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Weighing in on workplace wellness benefits

Workers surveyed say benefits like fitness facilities, incentives for healthy behavior, and flexible work schedules all impact their decision to work for an employer.

October is National Work and Family Month, and with open enrollment around the corner, there couldn’t be a better time to applaud healthy and flexible work environments. Employers that promote and support work-life balance are better positioned to recruit and retain skilled talent — especially in today’s tight employment market. 

According to new research by staffing firm Robert Half, workers say on-site fitness facilities or programs (24 percent), ergonomic evaluations and equipment (22 percent), and incentives for engaging in healthy behavior (18 percent) are the most valued workplace wellness offerings. The most common perks offered at companies include:

  • Flexible work schedules or telecommuting options (50 percent);
  • Paid parental leave (47 percent); and
  • Employee discounts (42 percent).

“Organizations in Madison have not been immune to the effects of the tight hiring market we’ve been experiencing, notes Sasha Truckenbrod, branch manager at Robert Half in Madison. “Wisconsin’s low unemployment rate means that it’s a job seeker’s market and, consequently, employers have had to get more creative to attract and retain skilled workers.”

National Work and Family Month has been a federally recognized observance since 2003 and a campaign designed to remind employers about the business benefits of supporting work-life balance initiatives. It’s the perfect time for organizations to take stock of their workplace flexibility and wellness offerings in order to keep a competitive edge, says Truckenbrod, who points to a survey by OfficeTeam showing 73 percent of U.S. workers said a company’s health and wellness offerings influence their decision to work there.

Going beyond providing the standard health benefits is a strategy that can positively impact an organization’s reputation, explains Truckenbrod. “Word gets around when people know that an organization cares about the well-being of their employees. When workers feel empowered by a corporate culture where work-life balance is present, employers often reap the benefits of a happier, loyal, and more productive workforce.”

Key advantages to employers that provide more flexibility and wellness offerings include: 

  • Improved morale and happier workers;
  • Increased employee engagement and commitment;
  • Lower stress levels among staff;
  • Decreased turnover; and
  • Competitive advantage in recruiting and retention.

In addition to fitness facilities or programs, ergonomic evaluations and equipment, and incentives for engaging in healthy behavior, the following popular flexible work arrangements can also help professionals better balance their personal and career responsibilities:

  • Telecommuting — Telecommuting allows employees to spend all or a portion of the week working from home or from another non-company site. In a Robert Half survey, more than three-quarters of the workers polled said they’d be more likely to accept a job offer if they could telecommute at least some of the time.
  • Flextime — Flextime refers to any arrangement that gives employees options for structuring their workday or work week. They're given the opportunity to choose (within certain parameters) their own start and stop times provided they work the required number of hours each day. Employees operating under flexible work arrangements are expected to be on the job during certain core hours of the workday.
  • Compressed workweek — Under this arrangement, employees work the normal number of hours but complete those hours in fewer than five days. The most common variation of the compressed workweek is the so-called 4/10, in which employees work four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days. Many workers appreciate this arrangement as it provides an extra day at home, thus improving work-life balance.

Ultimately, Truckenbrod recommends treating work-life balance like any other career goal: Define it, measure it, track your progress, and adjust as necessary. Work with your manager to see what options are available to help you achieve the balance you seek:

  • Ask your manager for a specific request, such as a flexible schedule. Prior to the meeting, determine exactly what you want and whether the company offers it.
  • Present a business case by showing the value of the benefit to the firm (e.g., allows the department to offer extended service hours, or reduces burnout).
  • No matter how the discussion goes, remain professional. Your manager may have other options available for you.  

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