Teeter-Totter: Scaling Work-Life Balance

October 19th, 2010 | Workplace Resources | No Comments »

Let’s face it: The 9-5 cubicle routine is old fashioned, not to mention highly restrictive and depressing. In a society that seems to be exponentially absorbing technology through its pores – and with more generations of people growing up in the same fashion – the need for balance grows equally more important. People are simply no longer satisfied with workplaces that force them to take one step back from their immersion in mobile technology and two steps back from their lives, families, and friends. The common attitude has become that quality of life is not just for retirement; it’s for, well, life.

What does all this have to do with your work place? More than you might think. Many recent studies have shown that employers need more than just a sympathetic attitude towards employee work-life balance; they need to be proactive. Why? Simply put, employees who are offered more work-life benefits are more productive, have higher morale, experience less work-related stress, and are more likely to stick around for the long run.

Weighing the options
So, if you haven’t already, what can you do about it? Traditionally, there are two main options for creating employee work-life balance; namely, child/dependent care programs and flexible work programs. These typically branch off to include on-site daycares, childcare discounts or informational packages, flex hours, telecommuting, temporary leave, and more.

While these are all valuable, the truth is that work-life balance benefits come in tremendous shapes and sizes. No matter what your company size, culture and degree of freedom to implement such benefits, there’s always something employers can take advantage of. Here’s a quick glance at other benefits that might catch your eye:

On-site or discounts to local medical centers, fitness centers, or libraries, in-office perks like monthly masseuse sessions, game rooms, or free breakfasts, team get-togethers including baseball games, bonfires, or volunteer opportunities, or programs such as walking programs, health and wellness programs, tuition assistance programs, or support programs. Clearly, the list goes on and on.

Balancing the scales
Of course, every office is different, and with all these exciting options, how do you figure out what’s best for your employees? Logically, the first thing to do is assess your current work place situation. Are your employees happy? Where are they most and least productive? How’s your retention rate and why do people leave? Are many people stressed or often absent due to sickness? What’s your company culture like? When you’ve answered these questions, create and administer an employee survey to find out what you might be missing.

Once you’ve figured out what work-life balance practices will best benefit your employees and improve your overall workplace, consider creating an official policy. Of course, this won’t be as necessary for more informal benefits, but just make sure there’s something in place so that your efforts won’t be forgotten and neglected next month. After these benefits have been in place for a while, go back and re-assess your workplace. Monitor the changes carefully to ensure that your chosen benefits are the right ones for your people.

A word to the doubtful
Worried about the cost of such programs and perks? Consider how much more expensive it will be to hire and train replacement employees when others leave for a better opportunity where those benefits do exist.

Fearful of employees taking advantage of benefits like telecommuting? Studies show that the very fact you’re offering such benefits will raise their commitment to your company, so this is more unlikely that you’d suspect. If a bad apple does appear, just know that the odd fire here or there will not decrease the pure value of providing a work-life balance program.

In the end
The bottom line is that being a proactive employer in regards to employee work-life balance will allow your people to realize their full potential both in and out of the office. Determine what’s best for your workplace, and you could easily double or triple productivity, retention, morale, and job satisfaction. Break the boundaries of the old fashioned office and become a workplace your employees are proud and happy to work for.

Clare Saumell – Marketing Director at Ashley Ellis