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POPULAR BENEFITS: According to a study by Ernst & Young, a flexible schedule was the most popular benefits option in 2002 among its 23,000 U.S. employees. More than 2,000 workers, including nearly 90 partners, principals and directors, had flexible work schedules.

And one-third of the flex workers were promoted. That's especially good news because workers at most companies worry that if they use flexible arrangements they won't advance in their careers.

The second most important benefit was parental leave, with 949 employees using it. Two significant findings: There were about 1,000 births at the company last year, and nearly all the new parents made use of parental leave. The gender of the users also is significant because it was fairly evenly divided: 481 women and 468 men took the leave.

An added benefit of this kind of head count is that many companies are looking for a way to measure the popularity of various work/life benefits, and this kind of information is a good start toward achieving that goal.

_ Chicago Tribune