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Masooma Memon

Work Life Balance Initiatives: Examples from Orgs that Got It Right

Looking to introduce effective work life balance initiatives in your organization? Take some inspiration from these companies that made people-positive choices.

A couple of decades ago, discussions about work life balance wouldn't even have been on the table in most companies. But in our present working landscape, it's impossible to ignore: many people now cite work life balance as the single most important factor when searching for a new role, even winning out over salary.

For a company to make itself attractive to top talent in 2023, it has to show that it takes work life balance seriously. But our "always on" culture is pretty deeply ingrained, and creating a company culture with a balanced work environment goes beyond offering remote work alone.

In fact, it takes multiple work life balance initiatives, like flexible scheduling and mandatory paid time off, to give employees the time they need to invest in their personal life.

Not sure where to start? Let’s take you through what other companies do to support work life balance for their teams. We’ve also got proven tips to make it easy for you to foster a healthy culture where everyone enjoys their work.  

What are work life balance initiatives?

Work life initiatives are any planned or impromptu exercises, benefits, policies, or programs that help employees better manage and enjoy both their work and life.

Although there are different ways to define work-life balance, the core idea is that an optimal balance between your work and life:

  • Lets you be fully present in your professional and personal life
  • Prioritize your health and relationships alongside work responsibilities
  • Calmly manage work and life challenges without throwing self-care and personal time out the window

Alas, achieving all of this isn’t possible without companies supporting their employees and committing to an institutional culture that prioritizes wellbeing and respects boundaries. However, by introducing work life balance initiatives, companies can establish (and reap the benefits of) this people-positive progression.

What are the benefits of introducing work life balance initiatives?

A healthy work environment reduces workplace stress and turnover while improving employees’ mental and physical health. It also increases employee retention, productivity, and competitiveness.

Meaning: by benefiting individual employees and improving their satisfaction from work, work life balance programs significantly benefit organizations.

Hard to believe? Let’s look at the advantages in detail: 

Effectively combat workplace stress

69% of those surveyed in Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Survey 2022 admitted to feeling “emotionally detached” at work. 19% said they consistently feel “miserable.” 

In fact, the study also confirmed workers from the US and Canada as the most stressed. And a contributing reason to this stress? Long work hours.

However, the thing is: employees who are well-rested and have a life outside of work tend to be more engaged than overloaded employees.

This is why the onus is on organizations to reduce workplace stress in the spirit of improving employee productivity and performance. Some ways to do this include:

Better retain talent

Pew Research reveals a lack of work life balance as one of the leading reasons behind employees quitting their jobs. The study specifies reasons like inflexible working hours, long work hours, and lack of childcare support push people to switch companies.

Limeade research also confirms burnout as another reason why 40% of employees leave their jobs.

The solution? Solving these concerns to better retain employees. Thankfully, there’s no better way to achieve this than by creating a healthy work environment, which respects employees' work hours and supports them so they can give work their best.

Create a more inclusive work culture

A Harvard Business Review survey of 800 US companies found that organizations that had policies for flexible scheduling, family leave time, and childcare support saw an increased percentage of Asian American, Hispanic, and Black managers. This included the percentage of female managers — both white and diverse.

So if you’re invested in creating an inclusive workplace, you can’t put work life balance initiatives to the back burner.

On top of the reasons discussed above, when employees see you investing in their wellness and work-life balance, their commitment to work improves. In turn, this increases employee performance and organizational productivity. 

Work life balance initiatives examples from 9 organizations that are doing it right

From offering month-long, paid sabbaticals to doing push-ups together, companies are taking various initiatives to improve their employees’ professional and personal lives.

Some of these initiatives are easy to try today while others — if they align with your company goals — are worth pursuing in the long haul.

1. Atlassian’s Team Anywhere initiative

Atlassian’s Team Anywhere initiative is a distributed work policy aimed at giving employees the freedom to choose where they work from.

According to this policy, there’s no need for employees to live within the same country as the company headquarters.

The result? Almost 300 employees have moved to a new country after the software company introduced the initiative.

2. Moz and Evernote’s employee travel stipend

Both Evernote and Moz offer their employees a travel budget— a great initiative for improving employee loyalty by supporting them in living a life they love.

Evernote offer 1,000 dollars with another perk, unlimited paid time off (PTO).

On the other hand, Moz provides 3,000 dollars in reimbursable travel budget paired with 21 days in paid vacation time, ten paid holidays, and seven sick-safe leave days among other benefits.

3. Runn’s workplace flexibility

Since its inception, our team has been fully remote. But remote work at Runn doesn’t just allow flexible work location but also flexible work hours.

Essentially, we’re trying our best to build a people-first culture based on trust and employees’ sense of responsibility.

It’s why we don’t restrict our team to set office hours, but allow our team to manage their hours and work whenever suits them best, as long as they’re reaching their set goals. 

4. IBM’s volunteering program

The multinational tech corporation gives its employees the opportunity to volunteer at different organizations.

The idea behind this work life balance initiative is simple: employees who give back to society are more likely to be engaged at work. Plus, volunteering has been proven to: 

  • Alleviate stress
  • Improve physical health
  • Help employees develop skills outside their work environment

More than 89K of IBM employees have registered for this program so far and the company recorded 860K hours of volunteer work done in 2021. The numbers clearly suggest employees appreciate the initiative.

5. Buffer’s mental health initiative

Buffer breaks stigmas with its founder, Joel Gascoigne, being upfront about the pressures of his position, and talking about how therapy helps him manage his stress.

In doing so, the social media management software creates a company culture where everyone talks about ways to create a healthy work environment.

To add, Buffer also:

  • Shares mental health resources in their ‘healthy work’ Slack channel alongside optional training on mindfulness at work.
  • Offers all employees and their partners a free subscription to AbleTo, an emotional health tool for managing mental well-being.
  • Hosts a yearly unsick day off for workers to proactively take care of preventative health measures such as getting an annual physical check-up, a vision exam, dental cleaning, etc. 

6. Groove’s 30-day push-up challenge

The Groove team introduced an impromptu exercise plan for employees to start their day with push-ups.

This brought everyone together — from their CEO to the introverts on the team with everyone sharing their progress, even making healthier fitness-related choices throughout the rest of the day. 

 By checking in with each other on their progress, the team was able to connect on something other than work as well as improve their physical health.

7. Help Scout’s sabbatical policy

Help Scout creates an engaged, results-oriented work environment with its sabbatical policy. It offers a month-long paid time off to employees who have been with the company for four years.

The work life balance initiative came to be after the CEO, Nick Francis took a sabbatical in 2019 and experienced its personal and business benefits.

The best part? To encourage employees to use their sabbatical, Help Scout has a rule stating that the month-long paid off should be taken within 12 months of an employee hitting their 4-year anniversary with the company. The company also gives these employees a $2,500 bonus to make the most of their sabbatical.

8. Microsoft’s Work Life Choice Challenge

Back in 2019, Microsoft challenged their employees to work four days a week — leading to a 40% increase in productivity.

Where Buffer has successfully launched its 4-day work week program for over two years now, Microsoft introduced this challenge for a month.

The takeaway? You don’t need to launch a long-term 4-day work week program if you don’t have the resources for it. Instead, you can experiment for a month and see how beneficial the results are for you to try it regularly.

This 4-day work week challenge is only one example of Microsoft’s work life balance initiatives though.

Known for its balanced work life approach, the tech giant also has a fitness benefit program in place. Employees get 1,500 dollars in wellness expenses that they can spend on anything from gym memberships, lifestyle coaching services, nutritional counseling sessions, and more.  

9. Hootsuite’s company-wide Wellness Week initiative and Owly Quality Time 

On top of time allotted to employees’ vacations, Hootsuite takes a wellness week off where everyone unplugs and recharges. 

Plus, the company works only half of Fridays in the summer months — an initiative called Owly Quality Time.

How companies can promote work life balance?

Replicating one or a handful of these work life balance initiatives (or similar programs) is going to be challenging in the start. If you’re determined though, these tips will help you effectively promote work life balance:  

1. Always lead by example

Want to encourage your team to stop checking work email after work? Want to tell them it’s okay to take a mental health day off or talk about burnout?

Don’t just tell them - show them by doing it yourself.

The leadership team at Netflix leads by example, which has helped the streaming giant both create a healthy work balance and achieve team accountability and creativity. 

2. Offer support whenever you can

Good managers are crucial for supporting their team achieve a balanced work life.

Take it from Zapier’s management. Breetel Graves, Zapier’s Senior Customer Champion, shares that she was having a tough time keeping off Slack post-work hours, so she asked for her manager’s support.

Her manager came to instant help — encouraging her to log off. He even added a standing item to his to-list, reading “Make sure Breetel stays off Slack during non-working hours!”

3. Use data to identify issues threatening work life balance

Studying employee data is a great way to identify concerns that negatively impact your staff’s work life balance. 

For instance, during the Covid-19 pandemic, HR at Microsoft found increased use of Teams, indicating people were collaborating more.

However, upon digging deeper into the data, they identified a correlation between increased time in Teams and decreased work life balance satisfaction. In fact, the latter dropped by 13%.

Overall, studying data from thousands of Microsoft employees revealed that a lack of uninterrupted focus time, over-collaborating, and skipping time off hindered folks from achieving work life balance. 

The solutions they identified included: 

  • Don’t bookend weekdays with meetings

This is essential for saving employees the stress of preparing for meetings before their work week starts and taking the stress from Friday meetings to their weekends.

  • Pause between meetings and reduce as many as you can

Taking breaks between meetings is effective for combatting Zoom fatigue.

Bonus points for switching to async communication to cut back on meetings altogether and give employees the space to dedicate to deep work.

An easy way to do this is to create guidelines for when it’s okay to call for a meeting. These guidelines should also make it a rule to only invite members whose presence is needed in the meeting — not otherwise. Another idea is to replace weekly all-hands or status update calls with video recaps. 

4. Continually gather employee feedback

Use surveys, anonymous polls, and one-on-one conversations to get employees involved and get their feedback on:

  • What negatively impacts their work life balance
  • How helpful your work life initiatives are for them 

Put simply, gather employee suggestions and feedback at each step of the way — before you plan a balance-promoting initiative, when planning one, and after launching it. This way, you can create and optimize work life balance programs that actually benefit employees. 

Create a healthy work environment starting today

The first step to starting is identifying what’s preventing employees from balancing their work and life. To this end, analyze internal data and survey your team.

From there on, create and implement work life initiatives — start small if need be but make sure your endeavors are genuinely helpful to the people who work with you.

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