Wednesday Wisdom: Work/Life Balance for Your Employees

Helping your employees achieve a work/life balance is not easy. Whether it’s their kids, their aging parents, their pet, or the hobby that keeps them sane, each of your employees has something they want to spend time on outside of work. When your employees feel that attaining balance in their life is part of a Zero-Sum game – one in which someone else has to lose for them to win, it can reduce even the mildest of people to a frenzied state. Before you know it, otherwise convivial workers are sniping about the fact that this one has three kids while this one has none. This one has a 90-year old father in a nursing home two states away while this one has an aging parent living in their home.

Worse yet is the griping that goes on because another co-worker has neither kids, spouse, nor parents – yet has the temerity to want some time for a trek on the Appalachian Trail. Tinging these interactions is the awareness that none of them is acting in a way that leaves them feeling proud, yet the natural reaction to a Zero-Sum situation is to fight for what you want while looking for a job at a firm that will view you as a vital part of the enterprise.

You know how difficult it is to attract and retain good people. You’ve worked hard to assemble your team. Why not put some programs in place to keep things harmonious – and happy – before you have a problem?

  1. Ask your employees what they value. You may assume that more money is the key to happiness. In many cases it is not. It may be that some flexibility in the work schedule is worth more than extra money. You won’t know until you take the time to ask. You can create an online survey in Survey Monkey in minutes – one in which employees can add comments. It’s not a big investment of time or money, especially since it could lead to some significant information for you.
  2. Ask your employees what they would like as a reward. In the world of academia, people work toward their sabbatical year. During that year, they have a great deal of freedom in what they choose to do. The salary they earn during that time may vary by institution, but it is close to their full pay. Chances are good that every single employee you have would value a sabbatical of some sort. It doesn’t have to be an entire year. Maybe two extra weeks with pay, added to their vacation time, would be attractive.
  3. Ask you employees for suggestions. How would they create a situation where people who want some discretionary time can have their clients or workload covered? Don’t be surprised if there is some cross-training involved as employees with a common goal work to create a situation that allows them to achieve that goal. The same goes for a sabbatical plan. Your employees know the work of the business has to be done – and done well – if everyone is to hold on to their jobs. Ask they for their ideas. Maybe they’ve got a good one. At the very least, they’ll be problem solving together!

Your goal is a thriving business with low employee turnover and high customer satisfaction. Your employee’s goal is to achieve a work/life balance. By turning the situation from Zero-Sum into a discussion of what is valued and how to make it happen, you could just find you’re all in a win-win situation!


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