According to the American Psychological Association, workers regularly report work-life balance as the main reason they will stay in a job. As an employer, there are a variety of programs and benefits you can make available to support employees in achieving a healthy work-life balance.
Allowing employees to work flexible schedules is a common way organizations support work-life balance. There are a variety of ways this option can be implemented depending on the type of work employees do. In some cases, employees work an extra hour Monday through Thursday in order to work a half day Friday. Other employers simply require employees to work their allotted hours during the week, but they give some degree of flexibility on when those hours are actually worked. No matter how you choose to implement this option, giving employees some degree of flexibility in their schedule can help reduce employee stress and contribute to their ability to achieve work-life balance.
Telecommuting allows an employee to work from home. This option can be implemented as a flexible hour option or employees may telecommute but still work the same “8 to 5” schedule as those in the office. This option reduces unproductive time spent traveling to and from work, particularly for those in areas where long commutes are the norm. In some cases, hours worked from home may be a full or part-time work arrangement, or telecommuting can be offered as a benefit to be used as needed when the employee has a sick child at home or if adverse weather conditions make it unsafe to travel to the office. Being able to work from home may also help cut down on the amount of sick leave an employee needs to use – if they feel okay to work but don’t want to risk spreading sickness through the office, working from home can be a good option.
For employees wishing to cut back on hours worked, job sharing can be an effective option. This is an arrangement where two employees both work part time to perform a job normally fulfilled by one full-time employee. This option provides a way to continue to employ good employees while also supporting them in accomplishing their professional and personal goals. Job sharing requires those who are involved to be able to work well with others and communicate to ensure no tasks or responsibilities are overlooked or left undone.
Time Off From Work
According to a recent survey by Glassdoor, the average U.S. employee only takes half of his or her eligible vacation time/paid time off. When employees do take vacation time, three out of five admit doing some work during their time off. Encourage your employees to use their available paid time off, particularly during illness or when they are feeling burned out. Limit how often employees take work home if this becomes an issue contributing to stress and imbalance. Consider allowing employees the option of engaging in community volunteer activities during normal work hours.
Workplace Benefits and Perks
Other workplace benefits and perks to consider include such things as employee assistance programs, fitness benefits, and on-site child care. Whether or not you offer these types of benefits will depend on company resources and the needs of your employees.
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): These programs are available to help employees and their household members manage personal issues, such as occupational stress, emotional stress, financial or non-work-related legal concerns, etc. In most cases, EAPs are managed by a third party contracted by the employer.
- Fitness: Fitness benefits may include something as simple as organizing group exercise sessions at the office or giving employees an extra half hour during work hours for exercise (i.e. extended lunch break). Other options to consider include offering discount memberships to local health clubs or even providing access to an on-site exercise facility. These options will promote an active lifestyle, help employees fit exercise into their routine, and help reduce stress during the work day.
- Child Care: Offering on-site child care eases burdens on employees as they don’t have to travel somewhere else to drop off / pick up their children before/after work. It also gives them the ability to check in on their children while on break or lunch, and mothers are able to continue breastfeeding more easily when their infant is on-site.
Managing Your Benefits Effectively
Without effective management, a benefits program can end up being underutilized and fail to provide the results anticipated among employees. Make sure to promote, set expectations, and get feedback from your employees.
- Promote:Promote your benefits program year round. Don’t just bury the information in the employee handbook. Use a variety of communication methods to educate and encourage your employees. Let them know you care about their well-being and that you are providing these benefits to support a positive work-life balance.
- Set Expectations: Establish rules and expectations in connection with your benefits program. If you provide an on-site exercise facility, indicate how long and how often employees are allowed to use the facility during work hours vs. personal time. If you allow employees to volunteer in the community during work hours, indicate how many hours are allowed per pay period/month/year.
- Get Feedback: Survey employees on work/life issues to get a feel for their needs, and design policies and programs that are appropriate for them. Monitor how employees are using the benefits you provide and make adjustments as needed.
The reality is life doesn’t wait to happen until the work whistle blows at the end of the day. Children get sick, elderly parents need care, family members have special events, and more. Supporting employees by providing options and programs that enable them to meet the demands of both home and work can result in a positive outcome for all involved.