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Why Work-Life Balance is More Important Than Ever

Embracing the concept is increasingly key to attracting and retaining top talent.

Successful companies tend to have one thing in common: employees who give 100%. But that doesn't mean you should expect your workers to always put business first. In fact, when employees feel pressured to be available 24/7, or fear that vacations or emergency absences will hurt their career, it can backfire on their employers - badly. In a survey conducted by Montreal-based PsychTests, 18% of people said they've quit a job because it didn't provide enough family time or leisure. A different survey, by IT solutions firm Softchoice, found that 70% of respondents would quit their job for one that offers more flexibility.

Are you really prepared to let competitors poach your talent - especially with the unemployment rate hovering around 5%? Consider the estimated cost of finding and training a new employee:

  • $3,328 for a worker who makes $10 per hour
  • $8,000 for a manager who earns $40,000 annually
  • $213,000 for a $100,000-per-year CEO

When you see figures like these, it's easy to see how a healthy work-life balance can boost your balance sheet along with employee morale. But be prepared to make some changes. "It requires creating a different kind of work culture, with different things emphasized and different measurements of success," says Bill Sanders, managing director of Roebling Strauss Inc., a firm that helps businesses improve their management. These strategies are a good way to start making the shift:

Promo Tip:

Silly stress balls can be a fun way to remind bosses about balance. Give all employees a fun stress ball and tell them that if the boss stresses them out after hours, they should give it to him/her. If they stack up on the boss's desk, it's a fun reminder to find more balance.

Ask company leaders to model more balance.

Flexibility is a trickle-down effort: Those at the top need to start (that's why they're called leaders, after all). Work-life balance is great in theory, but not if bosses grill their subordinates about why a 10 PM e-mail went unanswered till morning. "Once employees see that the supervisors respect their own time and the team's, they'll feel more comfortable taking management up on any flexibility it offers," Sanders says.

Look for bottom-line results, instead of bottoms in seats.

Sanders also recommends. Do you really need your team in the office for fixed hours each day? Can employees who have to take their kids to school - or who just aren't morning people - come in a little later, as long as they stay later too? Of course, it all depends on whether there are scheduled meetings and other duties, but workers appreciate a little give whenever possible.

Establish clear goals for each and every employee.

"Being flexible means managing employees according to whether they hit their marks," Sanders points out. At reviews, and whenever necessary, outline achievements you expect to see, and by when. Schedule regular check-ins and monitor each person's progress.

Don't turn a blind eye to employees who seem overburdened.

It's easy to tell yourself a team member's 'got everything under control' as long as his or her work gets done. But people who end up spending their nights and weekends working won't be staying happy - or perhaps staying at all - for long. "Have a sit-down and see how you can help," Sanders advises. "Are there inefficiencies that you can resolve together? Are they saying 'yes' to projects too often?" It's a great way to show you value them and their quality of life.

Promo Tip:

Starting small? There's a range of fun, health-related products your employees will appreciate, but that won't break the bank. A simple "drink more water!" message goes great paired with a bright, reusable tumbler.

Host health and wellness initiatives.

Speaking of the quality of your employees' lives, programs that promote their health will pay off faster than you can say "free cholesterol screening". One study of blue-collar employees found that each dollar spent on a comprehensive workplace health program yielded more than two dollars of savings within two years. (The healthy-savvy employees had fewer disability days.) Can't afford a fancy initiative? Start smaller. "Have a Wall of Fame and hang photos of people who've made healthy choices, such as quitting smoking," suggests Lorraine Moore, president of Accelerate Success Group, which assists companies with talent development. One firm she works with leads employees in morning stretches - "they found it makes people less susceptible to injuries, so they need to take less time off," she says. Or have an annual health fair and hand out giveaways with your logo. Your employees will understand more than ever that they're the (healthy!) heart of the company.

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