"Happy employees are good employees," she said. "It sounds cliche, but the happier you are, the better you are going to perform."
Employees at the human resources company Select International in McCandless, another newcomer to the top five, also enjoy a flexible working environment, including flexible hours, the ability to work from home and the opportunity to take refuge in a calmer setting at the office to regenerate.
"We have a big employee lounge that you can use if you are tired of sitting at your cubicle and want to go somewhere more relaxing to do your work," said marketing director T.J. Muehlfeld, who has been with Select International for eight years.
The company, which provides Web-based hiring and assessment tests and finished at No. 3 in the small employer category, doesn't have a strict 9-to-5 workday.
"As long as they are here to get work done, the rest of the day is theirs to schedule out," Mr. Muehlfeld said.
"My son is very young," he said. "Sometimes I will leave early to pick him up at day care and will log in at night to do some work from home," a common practice among the 55-person Pittsburgh area staff, he said.
"It's amazing to see the amount of work that gets done outside traditional hours because of the flexibility the company gives us."
People also can work from home periodically if coming to the office doesn't make sense because of appointments or for personal reasons, he said.
The company has a handful of employees who wanted to leave the region and were able to keep their jobs by working remotely from other cities. "In some instances they wanted to relocate closer to their client base because they were traveling so much," Mr. Muehlfeld said.
Providing a flexible atmosphere has fostered camaraderie among employees and led to increased productivity in the form of high customer satisfaction, he said.
"Client retention is about 90 percent, and we're continuing to grow as a company."
Employees seem to agree that the atmosphere in the office is nurturing.
"Select is a very unique place to work, it truly feels like a family," said one survey participant. "The owners and managers really care about employees, and it shows."
The company also is accommodating when it comes to workers' career paths.
"Several folks started in one department, say consulting, and became sales people because they were good at that," Mr. Muehlfeld said.
Are there any drawbacks to being so flexible?
"Not within our company," Mr. Muehlfeld said. "If you didn't have the right people on board, some people might take advantage of the flexible culture. But I've never seen that," he said.
"Here, it works very well."
First Published October 25, 2012 12:00 am