*I used my VTO perk to chaperone a fourth-grade field trip where we harvested wildflower seeds for prairie restoration.
“Mom, how come you never chaperone my field trips?”
What an innocent question asked by my 9-year-old son. How was he to know it would shoot a barb of guilt straight through my heart? Like a lot of working parents, I struggle to rearrange my schedule, calculate time off balances and juggle my professional workload to make time to be successful at my professional parenting workload.
And if you have more than one kid, multiply the parenting workload by 2, 3, 4 or more. It’s a balancing act that few of us achieve. To be honest, I’m more like a really bad juggler who’s trying to keep one ball in the air while the other goes rolling down the street…
It’s not just working parents who struggle with work/life balance though. Whether you have a human baby, a fur baby, a posse of girlfriends, a passion for playing sports, a yearning to travel the world, or a high-maintenance mother-in-law, 21st century workers have more opportunities and responsibilities to balance than ever before.
Offer volunteer time off
But sometimes we get lucky and work for companies who make decision-making a little easier. Two Rivers Marketing understands and even encourages me to take time off to do something good for my community. Our yearly volunteer time off (VTO) policy has allowed me to cheer on swimmers at the Special Olympics Iowa games in Ames, help publicize a new building for Gigi’s Playhouse in Des Moines, and create a communications plan for a central Iowa refugee organization.
This year I gave my time to Mr. Long’s fourth grade class at Central Elementary School. We spent a beautiful fall day at the Story County Conservation Center harvesting wildflower seeds for their prairie restoration project and then hiking through the woods to learn about native plants. It was awesome! VTO is a great way to show your employees that you care about and support work/life balance. I was paid to spend time with my son, help the local school, and enable a non-profit organization to fulfill its mission. Trifecta!
Volunteer time off is a benefit that appeals to everyone at our agency, regardless of what generation or stage of life they fall into. An employer can do a lot to help workers with work/life balance. Our agency recently created employee personas to help us understand and empathize with each other’s goals, needs and challenges. One of the most fascinating results was seeing how different worker generations think about work/life balance.
Create benefits for each generation
Here’s a very short snapshot of our employee personas (you can create your own!), as well as some employee benefit ideas for each. Many may appeal to all generations but sometimes for different reasons. Our agency doesn’t offer all these perks, probably few do. But we, like many companies, are working on it.
Career Explorer Emory has 0 to 3 years of professional work experience and is trying to find a good balance between work and home life, especially keeping up with old friends from college. Money and learning how to be a responsible adult are at the top of her needs. Benefits and perks that might appeal to Emory:
• After-hour company events to get to know other employees in her peer group (without having to pay for it!)
• Paid dues for professional organizations where she can meet up with old college friends and make new contacts
• Casual dress code so she doesn’t have to spend money on an expensive business wardrobe
• Flexible work hours so she can attend graduate classes, teach evening yoga, or take off early for weekend visits with family or friends
Social Networker Nate has 4 to 10 years of professional work experience and is trying to thrive at work while still living a “me-centric” lifestyle. Nate wants more work responsibility and opportunities, but doesn’t want to give up his busy social lifestyle. He’s networking and making connections. He and his peers are getting married, having kids, buying homes, and moving to the suburbs. Nate would appreciate work/life balance benefits like:
• Pet-friendly workplace so he can bring his four-legged buddy to work
• Gym fee reimbursement to help him keep active and involved in sports
• Professional training opportunities where he can explore a new city while focusing on his career
• Mentor/mentee lunches paid for by the company so he can develop a relationship with a trusted advisor
• Company-sponsored financial education/resources to help him deal with budgeting, debt, buying a home, planning a wedding, retirement savings, etc.
Rising Leader Rob has 11 to 24 years of professional work experience and has very busy work and home lives that constantly compete with each other for his time and sense of purpose. Rob doesn’t have much time to relax and escape his responsibilities. This is a key time in Rob’s career to prove his leadership skills. To help Rob with his chaotic lifestyle, offer him:
• At-work daycare services to make it easier to drop off/pick up kids and spend time with them during lunch breaks
• Generous paid time off to help him feel less stressed out by unexpected sick kids, appointments, school events, etc.
• Leadership retreats to give him a much-needed break from work and home so he can focus on his career and leadership abilities
• Friday afternoon libations/happy hours to give him a chance to unwind and hang out with peers before his busy weekend schedule begins
Lifelong Learner Linda has 25+ years of professional work experience and is adjusting to changing life roles. She may be an empty nester who is now caring for aging parents and thinking about retirement. Her biggest challenges are staying on top of technology trends and showing her value in the final stage of her career. Linda might be interested in:
• Tuition reimbursement – now that the kids are grown up and out of the house, she can focus on continued learning opportunities
• Paid sabbaticals and/or generous paid time off so she can enjoy hobbies, family, friends, and travel
• One-on-one retirement counseling and resources to ensure she’s prepared for and feeling good about the retirement years ahead
• Mentor/mentee opportunities with entry level associates so she can share her experience with entry-level associates, and they can help her embrace new technology
This is not an exhaustive list of ideas but enough to get you started with ways to help your employees achieve work/life balance. I’d love to hear about your company’s benefits for different generations of workers.