Fifty years ago, if you said you wanted better work-life balance, most managers would have smiled and assumed that meant you wanted to work until the balance of your life was over. Fortunately, times have changed. The best employers strive to help workers strike the right balance between work and enjoying life away from the office so they are re-energized when they return each day.
Every manager or business owner must ask, "Do my employees like coming to work or is work a repressive grind that they can't wait to get away from, unwilling to spend an extra minute at work?"
Helping employees balance work and life has been a hot topic for years. Overlooking this need can cost business owners productivity, increased turnover, morale and--according to the Mayo Clinic--even contribute to poor employee health.
Here are a few ways we make our workplace less like work and more like a club that employees want to be part of.
Take work home
We publish a fun company newsletter called Beryl Life and send it to every employee's home address. It has photos from recent events and articles highlighting coworkers and their contributions to our work family. We also include personal touches, such as baby announcements, pictures of new homes, vacation photos, and other milestones. We know family members read the newsletter, and we hear it helps them feel connected to what their family members are doing at Beryl, which helps them cope when work takes more time than usual.
Bring home to work
Let's face it. We spend so much of our lives at work that there's no way to truly separate the two environments, so we embrace the blending of both worlds by hosting events that involve employee families. On Family Day, coworkers bring their families to work to enjoy hamburgers, bounce houses, games, rock climbing and other special events. We even encourage employees and their family members to participate in a T-shirt design contest. The winning design is chosen by the employees and replicated on T-shirts that we all wear on Family Day.
Our Halloween Extravaganza and July 4th Cookout are additional examples of our efforts to help employees bring home to work.
Work out at work
Work environments are notorious for promoting sedentary lifestyles and diets full of break room junk food. Even worse, a busy work schedule can crowd out time to go to the gym after work. To help employees we opened a wellness area in our office so people can grab a stability ball, use a peddle machine or other exercise equipment at their desks. The wellness area also offers blood pressure monitors, healthy recipe books, health magazines and more. We also have an exercise room, equipped with cardio and weight machines. For employees who prefer not to workout at work, we reimburse a portion of their community gym fees. As for the vending machine, we've stocked it with healthier options and tagged the unhealthy snacks with higher prices, making it a little easier to eat healthy.
Helping employees workout at work has also been a benefit to our company. Our medical costs have dropped, and I'm certain the mental health of our employees has improved because they've been able to burn off some of the stress that can build up at work.
Make work like family
I started Beryl as a family business and I want everyone to feel part of our family. I personally recognize every coworker's employment anniversary, as well as their engagements, marriages, wedding anniversaries and the arrivals of new family members.
One aspect of life that none of us can escape is that we all go through tough times, which is why we have a program called Beryl Cares. This program is dedicated to providing emergency financial help, including purchasing school clothes for coworkers' children, helping with unexpected bills and providing emotional support to colleagues who are going through a rough period in life.
It's easy to say you support your workers when their lives are going well, but workers truly appreciate employers that stand by them when life is messy. I've heard of some employers cutting employees loose when they hit a rough patch. For me, that's not leadership for the long run.
Make work personal
Many people confess to being one person at work and another at home. To help employees bridge their work and home personalities, we offer opportunities for employees to have a little fun and express themselves at work. When we ask employees to "dress up," we aren't referring to suits and ties. Instead, we sponsor theme days that encourage employees to dress like their favorite movie characters or 80s music stars. I've even been known to don a matador outfit for our own version of "Dancing with the Stars."
We also know none of our employees live in dark caves, so we make sure our building décor is bright and modern; and we let employees decorate their spaces to reflect various holidays. In addition, our lounge area is outfitted with a large screen television, pool table and a foosball table so workers to unleash their inner champions. Naturally, we encourage employees to take their winning attitudes back to their desks after their breaks and to always remember they're working with their teammates.
Great workplaces don't develop by accident. To make sure we keep things on course, we have an executive whose official title is "Queen of Fun and Laughter." Her sole responsibility is to make sure that we stay true to our unique culture and that coworkers' lives stay in balance. The title doesn't sound serious, but her role is.
If you take the time to create an environment that effectively supports employees in blending work and life, you'll create employees that generate energy, excellence and enthusiasm. That's the real formula for work-life balance.
Paul Spiegelman is the CEO of The Beryl Companies, based in Bedford, TX, the nation's leading company in healthcare customer interactions and relationship management. He is also the author of the book Why is Everyone Smiling? The Secret Behind Passion, Productivity and Profit, published in 2007.