Companies That Get it Right: Prioritizing Work/Life Balance


What makes a workplace special? Increasingly, it has a lot to do with the emphasis employers put on work/life balance.


Companies are finding that encouraging a solid work/life balance makes good business sense. Lifestyle-driven perks signal a company’s interest in the well-being of its employees and demonstrate that the company prizes the kinds of workers who strive for well-rounded balance in their lives. The hope is that employees will bring that freshness and wellness with them to the workplace.


Helping employees achieve a strong work/life balance has never been more important than now when employees are being asked to do more with less.


Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of employees in the United States have been working more hours during the past three years, according to a recent Towers Watson survey. And more than half of the companies surveyed expect this trend to continue for the next three years.


Smart, forward-thinking companies are recognizing that all this extra work and extra pressure can lead to burnout and are implementing perks to help combat it. Take Subaru of America, Inc. for instance. “Anything we can do to help employees, we’ll consider,” said Dan Dalton, vice president of human resources. “It’s very important to us that we help employees alleviate stress wherever it comes from.”


With this in mind, Subaru has instituted a host of work/life initiatives. For instance, employees can tap into free seminars on issues that affect their personal lives – everything from planning for retirement to saving for college to dealing with parents with Alzheimer’s.


Further, employees are given time off to work on company-sanctioned charities like Habitat for Humanity®, Meals on Wheels, and the Ronald McDonald House®.


Additionally, Subaru helps connect employees who are interested in physical fitness by encouraging lunchtime walks and sponsoring an amateur bike team. “Team Subaru is very active,” noted Sandra Capell, the community services manager for Subaru headquarters in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. “Many of our employees’ families also get involved, train, and race.”


Some Subaru campuses even have vegetable gardens that are tended by employees. Employees are encouraged to volunteer in the garden during work hours, which gets them outdoors, working together, and doing good. Last year more than 1,200 pounds of produce were delivered to community food banks.


“We see our employees as brand ambassadors,” Dalton explained. “Subaru owners are active and involved, and so are our employees. As a company, we want to encourage them in what they love to do.”


Subaru isn’t alone. Here are a few other companies that offer major lifestyle perks:

  • Google is famous for its generous portfolio of perks. In addition to the Googleplex – a mini campus mall with a hair salon, a dentist, a dry cleaner, and other shops and services – the company gives employees $5,000 toward the purchase of a hybrid car. New parents are given paid leave plus $500 toward food for their household.
  • Serious work/life benefit offerings at James G. Davis Construction Corporation in Maryland have contributed to the contractor’s high retention rates. (Most of the employees have been with the company for approximately 10 years.) Perks include $10,000 in tuition reimbursement and free classes in subjects like Spanish and computers.
  • Software giant SAS focuses on work/life balance, offering benefits the company believes to reduce stress and distraction. In addition to a slew of perks like gym memberships, flextime, and three weeks' paid vacation starting year one, SAS secures family tickets to NCAA basketball games and amusement parks. There’s also a substantial college scholarship program for employees’ children.
  • Chicago-based Morningstar®, a provider of investment information, gives employees six weeks of paid sabbatical time every four years. Plus, the company places no limit on sick and vacation time.
  • Qualcomm®, a telecommunications firm in San Diego, has instituted what it calls its “QLife” program, which provides employees with a variety of support resources from elder care to adoption assistance. The company also has a learning program where employees can take fun lessons like scuba and surfing.
  • Employees at 5AM Solutions, a life sciences tech firm in Reston, Virginia, are able to telecommute one day a week and are given three paid days annually to do charitable work. Additionally, the company donates 5 percent of its profits to employee-chosen charities every year. 5AM also gives employees two full months' paid vacation after 10 years with the company.
  • In downtown Washington, D.C., Dickstein Shapiro is leading the pack among law firms when it comes to perks. In addition to arrangements that allow attorneys to make partner even if they work a part-time schedule, employees also can tap into a wide roster of classes ranging from wine tasting to yoga.



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