As the fog of Auld Lang Syne and bubbly lifts, you may remember that last month in this space we offered up valuable advice about work-life balance from the good folks at Illinois Policy Institute. The underlying idea was that work-life balance policies help organizations attract and retain their most valuable asset – people.
This month we’re sharing eight more policies an organization should consider if it wants to maximize staff happiness and performance.
Once again, special thanks to Kristina Rasmussen, Executive Vice President of Illinois Policy Institute, who provided us with these fabulous ideas.
1. Take a break. Barring major political or policy developments, we’re closed from Christmas to New Year’s Day. It’s an appreciated break. Said one employee: “It helps me breathe, put things in perspective, and remember the big picture that we’re really working toward.”
2. Recognition.Anyone who’s a fan of The Office is familiar with The Dundies, the quirky and fun staff recognition awards. We have our own –the Institoohties. It’s a reminder that we all have something to give and that we all enjoy a good-natured laugh.
3. Get it out. We cultivate a culture of transparency and open dialogue and take seriously confronting gossip and those that wish to engage in “office politics”. It’s hard to mentally check out of the office after hours if you’re caught up in unnecessary drama.
4. Turn it off. Many of us keep working through the evening, but our CEO has made it clear that responses to 99 percent of after-hours emails are discretionary. Unless it is truly urgent, youcan wait until the morning to reply.
5. Say thank you. After the teachers union strike, our team was exhausted. John Tillman took everyone out for a nice lunch (Gov. Quinn happened to be in the same dining room) and gave folks half a day off. He’s also known for encouraging happy hours.
6. Office dress. What’s better? Sharp capris or cargo pants? Provided the look is polished and professional, can you allow your team to express themselves through their clothes?
7. Use it or lose it vacation policy. This one surprised me. Said a team member: “My previous employer did not have a use it or lose it policy. This meant most of us didn’t take vacation days. I think the use it or lose it policy really promotes balance. It insists that you take time with your family, for yourself.” We regularly let folks know how much vacation they have left and ask them to use it.
8. Caring about the mission. Said one staffer: “You have a bunch of staff that are happy to put in the extra time because they knew their work was having an impact, and they care about the results.”
Having heard all of these fantastic ideas, where do you start with your organization?
Kristina suggests a survey. Allow your staff the opportunity to rate and comment on working conditions anonymously. Consider a short survey you can administer online (Survey Monkey, for instance).
Once you’ve got ideas, how can you implement them? Kristina offers this: “Our CEO has a mandate from the board to set personnel policies. This gives us the freedom to innovate. And we innovate on a regular basis. We schedule a regular review of our policy manual, making updates where needed, but we don’t let a review three months from now stop us from responding to a situation today.”
So there it is! Go forth and innovate with work-life balance policies! I look forward to hearing your success stories.