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The 4 Cool Ways the Top Employers Create Work-Life Balance

Ben Weiss

Many of the most innovative and successful companies today realize that a delicate work-life balance increases morale, yields superior work and attracts the best talent in the market.

With that in mind, the job site Indeed.com recently released a list of the top 25 companies nationwide in terms of work-life balance, determined through a thorough content analysis of reviews posted by current and former employees. "Proper work-life balance makes employees feel appreciated, which in turn makes them more productive and more likely to stay with the company for an extended period of time," says Mike Steinerd, director of recruiting at Indeed. "More productivity should result in greater profits and greater employee retention should reduce recruitment costs and general disruption related to turnover. This list showcases those companies that, according to previous or current employees, got it right."

Let's take a closer look at how a select handful of these companies are generating work-life balance and why these tactics are important.

Note: The quotes in italics below are real comments current and former employees made on Indeed.

1. Creative Management That Deconstructs the Traditional Grind (Motorola)

"Great work life balance and great company to work for. Management was great and would work for them again."

Work-life balance is often distinguished only as time at the desk versus time for yourself. However, excellent companies take a step further and infuse balance into their work day through creative managerial practices. For example, Farhad Chowdhury, the chief executive officer of the application development firm Fifth Tribe, works with collaborators over an intensive four-mile hike rather than a conference room. Not only does this strategy promote thinking outside the box by removing professionals from the box itself, but the experience of cooperatively overcoming a physical challenge builds camaraderie in a way rarely replicated under the fluorescent lights of a boardroom.

"That's why I try to do this with everyone with whom I interact professionally," Chowdhury concludes.

This interaction capitalized on the idea, theorized by neurologists like Alice Flaherty and reported on sites like Lifehacker.com and Buffer.com, that our brains afford us great ideas through dopamine-rich occurrences (in this case physical activity), which can open up the creativity floodgates when deployed as a professional strategy.

2. Flex Time (Wegmans)

"Because I am a college student, my schedule can sometimes be all over the place. Thankfully Wegmans is more than happy to work around my school and personal schedule and make a work schedule that I can easily adhere to. For the 2 years I have worked at Wegmans, I have not regretted one minute of it!"

The above quote exemplifies the most obvious reason flex time is important. By and large, professionals work to live rather than live to work and that means the flexibility to drop off/pick up kids from school, attend a class or be present for an important family event has immense value.

Going a step further, Jason Fried, co-founder of the Web application firm 37signals, explained the value of a flexible professional atmosphere during his 2010 TEDTalk Why Work Doesn't Happen at Work. He suggests the traditional 9-to-5 office job shreds a person's "work day" into a series of "work moments," disrupting the periods of long, uninterrupted thought required for great (and even good) work to manifest.

Consequently, empowering employees to work with a more flexible schedule enables the different personalities who contribute to any given organization to focus energy in ways most productive for them.

3. Adequate Time Off (Philips)

"Great work life balance; ability to work from home; 3 weeks' vacation; unlimited sick time ..."

In a quote for The Huffington Post, J.J. Ramberg, host of MSNBC's "Your Business," says: "Vacations are incredibly important. ... Taking a little time off allows you a moment to breathe, recharge your batteries and come back to work excited and motivated."

Moreover, employers who take a vacation have an excellent opportunity to see how their team operates without them there; a sound strategy to evaluate employee training and the efficacy of their hires.

And while relaxation does have a rejuvenating effect, experts have found that it simultaneously helps us to turn attention inward rather than what we're churning out externally, yielding insightful conclusions.

4. Letting Parents be Parents (American Express)

"... American Express even goes so far as to have a back-up daycare service attached to the building for those times you need it."

In "The Office" episode Jury Duty, Jim Halpert takes several days off under the guise of civic service to help his wife with their two young children. While his co-workers are initially angry they had to pick up the slack, when they interact with his screaming kids first hand, they conclude "that was no vacation."

Any parent similarly understands that raising a child (not to mention several) is a full-time job in itself that may require attention at any given point during the day. Consequently, those firms that provide options like on-site day care service and the ability to address family emergencies when they arise have an integral strategy that enables retention of those staff members with both familial and professional ambition.

Ben Weiss is the digital marketing strategist for Infusive Solutions--an NYC-based IT staffing firm in the Microsoft Partner Network that specializes in the placement of .NET, SharePoint and SQL Server developers as well as Windows Systems Engineers, DBAs and help desk support professionals in verticals such as legal, finance, fashion and media. Connect with him on Twitter: @InfusiveInc.

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