Help your small business employees achieve work-life balance

Snowboard maker Burton gives employees ski passes and "snow days" off to enjoy the slopes with their families.

Snowboard maker Burton gives employees ski passes and “snow days” off to enjoy the slopes with their families.

Earlier this month,, the job search site, reported on benefits offered by 20 large companies that go beyond the basics. In reading their blog post on this topic, I was struck by the fact that of the 20 benefits they reported on, 12 of them fit into the “helping employees achieve work-life balance” category.

Several of the benefits mentioned involved giving better-than-average maternity and paternity leave so a parent has plenty of time to adjust to life with a new baby. This sends a strong work-life balance message. Other work-life balance benefits include Salesforce’s offer of six days of paid volunteer time off a year. Employees who use all six days receive a $1,000 grant to donate to a charity of their choice. At Epic Systems Corporation, a software company, after five years with the company employees can take a paid four-week sabbatical to pursue their creative talents.

As a confessed bookaholic, I love that Twilio, a high tech firm, encourages employees to relax by giving each one a Kindle plus $30 a month to purchase books. Meanwhile, snowboard maker Burton encourages a more energetic use of downtime by giving employees season ski passes and “snow days” to hit the slopes after a big snowfall.

This Harvard Business Review article  reports on research that shows that increased scheduling control and supervisor support can reduce employee stress over work-life conflicts. The physical and mental health benefits for employees of decreased stress around work-life balance issues are well documented. So are the benefits that businesses gain when employees are happier with their work-life balance. These include improved productivity and morale, greater commitment to the company, and increased job satisfaction that leads to less absenteeism and turnover.

Granted, the benefits I mentioned above are given by large corporations. But that doesn’t mean you can’t come up with your own inventive ways to enable your employees to improve their work-life balance. Even a small company can afford to do what REI, the big retailer of outdoor recreation gear and sporting goods, does, which is to encourage people to get outside by offering two paid days off a year, called “Yay Days,” to enjoy their favorite outdoor activity.

If possible, linking this type of benefit with an activity that relates to your business is great; it helps strengthen your brand in the minds of your staff and also no doubt will lead them to talk about it with family and friends, strengthening your word-of-mouth marketing in the community you serve. (Of course, you can’t compel someone to use the time off in the way you designate; that would be counterproductive. The key to building work-life balance is flexibility.)

The best source of ideas for how to help your employees build work-life balance is, of course, your employees. Ask for their ideas and build on their feedback. This will further strengthen your message that helping employees achieve work-life balance is an important value at your business, which will enhance worker commitment over the long haul.

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