It would be nice to think that the companies on the leading edge of work/life balance programs are simply being good citizens and doing the right thing! But, the fact is that these programs make good business sense.
In addition to increased productivity and employee satisfaction, companies can retain valuable employees in a competitive environment, and attract new employees with these programs.
Every generation in the workforce today reports that work and life balance is one of the top issues for them and that they want to work in a company that supports their desire to have more balance in their life.
Whatever the reason for the movement, we should be glad it is upon us.
Who are the companies with programs, what do the programs look like and what results have they achieved?
You might be surprised to know that these companies cut across all industries in the private and the public sector. Here are some examples of program components:
Elder care programs consisting of resources directories, counseling, elder care services and educational services
Expanded telecommuting and telework programs that allow employees to work from home or other locations
Part-time and job sharing positions for employees come off disability or recovering from health problems, or for parents who wish to spend time at home with their children or with aging parents
Fully accredited child care centers in or near the workplace
Babies in the Workplace programs that allow a child to remain with a parent in the workplace until the age of six months or whenever the child starts to crawl.
Alternative work schedules and FlexTime work schedules that allow employees to work hours other than 9:00 to 5:00 in order to better meet their personal needs
Family Advocacy Programs held at lunch-time on managing personal finances, parenting, stress management, anger management and elder care issues.
Outdoor recreation, walking paths and fitness equipment for employee use during and after work. Some companies even provide grills, row boats and other equipment for employee family use.
Support groups for elder care, new fathers, holistic health, spousal abuse, single parents, adoptive parents, parents of teenagers parents of blended or merged families, caregivers, and grandparents raising grandchildren alone.
Nursing Mother Rooms for breastfeeding moms
Enforced scheduling and use of vacation and personal days to ensure that the employees takes time off from work
Cross-training in positions to ensure coverage so that employees can take time off without the company suffering
These are just some of the examples of programs in government agencies, hotels, banks, corporations and union environments around the country.
Human Resource Management companies and universities study the effects of these programs and publish reports to support and encourage their growth. And the really dedicated companies keep finding new ways to encourage balance.
In many cases, this effort still has to trickle down into the company. Older managers or those supervisors who feel they are being shortchanged on work may frown upon these initiatives and studies find that programs put in place without adequate manager and employee training rarely have the same impact as a program that includes communication via seminars, training, written manuals and frequent follow-up.
If your company wants to start a work/life balance program, you can contact a consulting company that provides analysis and planning services to get you started, or you can look to some of the publications out there online or in written form for self-paced program implementation.
Here are some links to get you started:
A simple internet search will give you more options. Whether you are an employee, frustrated with overwork, a manager who wants to create a more supportive environment, or a company trying to get more information on these programs, the search is worthwhile.
Work/Life Programs benefit the company by increasing productivity and focus on the job, reducing job turnover and increasing employee satisfaction. Employees will miss less time from work, because they will not be sick as often.
Families will be more supportive of the employees job and company choice because they know the company supports the employees personal needs, and their efforts to sustain good health and to manage stress.
If your company does not have a Work/Life Program in place, ask your manager about starting one. See if you can get a grass roots movement going!
If you are in a position to influence the companys decision or you have the power to decide on a Work/Life Program, dont wait. Contrary to what you may think you wont lose money or time on this program. Instead, your company will run better and you will find it easier to attract and retain good employees. You will get a lot of support and good press from your employees and your managers, alike – and your company may even end up in one of those University Case Studies. A role model for others to follow!