exploring possibilities for an engaging and productive workplace

In my last two postings, I discussed what work life balance means and why it sometimes sparks controversy. So far I've only covered the perspective of employee, now it's time to look at work life balance from the perspective of an employer.  How can work life balance contribute to productivity?

Researching this topic, I've seen comments about increased retention and decreased turnover, but it's been difficult to locate actual data, especially data generated by or confirmed by employers. So I thought I'd look at the career pages for some of Fortune's 100 Best Places to Work, to see what employers are advertising. Looking at these videos, most of them do not use the words "Work-Life Balance," but it seems to be a component of their employee programs. 

  • Adobe emphasizes "Work Hard, Play Hard".
  • Dreamwork's Animation talks about how much fun it is to work there.
  • Google promotes the value of employee input and the many perks like food, massage, etc.
But, what can the average company do? I think the companies above are perceived as having more money than most, thus enabling them to have extravagant programs. I haven't seen anything promoting work life balance in shift work or lower income jobs.

Obama's Council of Economic Adviser's wrote the report in March 2010: Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Flexibility. Here are some key findings that I found interesting:

  • Less skilled workers have less workplace flexibility.
  • 1/3 of firms site costs as a barrier to implementing workplace flexibility agreements
  • There is no common cost/benefit for these programs, they vary greatly by industry and size of workforce.
  • Wider adoption of policies and practices may have benefits to firms and the US economy as a whole.
  • There's a lack of data, which makes it difficult for employers to understand costs and benefits.
Businessweek's, The Increasing Call for Work-Life Balance says, "Employees who feel they have a better work-life balance tend to work 21% harder than those that don't."

Combining this information, what are low cost programs that encourage work life balance? How can employers get the rewards without breaking the bank? If you have ideas or examples, please post in the comments.

PS. While researching this post, I found this video to share. This isn't about productivity, but I appreciate Nigel Marshe's message: Work Life Balance is an Ongoing Battle.

5 responses to "Work Life Balance (part 3 of 3)"

  1. I have to agree while it is hard to find hard data on this subject the soft data certainly suggest that good employers should think long and hard about helping there employee's find a positive work life balance. I used to manage a ski shop where we were encouraged to ski everyday (on the clock) and every year I never had trouble keeping old employee's or finding new ones. Everybody wanted to have the balance of fun and work that I provided. That right there is proof enough for me that having a proper balance is uber important


  2. My relative has worked happily for the same firm for 15 years. He does pretty repetitive work and really doesn't make that much. I asked him why he loved it and here were three reasons:
    1. Work is performance based, if he has finished the job at 2, he can leave at 2. Sometimes he has to stay until 8, but its worth it.
    2. Every year the company offers a getaway trip to all employees, it is usually fairly low budget, yet somewhere really fun and renewing- he lives for these.
    3. the company is family oriented, if you kid, partner, or pet is sick there is no problem leaving work, it is an understood. People respect this and almost never use it, but they know they can.


  3. Thanks for posting the video. Nigel Marsh's comment about timeframes reminds me of a conversation I had after a CAIR's presentation at BGI last year. One student asked the presenters and Gifford whether, given their highly successful careers, they had maintained a work-life balance. Almost all said no. Instead, they described having balance over a lifetime--that is, they had periods of time (sometimes months or years) where they weren't working much at all, followed by periods of time working overtime. It was rare that their work and their family life was balanced in any given period. This gets to Marsh's point about having reasonable expectations and acknowledging that some jobs are simply not conducive to facilitating balance.

    Christina H.

  4. I wonder what productivity looks like for jobs that require lots of flexibility in shifts from employees. Typically, these jobs (like retail and food service) require employees to be virtually on-call but do not make it easy for employees to have flexibility in their schedules.


  5. In my personal experience, the most unbalanced lives are led by the self-employed - while many of them get into self-employment to make decisions about how their day goes, the pressure of getting a big project off the ground can cause obsession. As someone who foresees myself going down the entrepreneurial path, I am worried about my own ability to make the right choices every day.

    Jodie Emmett

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