Work-life balance increases employee satisfaction, productivity

Many companies in the Dayton and Springfield metro areas take extra steps to help their employees find a suitable balance between their work and life demands, according to a survey of more than 13,000 area workers by WorkplaceDynamics.

Some local companies offer flexible working hours to allow employees time during the work day for medical appointments or family concerns, while others provide laptop computers and network access so that employees can work from home. One company even offers its employees use of the firm’s vacation properties in Maine and California.

“When an employee has things working at home, then things are going to work at work,” said Laurie Iulg, a human resources manager for the Dayton-based engineering firm LJB Inc. The company won the 2008 Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility.

However, less than half of the Dayton and Springfield metro-area workers surveyed rated their workplaces positively for work-life balance, according to WorkplaceDynamics.

Work-life balance can increase employee attraction and retention, and boost workforce productivity, experts said

“Supporting what is important to the person does create a lot of loyalty with our employees,” said Mary Beth McWright, director of human resources for Booz Allen Hamilton, a Virginia-based defense contractor that has about 450 employees at its office in Dayton. “They tend to work a lot harder than they would if we didn’t allow that flexibility,” she said.

Work-life balance ranks as the second most important workplace attribute behind compensation, according to research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board among more than 50,000 global workers. Employees who feel they have a better work-life balance tend to work 21 percent harder than those that don’t, the study said.

Booz Allen Hamilton offers employees flexible work arrangements that allow them to leave the office for several hours for personal appointments without taking paid time off, provided they have the ability to make up the time in the evening, McWright said.

“As long as you are getting your work done, it really doesn’t matter where you are getting your work done,” she said.

However, some employees with high-level security access must complete their work on-premises in a secured space because of the nature of the company’s business, McWright said.

LJB Inc. offers flexible working arrangements, particularly to new mothers returning to the workplace from maternity leave, Iulg said. “I think that has helped us in being able to retain talent,” she said.

LJB has about 100 employees at offices in Dayton, Cleveland, Lima, St. Louis and Lansing, Mich. About 80 percent of its workers take advantage of flexible scheduling, Iulg said.

The engineering company provides some workers with laptops and network access to work from home. The exception are computer-aided designers who must use desktop computers because of the “robust” software required, Iulg said.

Flex time for a doctor’s appointment of a quick trip to a child’s school is “never an issue” at Grafton Oaks Nursing Center in Dayton, said Lisa Hamilton, an administrator for the family-owned and operated facility.

“We work on the philosophy of whatever it takes to get the job done is what is expected,” whether that means work is completed in six hours instead of eight, or it’s a 10-hour work day, Hamilton said. “Either way, if you’re taking care of Grafton residents, then we are taking care of you,” she said.

Total Quality Logistics, a Cincinnati-based freight brokerage firm, offers services that include mobile vendors who will wash employees’ cars on-site for a fee, said Rob Poulos, the company’s vice president of sales for satellite offices.

“Anything we can do that normal day-to-day people have to take time out of work to do, we try to make their lives a little easier and get it done while they’re at work,” Poulos said.

Total Quality Logistics has more than 2,000 employees, including about 40 at its satellite office in Dayton.

Defense contractor Sumaria Systems offers employees and their family the use of its vacation rental properties in New Harbor, Maine, and Palm Springs, Calif., for a modest fee. The Massachusetts-based company has a regional operations center in Fairborn.

Sumaria employees have been taking vacations at the Maine property for more than a decade; the California condo became available in 2011, according to company officials.

“The usual comment from employees that stay there is, ‘Sumaria is the first company they have ever worked for that provides such a generous benefit to their employees,’ ” said Donald Kurtz, the company’s vice president.

The U.S. ranked 23rd out of 23 countries for work-life balance in the 2011 Better Life Index from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international economic development and trade group.

People in the U.S. work 1,778 hours a year, higher than the OECD average of 1,749 hours, the report said. In the U.S., nearly 11 percent of employees work more than 50 hours per week, compared to the OECD average of 9 percent.

The amount and quality of leisure time is important for people’s overall well-being, and can bring additional physical and mental health benefits, according to the OECD.

People in the U.S. devote 14.3 hours of their day to eating, sleeping and leisure, less than the OECD average of 14.8 hours, the report said.

About the Author