Dust off your resume

* As the job market improves, employees begin poking around for flexible benefits

Since you’ve been head-down doing the jobs of three former colleagues for the past two years, you might have missed the headlines. Three-hundred thousand new jobs created in March. Weekly jobless claims hit all-time low. Small business hiring jumps 25% in the first quarter.

So the job market is loosening up. Think it’s time to start looking for a job with more flexible benefits like telework, or to push your manager or HR department for them? You’re not alone.  

“The job search boards are getting more traffic, so are the placement agencies. And money isn’t the big deciding factor, either. People want flexible benefits,” says Phil Montero, workplace consultant and author of the e-book: "Work at Home: The Telework Job Seeker’s Handbook". “People are e-mailing me all the time now asking how to find a telework job. And the book’s selling better, too.” 

Smart companies realize the best way to head off an employee exodus is offer the flexible benefits workers were afraid to ask for in a down market. “If you’re looking for a telework job, look inside your own company first where you’re a known entity,” Montero says.

“As the jobs start opening up, employers have to start waking up,” says Gil Gordon, telework consultant and former HR executive at Johnson & Johnson. “However, I think the definition of ‘waking up’ will vary widely since employers are hardly ever out in front of hiring trends.”

One such wake-up call just came down from the EPA. According to new ozone rules unveiled April 15, 474 of the nation’s 2,700 counties (one in five) have unacceptable levels of ground-level ozone. About 159 million Americans live in them, many driving back and forth to jobs they can do at home. 

The 31 failing states need to submit fog reduction plans to EPA in three years, with each state’s compliance deadline tied to the severity of its smog. (California gets until 2021, other less smoggy states have until 2007 or 2009.)

If your employer shrugs at the EPA, others will use the ruling as a justification for stepping up telework. Since most companies - certainly the best employers - don’t advertise telework jobs, it’s safe to bypass the telework-specific job boards, especially those that make you pay for leads. Although most companies want you to work on site for a year or two before teleworking, Montero says he’s seeing companies more frequently ask for only three months. Learn to read between the lines of job descriptions; look for companies that offer flexible benefits, make it onto Top 100 company lists for families, etc. Also, target companies that make the EPA’s Best Workplaces for Commuters list.

For more guidance, Montero’s e-book ($20) walks you through finding legitimate telework jobs, offering strategies for searching the job boards and avoiding scams. He’s in the midst of updating the book and changing its name to “Lose the Commute.” The new version will be available this month.

Readers: Let me know whether you’re planning a job move, whether your company offers flexible benefits, or is changing its hiring practices.

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Phil Montero's Web site

U.S. EPA new clean air rules

Best Workplaces for Commuters

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