Everything is Changing
Ten years ago, a benefits package consisting of healthcare, a retirement plan, and a decent salary pleased most employees. However, economic tumult has upped the ante in the battle for a loyal workforce. Employees demand more from their employers with respect to work/life balance. What's driving their demands? The following two factors have played a large role:
- Companies are expected to produce more with less in a business environment this competitive -Corporate "rightsizing" of the 1980s and 1990s forced companies to expect more from the remaining employees. Additionally, advanced technologies require companies to stay attuned to their customers' needs on a 24/7 basis. These two factors required employees to work longer hours to accommodate for the change.
- Changing workforce demographics including more dual-income households, single parents, individuals caring for their elders, and Generation Xers- In short, today's employees have different needs.
The new economy, its modernization stemming from the digital revolution, commands 24/7 maintenance. As a result, we're seeing increasingly overworked and overtired workers who have little time to handle personal affairs. According to a poll conducted by Personnel Decisions International, the average workweek for full-time employees is 49.1 hours. Fifty percent of the respondents claimed that their workweeks have increased over the past five years, but only 10 percent increased their hours for financial reasons.
Giving Employees What They Deserve
In response, many employers have begun to reassess their traditional benefits packages. In particular, they have been looking for innovative ways to reward their employees.
In addition to stock option plans, increased 401(k) matching, higher salaries, and other monetary compensation methods, companies have introduced "work/life balance" perks that, for the most part, were nonexistent ten years ago. Listed below are four work/life benefits categories that some employers offer to their employees:
Time-related policies - these policies are intended to help employees manage work with their personal lives, e.g. flextime, telecommuting, compressed work weeks, sabbatical leaves, job sharing, paid time off banks, and vacation time purchase plans.
Worksite conveniences - common personal errands that normally must be done outside of work are offered by companies who wish to ease the personal needs of their employees, e.g. on-site ATMs, direct deposit, food services/subsidized cafeteria, legal assistance/services, dry cleaning services, massage therapy services, concierge services, self defense training, and transportation subsidies.
Family-related benefits - in order to help employees juggle work and family responsibilities, employers offer family assistance for employees with children and elderly parents, e.g. child and elder care referral services, adoption assistance, emergency/sick child care, subsidized and on-site child care, corporate lactation programs, and maternity/paternity leave.
Health and recreation - employers seek to assist employees in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and reducing stress through health and recreational activities, e.g. wellness programs, fitness center/gym subsidy, on-site fitness center, weight-loss programs, organization-sponsored sports teams, social event discounts.
While some of the above mentioned benefits already seem generous, innovative companies are offering even more to their employees. In the most recent survey of "100 Best Companies to Work For" conducted by Fortune magazine, the following companies earned their honorable reputations for offering the following creative perks:
American Century - each employee receives a $650 ergonomic chair
Capital One - employees may take a vacation day with just a 30-minute notice
CDW - upon becoming the "#1 reseller of computers," each employee received a free 3-day trip for two anywhere within the continental US
Eli Lilly - all Eli Lilly drug products are available free to employees
Intel - employees are entitled to an eight-week sabbatical after seven years
MBNA - employees who marry receive a limousine, $500 for their wedding day, and a week of paid vacation
Rodale - employees are offered a gardening plot on company land
Can Your Company Afford It?
Concern over the cost/benefit factors of benefits like those listed above keep many employers from implementing innovative programs. Perhaps the real question is whether you can afford not to offer these benefits. Moreover, if you compare your company's perks to those listed above, how do you measure up? Does your company offer a competitive range of benefits relative to the best companies?
If your company doesn't measure up, you should be worried. Employees will inevitably deal with stressful situations, and they'll often feel overburdened at work. If your company is not offering some sort of recourse for them, either through flexible work arrangements or personal conveniences, today's economy affords them the luxury to search for a company that will offer a more balanced package. With high recruiting and training costs, it's in a company's best interest to implement policies that will foster an environment in which your employees want to continue working. ~
In order to gauge how applicable these creative benefits policies are to your company, challenge your HR team to analyze your employees' needs and preferences. Conduct a survey that rates employee work/life balance preferences. Do they prefer more flexible work schedules, higher salaries, or more vacation days? Once you've determined what your employees want, compare recruiting and training costs to the cost of implementing those work/life benefits. Finally, prepare a report for senior management based on your findings. Your cost/benefit analysis is sure to rally the support of everyone involved - and it may help your company become one of Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For".
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