The #1 issue for employees trying to balance work and personal life isflextime -- alternative work arrangements that allow them more control over their schedules and even the option to work at home. The task for employers -- fromboth moral and legal standpoints -- is to make sure flextime opportunities are administered fairly.

Work/Family Directions, a $44 million provider of referral services for work-and-family issues, not only helps its clients grapple with flextime but has had tofigure out how to make it work for its own 300-plus workforce as well. One tool that the Boston company has found effective is a form called the flexiblework option request. The two-page form does not ask why an employee wants flexible work hours. Instead, it focuses on the business reasons why thearrangement will or won't work. "You want to get your staff to think about flexibility, not just as a way to accommodate people, but as a way to get goodbusiness results," says principal Charles Rodgers.

Among the questions on the form are "How will your proposed schedule sustain or enhance your ability to get the job done?" and "Describe any additionalequipment/expense that your arrangement may require. Detail any short- or long-term cost savings that may result from your new schedule to offset theseexpenses."

"If applicants identify challenges, we want them to think through how they're going to address them," says Rodgers. "The point is to place responsibility forinitiating the solution process with the employee."