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Encouraging Work-Life Balance Can Boost Your Bottom Line

American Management Association, January, 2005

©2005 Joe Santana (reproduced with permission)


In today’s intensely competitive global environment, companies that support work-life balance practices and encourage their employees to manage their personal energy effectively will come out on top.

According to studies by the National Institute of Occupational Health, American businesses lose more that $300 billion a year due to absenteeism, employee turnover and workers’ compensation benefits directly resulting from overwork. Dr. Krista Kurth and Dr. Suzanne Adele Schmidt, authors of Running on Plenty at Work and co-owners of Renewal Resources (www.renewalatwork.com), tell us that even when employees show up to work, their exhaustion silently erodes corporate profits. “If people push through when they are tired, research shows it can take them up to five times longer than normal to get their work done,” states Kurth.

Overwork also takes its toll on employee creativity. Bruce Van Horn, CEO of Yogaforbusiness.com (www.Yogaforbusiness.com) and author of Firm Footing in a Changing Marketplace, writes, “We need to be human beings, not human doers. Human doers risk turning their businesses into mindless commodity operations, with negative long-term consequences to the company and its competitiveness.”

Here are seven practices you can introduce into your organization to increase productivity and creativity (and cut costs at the same time):

  • Train your managers to listen and use their best judgment to work with their employees to co-design arrangements that foster better work-life integration. Linda Stokes of PRISM International, Inc. (www.prism-international.com) puts it well: “The real challenge here is to identify actual requirements of the job versus traditions of the company or preferences of the manager that sometimes masquerade as real job requirements.” Use the actual job requirements and employee needs to design a better work-life integration plan.
  • Bring back lunch. Encourage everyone to regularly take at least 30 to 60 minutes for lunch away from the workplace.
  • Encourage real vacations. A real vacation involves more than a few days away from the office while fielding cell phone calls and e-mail. Encourage managers to do what managers in European countries with paid leave legislation have been doing for years, . . . cross-train employees.
  • Encourage “productivity phases.” Dr. Krista Kurth states, “According to research, the human brain is hardwired to take a rest, or shift in attention, at least every 90 to 120 minutes. If we do not take this mental break, our brains will take it anyway. This is when we most often make errors. People who take productivity pauses return to the task at hand with renewed vigor and focus.”
  • Provide resources. Offer articles, books, brown-bag lunches and online seminars about stress and overwork, work-life balance and personal energy management. This will give employees the information they need to make better choices about balancing their energies across their work and life. Use the material in this article to begin designing your own seminar. Better yet, hire an expert to speak to your managers and employees or enroll them in appropriate training.
  • Look for ways to sneak in a little fun. For example, if you have a cafeteria, you can transform lunchtimes into concert times inexpensively by inviting employees with musical instruments (and hopefully a modicum of talent) to play and/or sing for their colleagues.
  • Consider providing employees training in relaxation methods, such as Yoga and meditation. These practices help strengthen the body and lower stress. Meditation, Van Horn points out is “the perfect vehicle to refresh physical and mental functioning and to enhance the emotional intelligence, which is a prerequisite for business building and developing entrepreneurial skills.”

Author Bio: Joe Santana is a director with Siemens Business Services, Inc., a global IT outsourcing and consulting company. He is also co-author of the book Manage IT. For more information, contact him at Joesantana2003@cs.com. Or visit his Website, www.joesantana.com.


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