Ask employees which job perks they appreciate the most, and chances are, a company car or gym membership is not going to top the list. Nowadays, most employees appreciate anything their employers do to help them achieve a work/life balance.
It's not just those with young children who are looking to achieve balance. Those who are single and/or who don't have children have needs outside of work, too. Take Generation Y workers, for example. They are stereotypically known as the group of workers that demands balance...to travel, study, relax...or fulfill any other personal interests. But don't forget about the Baby Boomers. While their kids may have already left the nest, Boomers may have moved on to taking care of elderly parents. And there is the great possibility that their kids have "boomeranged" and returned home. Some Boomers have child and elder care responsibilities.
Time Is Of The Essence
What employees need most in order to strike a work/life balance is time. Here are four ways you can give your workforce more personal time, without affecting work time.
Allow flexible schedules when possible. The ability to come in early in order to leave early (or vice versa) can be utilized for any reason, whether a child's soccer game, a pet's vet visit, or an employee's salon appointment. Employees will also appreciate not having to burn vacation or personal time in order to attend to these needs.
Don't judge a leave request. Advise managers that they should be less concerned with the reason for an employee's time off request when deciding whether to grant the request (e.g., taking a sick parent to the doctor versus going to a concert). Instead, they should look at more objective factors: Does the employee have available time to take? Is the employee's work completed and up to par? Is the request coming at a good time when things are slow, or a bad time when multiple people in the department are already out?
Don't require one-hour lunches. Those who get paid by the hour may prefer to take a half-hour lunch and leave a half hour early. Of course, this won't work if there's a need for employees to be physically present for the full day.
Keep in mind that leaving "early" may not mean that employees work from 8 to 4:30 instead of their standard 8-to-5 day; it could mean that employees still work from 8 to 5, but because they can take a shorter lunch, they don't have to stay until 5:30 to finish up their work.
Offer information on services your employees need. Survey employees to find out what's on their plates. Do they want a list of lawyers specializing in estate planning; local nutritionists, personal trainers, or wedding planners; do-it-yourself home repair information; or all of the above? Sometimes finding this information is half the time battle.