News & Politics

Great Places to Work: Healthy Glow

Looking for good work/life balance? At these six companies, employees take advantage of generous vacation and telecommuting—and many can set their own schedule.

Brent Gendleman, CEO of 5AM Solutions, gives his staff great flexibility—including the freedom to set their own hours. Photograph by Vincent Ricardel.

>> Click here to see all the Great Places to Work

Few workplaces are as flexible as Spider Strategies.

Everyone works from home—the 14-person staff meets once a month, although anyone who can’t make it can teleconference in. At this information-technology firm, everyone sets his or her own hours. Want to work midnight to 8 am? No problem. On top of that, there are 25 vacation days.

In our Great Places to Work survey, we ask employees: How satisfied are you with the flexibility you have to adjust your schedule to accommodate personal needs? Other than pay, work/life balance is what seems to determine employee satisfaction most in our survey.

“We have a tremendous amount of flexibility to complete our work,” says Craig Gormley of the Educe Group. “It is great to get some work done in the morning, then take the little one to day care or go for a jog, then finish the day.”

IT firms scored highest on flexibility this year; with computers, it often doesn’t matter where employees are—some workers at these firms even live outside Washington. But a firm doesn’t have to be virtual to be flexible. People just want to be treated as adults and not made to punch a rigid clock.

At Decisive Analytics Corporation, a flex-time policy allows employees to make up hours within a month, not just within one pay period, if they want to go see a child’s soccer game or leave early for the weekend. What also creates work/life balance: Most everyone works 40 hours or fewer a week.

Companies that allow flexibility on hours also rarely micromanage.

“I love the flexibility and independence,” says Kristen Yeck, a defense analyst at DAC.“Our managers trust us.”

Other companies that received very high employee marks for flexibility: Eagle Hill Consulting, FYI—For Your Information, HireStrategy, IJIS Institute, Integrity Applications Incorporated, the Motley Fool, Portal Solutions, ViON Corporation.

Organization; Location and Web Site; What It Does Full-Time Staff (Local/Total) How Flexible Is It? Staff Score on Flexibility(7=Top) Besides Work/Life Balance, What Makes It a Great Place to Work?
Coray Gurnitz Consulting; Arlington;; Government contracting 10 18 vacation days to start, 23 after two years; 80% of staff telecommute at least once a week. 7.00 This woman-owned boutique firm, with its mostly female staff, believes in open communication and transparency. Also generous: The firm puts an amount equal to 20% of each employee’s salary into a SEP-IRA account every year.
Decisive Analytics Corporation; Arlington;; Systems-engineering consulting, mostly for the Defense Department 107/151 99% use flex hours; 35% telecommute at least once a week; 25 annual vacation days for all. 6.86 At this employee-owned firm, everyone's voice is heard. Staff is energized by work involving military security, by the firm’s openness, and by charity: Employees send quarterly care packages to soldiers in Iraq. Up to 15% of pay is put into a 401(k); long-term-care insurance and an ice-cream cooler are other perks.
The Educe Group; Bethesda;; Helps firms use technology to develop employee skills and improve performance 6/11 87% use flex hours; “maximum travel” policy on business travel. 6.89 Good work is recognized—an employee might get an e-mail, an award, a gift card. State-of-the-company meetings keep staff in the loop; 100%-employer-paid health premiums help keep workers healthy; personalized birthday gifts help keep them happy.
5AM Solutions; Reston;; Life-sciences software 26/31 Everyone telecommutes at least once a week. 6.94 Staffers love the mission: providing tools to help researchers, hospitals, and others fight diseases such as cancer. 5AM gives back in other ways: Everyone gets three paid days a year for volunteering, and the firm donates 5% of profits to charities chosen by staff.
The Hatcher Group; Bethesda;; Communications and public policy 12 Those who live more than 20 miles away can work at home once a week. 7.00 This husband-and-wife-owned firm works for nonprofits that advance social change—whether trying to improve child nutrition or repeal capital punishment. Unusual in public relations: 40-hour weeks.
Spider Strategies; DC;; IT consulting 14/17 Everyone works from home and gets 25 annual vacation days. 7.00 Employees literally set their own hours—some work during the night. “We’re a unique bunch,” says operations manager Elisa Subin. R&D Thursdays allow staff to put aside work to pursue technical-research projects.