A work/life balance Featured

12:39pm EDT August 29, 2006
A common question to ask a successful business person is how he or she balances work and life. Although this question is difficult for many people to answer, companies are working to help employees maintain a better balance between work and life, which in turn helps increase productivity and satisfaction at work.

Creating ways for employees to find time to handle other priorities is crucial for increasing retention says Jason Skidmore, vice president of OfficeTeam’s Columbus Region.

Smart Business spoke with Skidmore about ways employers can help create a better balance for employees between work and life and how this balance can benefit a company.

How does this balance benefit the company as a whole?
Companies find that creating such a balance improves the productivity of their staff. Additionally, retention and morale improve when employees are more easily able to balance life priorities with those at work. Since stress can be a large contributor to illness and absenteeism and can also create a lack of enthusiasm in work, helping employees achieve a work/life balance is important to ensuring that staff is operating at peak performance.

All of these factors can affect a company’s bottom line. By supporting efforts to achieve work/life balance, companies are finding that employees feel more supported at work and confidant in the work that they do.

What steps can executives take to help employees create a work-life balance?
They might consider the option of bringing in additional employees on a full-time or a project basis. This can help reduce overtime and improve quality and productivity.

A flexible work schedule is one tool employers are using to provide balance and give people the ability to meet priorities they have outside of work, without compromising their work.

Telecommuting is another popular way people are able to create a work/life balance. If job requirements allow for this option, employees can take some of their work home. By giving an employee remote access to programs and systems out of the office, employers allow them to perform many of their duties at night after they have spent time with their families. Additionally, employees can utilize telecommuting at other times, like when at home caring for a sick child.

Job sharing is another option employers can implement. As more individuals seek out adjusted work schedules, some companies have found sharing job responsibilities between employees actually helps get the work finished. This creates better productivity while providing flexibility.

What risks should employers be aware of when offering these options to improve work/life balance?
Companies need to make sure they have the necessary security needed for such options. Remote access requires secure systems in employees’ homes and companies need to provide that security to ensure the safety of any data they are transmitting. Employers must also be confident in the employees to whom they are granting such access.

Metrics must be put in to place and be clearly defined to measure the productivity of employees working from remote locations or on an adjusted work schedule. Guidelines must be presented that define employee expectations. Additionally, employees and their supervisors should set aside time to review the effectiveness of working from a remote location.

Why is it important for companies to implement these changes if they have never considered them before?
Technological advancements have made a big difference in the way we do business. The presence of telecommuting is going to continue to increase in the future.

As the job market becomes more competitive, companies need to look at other types of incentives beyond compensation to attract skilled workers and the best employees. These options not only attract new employees but also help retain current employees. Many people with families look for businesses with these types of options so they can spend more time with their families.

How can executives decide what type of balance needs to be created?
Employers should get their employees’ perspective. Internal surveys can be used to figure out how a balance can be created. When done anonymously, these surveys tend to produce more honest — and valuable — answers.

Whether a company has provided adequate work/life balance can be an invaluable question to ask during exit interviews and also provide insight into what changes might be beneficial. Employers also can find out if they are falling behind their competition if this is listed as a reason someone is leaving the company. It is also effective to see what options competitors are providing for their employees. This information can be found through networking and can be used to attract employees in the industry.

JASON SKIDMORE is vice president of OfficeTeam’s Columbus Region. Reach him at (614) 221-9300.