Like millions of other people around the world, I was fascinated earlier this summer when Nik Wallenda daringly crossed a river gorge near the Grand Canyon on a wire barely the width of his pinky finger. Without a harness, no less. It was an incredible balancing act, to say the least.
And that got me to thinking about the balancing act that many of us engage in every day. It’s hardly as dangerous or as life-threatening, but it seems like a constant struggle to find equilibrium between work life and personal life.
Having an employer that actively supports family-friendly practices can make a big difference in helping strike that balance. Studies have shown that inviting employees’ families to be part of a company’s “family” can boost morale, reduce stress and increase retention.
Helping families to strike a healthy balance
We have several ways to get families involved at LSI. Two that come quickly to mind are annual “Family Days” that are held at our facilities in India and Japan. These events, which have proven to be very popular, include activities for children as well as adults. Families get to learn more about our company. And, of course, employees feel a sense of pride by getting to show their partners and kids where they work.
Another LSI initiative is to make health and wellness programs easily accessible to families through website portals that are available 24/7. These include weight management and smoking cessation programs and even personal online coaches who can provide guidance on a variety of health-related topics. And in the U.S., employees’ partners can access information online during health care open enrollment, providing the opportunity for couples to make more informed choices together.
We also have a policy that gives employees time off for important family matters, such as teacher-parent conferences. And our sabbatical program offers a one-month leave to employees who have 20 years or more of employment. This time away from work gives employees a chance to “recharge” their batteries and spend more time with their families.
And I can’t think of a better way to show your kids just what you do when you’re at work than have them be part of Take Your Children to Work Day. It’s another pride-prompting event that many of our employees enjoy taking part in and it helps create a special bond between parent and child.
Study shows benefits of recognizing family needs
Work-family balance comes in many other forms, some more successful than others. That was apparent in a case study of Airbus, an international aircraft manufacturer. The study revealed, among other things, that some company-instituted practices are more accepted in some countries compared to others, such as child-care services.
For instance, the company has found on-site child care in Germany to be very popular, especially since public child-care services are less prevalent there. On the other hand, in France, on-site child care for Airbus employees there isn’t needed because the public system is so robust.
The study states that a key objective in the corporate culture should be acknowledgement of seeing “the human being behind the employee” and respecting the employee’s personal time. Working with colleagues across time zones and geographies can be logistically challenging and often requires a flexible approach to schedules and a shared balance of responsibility.
U.S. lags other countries in offering work-life benefits
In the U.S., there have been legislative efforts to strike a better equilibrium. The Work Life Balance Award Act, a bill designed to establish special recognition for employers that develop and implement work-life balance policies, was introduced in Congress during the spring of 2010. The act failed to gain passage in the House of Representatives, but other similar initiatives are being pursued.
According to human resources experts, companies in the U.S. lag behind foreign companies as far as offering sufficient paid leave and work-life benefits to employees. However, more American firms are recognizing the value of such benefits in order to attract and retain top-notch talent. These benefits – which many younger workers are seeking out – include telecommuting, flex-time, job sharing and compressed work weeks.
Striking a balance that every employee is happy with is next to impossible. A more realistic and achievable goal is to strive to accommodate as many as you can with a full-bodied set of benefits. That’s an accomplishment that even Nik Wallenda might appreciate.
If you’re looking for more information on the topic of work/life balance, here is an interesting fact sheet on flexible work arrangements.