Employees like choice, and this HR and payroll solutions company offers it in all aspects of its work environment. For Sylvia Klarer, director of talent management, with Ceridian Canada, her morning commute is about 30 seconds—maybe a bit longer if she stops for a coffee when she passes through the kitchen. Klarer, like 300 of the company’s 1,480 employees, has a “virtual” position. The program, recently highlighted at Hewitt Associates’ 50 Best Employers conference, is “not only a productivity enhancer for us, it’s also a huge retention tool,” says Klarer.

When she first started with the company almost three years ago, Klarer made the daily drive from her home in Ancaster, Ont. to the Mississauga, Ont. office. “On a good day, it was an hour-and-a-half commute; if there was an accident, it was two hours one way,” she recalls.

Once in the office, she would close her door, sit at her desk and work. Because Klarer’s role focuses on process in the workplace, she deals with all 11 offices across the country, and most of her meetings are done over the phone or via Internet. Some days, the only face-to-face interactions Klarer had were with the people she passed on the way to the water cooler.

“[Going virtual] seemed like a natural progression,” she says, admitting that driving every day was starting to become too onerous and hindered her ability to create a reasonable balance between her home and work responsibilities. “Working virtually allows me to better manage my time and my responsibilities.”

Since going virtual after her first year, Klarer’s productivity has skyrocketed and she’s been able to establish an excellent work/life balance. “I have aging parents in the community and small children. The fact that I can plug in at seven in the morning and unplug at 10 [minutes] to five gives me time to get around the corner to my kids’ school and get them into after-school programs, and to take my parents to their doctor appointments,” she explains. “I spend a lot of time travelling [for work], and I wouldn’t be able to manage it all if I wasn’t working from home.”

The virtual program has been in effect at Ceridian for four years. It was implemented due to issues with office space in the larger locations and the need to retain valuable talent that would otherwise have been lost when restructuring caused smaller locations to close. Currently, 20% of the Ceridian workforce is in the program.

Although some may think that “working from home” is code for watching TV, caring for children or doing housework, Klarer says that isn’t the case at Ceridian. The company monitors the work output of the virtual staff as they would for any other staff member, and those working from home need to meet the same objectives and quotas as their in-office colleagues.

For Ceridian employees, being away from the office doesn’t mean being out of touch. In fact, research from Hewitt indicates that the virtual employees have higher engagement scores than the rest of the Ceridian workforce—87% are strongly engaged, compared to 79% of employees with more traditional work arrangements. And the performance results show that the program is a success. “Our virtual people are getting a disproportionate amount of rewards and recognition,” says Klarer.

People in virtual positions are still very much a part of the Ceridian team and are eligible for the same benefits and retirement savings programs as those in traditional roles. Ceridian has a defined contribution pension plan to which the employer contributes 4% of employee earnings, and employees have the option of making additional contributions. The company also has a group registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) and a deferred profit sharing plan (DPSP).

“The DPSP is part of the total rewards system,” says Reg Kehler, manager, benefits, with Ceridian. Five percent of the net operating profit is allocated to employees based on the number of hours worked. Full-time employees can choose to take up to 50% of this bonus in cash or have all of it deposited in a pension-like vehicle. As per focus group feedback, “the DPSP is one of the vehicles that, in the employees’ minds, distinguish us from other companies,” says Klarer.

Ceridian also offers employees a flexible benefits plan complemented with a health care spending account (HCSA), a personal spending account and a $300 fitness subsidy. Employees get enough flex credits to cover the third tier of health and dental coverage (out of the five tiers that the company offers). Excess credits can be transferred into the employee’s personal spending account, HCSA or group RRSP. The option to transfer flex credits to the group RRSP or personal spending account is new this year.

“I think what defines us is the choices we offer employees,” says Kehler. “We have a diverse workplace. People have many different preferences. Giving them the ability to choose what works is the way Ceridian accommodates them.”

From work arrangements to retirement savings and benefits, the employees at Ceridian are empowered to make the decisions that best suit their personal and working needs. It’s really no surprise that this company is included in the 30 Best Pension and Benefits Plans ranking.