Not sure how to compete with companies providing six months of paid parental leave or onsite mental health services? You don’t have to break the budget to offer employees a wonderful working environment. Co-sponsored with our HR partner, Mineral, we will walk through very practical tips and suggestions for improving both the personal and professional lives of employees in small to mid-sized businesses. Learn how to give employees the time and support to achieve a healthy work/life balance, and enjoy their increased enthusiasm, commitment, loyalty, and productivity.
This session was presented on September 21, 2023.
Hi, good morning. Good afternoon, everyone. We’re going to give it about 30 more seconds to just allow everyone to get on. I see everyone logging on right now, so give everyone just a second.
All right, cool. Look like that worked great. Hello, thanks so much for joining me today. I’m really excited to be with you. Today, our topic is the work-life [00:00:30] equation, just how can we master that work-life equation. My name is Jenny Arthur. I’m one of the HR experts here at Mineral. I’m coming to you from Madison, Georgia today, so definitely a bonus points for you if you know where that little dot on the map is. I’m really glad you’re here. This is a topic that’s very near and dear to my heart. I just feel like if you can get work-life balance right, you just have the potential for having a really engaged workforce, [00:01:00] very long-term employee relationships. So, I’m hoping today my goal is at least to bring you some very down-to-earth practical, very doable tips to help you guys achieve that perfect balance.
Just a couple of very small housekeeping items, I know you guys have probably done these webinars before, but we will email you the recording and a PDF of the slides within 24 hours. So, don’t feel like you have to screenshot everything. I have one poll [00:01:30] question in the middle of the presentation, and one survey at the end. I’d love if you guys would do those. Then if you have questions, I’m going to save those till the end, but you can chat them in at any time. Just use that little Q&A box, and I’ll get to as many as I can at the end of our presentation. So with that, we will jump right in. Our agenda today is very simple. I’m just going to talk a little bit on the front end, not for very long, maybe like five minutes about work-life balance in general, but the majority of the presentation is going to be [00:02:00] 15 tips.
We’re going to walk through them one by one, how to help you foster a really good work-life balance in your organization. So, again, it’s very simple, and I’m hoping as I walk through these 15 tips that one or two of these ideas will just spark something in you like maybe think, “Hey, I might want to give that a try.” Try maybe just on a trial basis for your organization. So, I’m hoping that not all of them, but one or two hopefully will spark your interest. [00:02:30] We’ll start with what is work-life balance. I guess this definition is as good as any. It’s just the idea that your employees have a lot of commitments beyond work. Some are caring for young kids, or have ill family members, aging parents, navigating daycare, doctor’s visits, whatever. Your employees have a lot going on, I guess, is the key there.
So, the basic premise is that if you give employees the time [00:03:00] to see to those commitments, and have a really nice life outside of work, that you’ll get more from them while they’re at the job. Other terms that you may have heard as of late… Work-life balance is the old term for it. Now, people sometimes call it work-life integration or work-life well-being. Some people don’t like the idea that the term work-life balance, it implies that they’re conflicting or competing like work and life are conflicting or competing with one another. [00:03:30] Here’s how the former CTO of Cisco and Motorola, this is how she explains that idea. She says, “I don’t like the word balance. To me, it conjures up conflict between work and family. As long as if we think of these things as conflicting, we will never have happiness. True happiness comes from integration of work, family, self, and community.”
You’ll notice as we go along, I have some quotes from people that I’m hoping will just give you a little different perspective than just [00:04:00] me. I just wanted to point out that some people are using different terms for this. They all basically mean the same idea, and I’m just using the term work-life balance today because I feel like that’s probably the most well-known term. So, what are employer benefits? How do we sell this to companies? How do we sell to managers and to owners of companies that we really need to focus on work-life balance? I would challenge you, if you took this slide, and you covered [00:04:30] up the title of it, employer benefits, improved work-life balance, if you just looked at these bullet points, you’d be like…
If there was one thing you could do to really achieve all of these things, and you presented this to any CEO, they’d be like, “Yeah. Yeah, I want to do that. How do we do that?” Then when you tell them that one thing is improving work-life balance, they’re like, “Ugh, that’s so nebulous, difficult to change.” So, my job today is just to give you some very clear, tangible steps you can take to increase [00:05:00] work-life balance, and hopefully improve these outcomes as a result. Again, we’re going to walk through 15 tips, and I’m hoping a few of them strike a chord with you. If you’re looking at these bullets, and you’re like, “I’m not 100% sure that we would improve all these outcomes by improving work-life balance,” we do have a state of the HR survey that we do where we hire a third-party research group to conduct some research.
You can really see some of these correlations in black and white. So, [00:05:30] I would suggest you take a look at our Mineral state of HR survey from year to year. The one this year is just published. Then, again, you’ll notice that throughout the presentation, I have some of these quotes from, I don’t know, management gurus, philosophers. Here is how Howard Schultz, the founder… I think he was co-founder of Starbucks. This is how he explains the correlation between work-life balance and customer service. He says, “You can’t expect your employees to exceed the expectations of your [00:06:00] customers if you don’t exceed your employees’ expectations of management,” so just some good perspective there from the former CEO of Starbucks.
That brings us to our poll question. Before I get into my 15 tips, I really want to get you thinking about work-life balance in your organization. The poll just popped up on the screen, and it just says, “To your knowledge, how would your employees rate the work-life balance in your organization [00:06:30] on a scale of one to 10?” I’ll just give you a couple seconds to do that. All right, and we can go ahead and close that out. Sarah, can you pull those results up so they can see them there? [00:07:00] There we go. It looks like we’re doing pretty good. I just want you to keep this in mind. I think you can see them up on the screen. Keep how you felt about this question, and what you considered as you’re answering it in mind as we walk through the rest of the presentation here.
With that, I promise you I wouldn’t spend much on introductory stuff. So, we’re going to jump right in to my 15 tips. [00:07:30] These are tips for small to mid-sized businesses. I know that you guys are dealing with a lot of difficult stuff, a lot of coming out of some really difficult labor shortages, coming out of some big inflation. I’ve seen a lot of employers have been talking to me about just pulling back over recession fears as interest rates are increasing. So, I know we have a lot going on, and I talk to small and mid-sized businesses all day long. That’s my only job. That’s what I do. So, I am painfully aware [00:08:00] that it can be a pretty difficult climate as we’re coming out of COVID, dealing with some marketplace uncertainty.
So when I put these things together, I really was focusing on small businesses and mid-sized businesses. So, this presentation would look really different if it was for enterprise-sized Fortune 500 type companies. This is more for small and mid-sized businesses. With that, I’ll go ahead and jump into [00:08:30] my first tip for you, which has a lot to do with that poll. When you answer that poll question, did you know how your current employees, how they feel about work-life balance? It’s certainly not something you can fix if you don’t know much about it. So if you were unsure when you were answering that question, it may be time to start asking employees and managers about work-life balance.
You can do that on a formal basis. You can have employees rate their work-life balance on a scale to one to 10 every month, and track those metrics over time, [00:09:00] so you can see changes in that. I like to use informal little scales, just fun scales. This is a funny pic on the screen, and just have them rate on a scale of one to 10, “How are you doing today?” Just gauge how everyone’s feeling. I have a couple of links in the presentation. You can’t click them right now, but when we send out the presentation, you’ll be able to click into those. So, that’s just a link to some cute mood scales you could use. I really like the idea of requiring managers to ask about [00:09:30] work-life balance in their regular check-ins.
I feel like if you’re not doing regular check-ins, you may be missing the boat on some really good relationship building and feedback, and managers can often be the first line of defense in noticing signs of stress. Usually, signs of stress involved decreased productivity as well. So, I think we’re going to talk a lot more about manager relationships as we go, but keep that in mind. The key takeaway here is that regardless of how you ask, you’re never going to know how your employees feel about work-life balance until [00:10:00] you start asking, and then really listening to what they say as a result, and really responding to that. My next quote here is about listening. It’s not from a business leader.
This one’s from the late great Henry David Thoreau, the philosopher. He said, “The greatest compliment that was ever paid to me was when someone asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.” So, we want to ask employees how they’re feeling about work-life balance, and really pay attention to what they’re expressing. [00:10:30] Tip number two, and you knew this one was coming, is flexibility. So, you can’t talk about work-life balance without talking about flexibility. You’re probably dreading this, because a lot of my clients freeze up when I want to talk to them about flexibility. I often hear from clients that because of their size and their workload or the nature of their business, they don’t have room to offer flexibility.
I certainly understand and appreciate that reaction and response, [00:11:00] but I really feel like I have never found a company that we can’t find some way to offer flexibility. It does for small businesses and midsize businesses. It takes a good deal of creativity, patience, managerial time, but it certainly is something doable. So, my next two slides both here talk about some options for flexibility. I’m going to walk through these options, and briefly tell you what they are, and hopefully you can think [00:11:30] of one of these options as a way to offer some flexibility. Of course, we have fully remote work. A lot of people did that during the pandemic. Everyone knows what that is. We have hybrid work that might be like you can pick one or two days to work from home, and the rest of the days are from the office.
Seasonable flexibility or seasonal remote work, I like that idea too. Most businesses have a busy season or some busy seasons and some slower [00:12:00] seasons, and I like to really… When I’m trying to think about work-life balance, I’ll really look for the when are you the slowest? That might be the best time to offer a little bit of flexibility, like if in December, if things are really slow, then maybe that’s a time where employees can work from home or something like that. I don’t know if we call it seasonal remote work or seasonal flexibility, seasonal relocation, whatever you want to call it, but just the idea that we can pick a certain part of your slow season, and have [00:12:30] employees do a little work from home during those times.
Predetermined, consistent, flexible schedules, that’s a lot of words, but that’s basically the idea that it’s like, “Hey, I have to pick up my kids every day at 4:00, so is it cool if I work from 7:00 to 4:00 instead of 8:00 to 5:00?” So, that’s the idea. They have a set schedule, and it’s predetermined, and it’s always consistent, but it’s not the exact schedule that everyone else works. So, that’s that idea. Then similar to that is true flex hours and core [00:13:00] hours. That would be like if you said, “Okay, everyone has to work eight hours a day, and I need everyone in the office from 10:00 to 3:00.” You can do the other eight hours. You choose when you do those, and you can change those day-by-day if you want, so where they have core hours, where you can have meeting and collaboration and stuff, and then some flex hours, so employees do get some flexibility there.
Compressed work weeks, that’s the idea of maybe we’ll work nine hours a day, Monday through Thursday, [00:13:30] and Friday, maybe we work till noon or something. So, we compress that that week, and give employees a little more time off. This is just continuing that same list. So job sharing, most employers who have tried this really love it, this idea of having two part-time employees share a job. You save money on benefits typically, and you always have someone to fill in when the other person’s not going to be there. So, you usually don’t have the problem of them both being [00:14:00] out. Someone’s usually always there to fill the job. So, that works well in positions where you just have to have someone there all the time, maybe nursing or something.
Part-time and seasonal employees, I always suggest that you look for employees that maybe aren’t in the traditional workforce. Maybe you look for college students or stay-at-home parents, or those who have retired but want to come back to work a little bit. I love when we can give that kind of flexibility, and we can [00:14:30] usually make it a win-win for the business and for the person. A lot of companies that I talk to, they can’t shut down for holidays. They may be 24/7 operations, so I like the idea of a flexible holiday schedule, where you would have maybe on the 4th of July, some people get the fourth off. Some people get the fifth off. Some people get the sixth off, and we find a way to get everyone a holiday, but it’ll be staggered is the idea there, same for Christmas holidays and that [00:15:00] kind of thing.
Seasonal half days, we talked about seasonal remote work. Seasonal half days is again the idea of capitalizing on your slow season. Maybe if you guys are slow in summer, you do a half day once a month in the summer or something. Meeting free days, you may want to pick one day a week where you just don’t have meetings. That allows people to get in the zone and be productive on those days, which tends to give them a little more balance when they can be off of work, so they can get a lot done while [00:15:30] they’re there, and then have a good amount of time off. So, meeting free days are a good idea, and then just time off following a really heavy work project or stint. If employees were just crazy busy, and everyone gave it their all to get through a big project, then maybe be like, “Hey, take Friday off or whatever.” That’s usually something a little more informal.
That’s tip number two. I know you can’t do all of these things. I would never recommend you, but if there’s one or two of these [00:16:00] that might work for your organization, I challenge you to give it a try, and I would try it maybe on a trial basis. Try it for a quarter, and I think your employees will be so excited, and they won’t want to lose the benefit. You’ll find that they really will walk through a wall for you in terms of productivity when they’re there if you give one of these options a try, but it may not work well. So because of that, I really like to try these things on a trial basis where employees know we’re going to reassess in the last day of the quarter, and then make a decision [00:16:30] moving forward. That holds true with a lot of things we talk about today is giving it a try on a trial basis.
Tip number three is paid time off. There’s no substitute for paid time off. If you think about how much time you need per year to really refresh, recharge to be productive at work, it’s probably several weeks. The average PTO and employees first year of employment is around 18 days. That includes vacation and [00:17:00] sick leaves. I think offering a generous PTO policy is very important. When you first hire someone, you see a lot of productivity games, games when they’re new, and they’re getting through that learning curve. That’s where we see they really, really improve in productivity. Then a bit after that, we see that productivity drop once they settle in. We especially see that if they don’t have [00:17:30] enough flexibility and enough PTO.
So, we don’t want to lose all those gains, I mean not all the gains, but we don’t want to lose some of those gains, because they don’t have sufficient PTO. I think it’s important with PTO that employees actually stop working when they’re on PTO. So, keep that in mind. If you’re considering taking the plunge, and going to an unlimited PTO program, I don’t want to spend too much time on this, because I know that a lot [00:18:00] of you may not be in this boat, but I do have a few tips. If you want to learn more, just let me know in the questions, but we like to recommend you change the name. Call it flexible or personalized or something. We’ve definitely used the trial basis at least for the first year to see how it goes.
I really recommend tracking their PTO usage. I like to publish an annual average, so people know what’s appropriate and what other people are doing. I really like the idea of listing usage [00:18:30] on performance reviews, non-protected usage. Meaning if it was sick leave, like statutory sick leave or FMLA or disability leave or something, we wouldn’t include that. But for the time that they take off for their personal vacation, that kind of stuff, I like to list that on their performance review. Then if they have a really great performance review, but they only took off eight days, you can be like, “You should use more,” and the same vice versa. If they have a negative performance review, they took off more than the company [00:19:00] average, you guys could talk about that.
I like including a stop-loss provision in any sort of unlimited PTO policy. By that, I mean you can use two weeks at a time, but no more than that at a time. Sometimes these can be a little bit of a gray area like, “Okay, well, what about when an employee is going to backpack through Europe for a month, or what about if an employee needs back surgery, and they’re going to be out for eight weeks or something?” So, I like to have the first two weeks are always this unlimited [00:19:30] PTO, and then after that, it’s unpaid, so there’s no confusion there. That brings me to tip number four. This is just a made-up word. So, it’s not like… You might not want to spend a lot of time researching it, but find time for super productivity. You know how when you have 45 things to do in a day, you somehow get them all done.
Then when you have two things to do in a day, you literally don’t get either of them done. That’s [00:20:00] just human nature. What’s important is to help employees find the time to be really productive. We want to give them a good bit of paid time off, like we’ve talked about in the last slide. Then we want to give them at work time with no interruptions to really encourage super productivity. Everyone wants to feel productive. They all want to feel like they got a lot accomplished. That’s just a good feeling at the end of the day. So, the goal [00:20:30] is to get periods of super productivity from employees, and then give them periods of rest in return. Super productivity looks very different in different workplaces.
So, I’m going to give you maybe a few examples like for programmers, it might be quiet time in a dark room with no interruptions. For customer service representatives, it might be two-hour period constantly on the phone with customers, no interruptions. For a dental hygienist, it might be a five-hour workday with appointments every 45 [00:21:00] minutes from nine to two, and then taking the rest of the day off. For an accounts payable clerk, it might be three uninterrupted hours of generating and sending invoices. But you’ll notice on all those examples, the common theme is a period of time to get a ton done with no interruptions. Humans just innately, we’re not great multitaskers. So if you need to increase productivity in your company, it’s important to try to remove distractions.
[00:21:30] If someone’s… Your accounts payable clerk, if they’re doing a bunch of invoicing, you don’t want them to also be answering the phone, or checking emails. You want to give them one thing to do, and that’s what’s going to encourage the most productivity. So, I encourage you to think about what does that look like in your workplace, and how can you encourage super productivity? How can you reward it, and how can you possibly reward it with additional periods of time off or additional flexibility? [00:22:00] I think you’ll find that during these periods of your employees, they get a ton done, and the quality of their work is good, because they can do it without interruptions, and they typically get a lot more done than they would in a day where they have a lot of interruptions, and they’re working long hours. So, there’s more short periods of super productivity.
You always hear work smarter, not harder, but I like to change that to encouraging employees to work more intensely, not more hours. [00:22:30] That’s this idea of super productivity. Here is how one of the founders of Netflix, this is how he describes this philosophy. He says, “At Netflix, we think you have to build a sense of responsibility where people care about the enterprise. Hard work like long hours at the office doesn’t matter as much to us. We care about great work.” So, yeah, that gets me through super productivity, which was tip four. Tip five [00:23:00] is considering custom breaks. I don’t recommend a one-size-fits-all break schedule. I recommend that you do some research about a break schedule that’s going to encourage the most productivity for your employees.
Some things that help employees be more productive after they take a break are if the break includes a change of scenery, right? If they work indoors, they go outdoors, and vice versa. In the morning, shorter breaks [00:23:30] tend to be a little more effective. People come to work more refreshed and recharged and don’t need quite as many breaks, but in the afternoon, longer breaks tend to be a little more beneficial. If your employees do any repetitive focused work, by that, I mean, they’re writing, or they’re coding. They’re doing design. They’re doing clerical work or studying. You may want to look into this Pomodoro technique. [00:24:00] It sounds fancy, but it’s really not. It’s the idea that you come in in the morning, and you start working, and you commit to working 25 minutes of intense work, and then you take a five-minute break. Then you do it again.
Each of those is called a pomodoro, so 25 minutes of work, five minute rest, 25 minutes work, five minute rest, 25 minutes work, five minute rest, 25 minutes of work, five minute rest. After four of those pomodoros, you take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes to reward yourself, [00:24:30] and to try to avoid any mental fatigue. This is a technique. My daughter uses it in college. It helps you get started, which is nice, because you’re like, “Okay, all I got to do is 25 minutes.” So, it helps you get started on something that you may have been putting off. These are intense, uninterrupted work periods. So, think of the idea of four pomodoros and then 25 minutes work, five-minute break, and then having a nice long break of 15 or 30 [00:25:00] minutes after those.
That tends to work best in the morning when you first come in, and you want to tackle a project. Then in the afternoon, some experts feel like the perfect combination. I don’t know if it is or not. It’s the 52 minutes on 17 minutes off work role in the afternoon to get some breaks in there. So, look at those methods. You might want to do a little research on them, and see if you think it would work well in your business. Pomodoro is a kind of tomato, and it’s named [00:25:30] the Pomodoro technique, because you use a little clock like the picture, like an old kitchen timer. It was the shape of a tomato, so that’s where that came from. I know it sounds funny and fancy, but it’s really not. It’s just the idea of using a little clock, and there’s little online pomodoro clocks and all that stuff you can do.
If your employees perform manual work, consider long frequent rest breaks. So if they’re doing manual work outside, [00:26:00] or even manual work inside that’s pretty demanding, I would consider a 15-minute break per hour just to avoid physical fatigue. I think you’ll find if you do that, that you actually get more productivity out of that one hour than if they work straight through. So, what can owners and managers do to help? I like owners and managers to really share their strategies for taking breaks. So, I think managers and owners [00:26:30] should talk about, “Hey, today, I took a break and got ice cream at lunch, or I did this or that,” so that you can normalize it in your workplace. I put a Harvard Business Review article in here about just how to take better breaks at work. So, hopefully that’ll help you, but it uses the same idea.
It talks a little bit about the Pomodoro technique, I think. It talks about how research tends to show that you will get more productivity [00:27:00] working 50 minutes and then 10 minutes off. Then you would working the hour straight through. Here is how Bill Gates talked about using his breaks. I like this, because people always… Sometimes, owners and managers, we can get a little… It’s human nature, but we can get a little judgy, like when we see an employee on break, we’re like, “Oh, they’re not working,” but their productivity metrics are going to tell us the true story. So, what I want to do is not really judge [00:27:30] how an employee takes their break. Bill Gates says, I” use my lunch break to take a power nap. It’s the best way to re-energize and be productive for the rest of the afternoon.”
Tip number six is to cut down on meetings. One hindrance to creating a healthy work-life balance is just holding too many mandatory meetings. So, I would like you guys to consider in your company reducing the frequency of meetings and how long they are. [00:28:00] If you have a weekly sales call for example, could we change that to bi-weekly? Because when everyone’s in a meeting, you’re pulling everyone away from their productivity at the same time, which is it just can be tough. I would encourage you to… So, shorten meetings too. We always naturally think, “Okay, is this a 30-minute meeting or an hour meeting?” But I’d love for you and your workplace to be more like, “Is this a 25-minute meeting or a 45-minute meeting, and make those your meeting norms.”
I [00:28:30] really encourage employees before they create a meeting for everyone to think about if it’s necessary. Could this be handled in just a group email or something like that? If it really is necessary, make sure that whoever’s leading the meeting has a good agenda. You don’t want to get off track. I had this old manager. He used to always say, “No agenda, no attenda.” So, you can hopefully remember that little saying. I think it’s really important to only invite those that are directly necessary. [00:29:00] My church is the worst offender of this. When we are going to have a meeting, they invite everyone who’s ever even heard of the issue before, and that’s really not that productive in the meeting. It also pulls everyone away from what they’re doing.
So, really think about who do you really need at the meeting, and who can you just inform about the results after the meeting’s over? Here’s another Harvard Business Review article on that topic. [00:29:30] Here’s a cute quote from Dave Barry about meetings. He says, “If I had to identify in one word the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve its full potential, that word would be meetings.” All right, so that brings us to tip number seven. We’re about halfway there, so that’s good. If you guys need a Pomodoro break, you need to get a little stretch, feel free to go for it, but I’m going to just keep plugging on through so I have some time to answer questions at the end if you guys have [00:30:00] any.
Tip number seven is to limit outside work and on-call schedules. Everyone needs downtime. They need some time where they just don’t think about work at all. So, an employee’s on vacation. It’s important that they truly are on vacation to reduce their stress level, and allow them to vacation with no strings attached is incredibly important. I like to have all employees designate [00:30:30] who’s going to handle their stuff, their work stuff while they’re out, and so that we don’t have to contact the employee while they’re on vacation. Even in the out-of-office reply, you may want to say, “Hey, if you need immediate assistance, contact,” and a name and contact information of who’s handling that. I also like to point out… Again, because I work with a lot of utility companies and companies that are on-call, they always have to have someone on-call.
Having an employee on call 24/7 is not sustainable [00:31:00] for any employee or any manager. So, expecting employees to be on-call all the time, you’re going to have low levels of morale, high levels of stress, and high levels of turnover. So if you operate in a business where you always need someone on call, I don’t know, maybe like plumbing or medical, cybersecurity, some manufacturing I know is 24/7, it’s really important to have a reasonable on-call schedule, so employees only on-call [00:31:30] at certain times, and there are times when they are not on-call. The same holds true for managers, even senior managers. It’s just not sustainable for someone to be on-call all the time. We talked a little bit about vacation and taking true vacations when you’re not thinking about work at all. So, here’s a cute automatic emails signature you can send next time you’re on vacation. “I’m currently out of the office, and can be reached by waiting until I get back.”
[00:32:00] Tip number eight is to train managers. Actually, tip number eight and tip number nine both involve managerial responsibilities when it comes to helping employees achieve a good work-life balance. So, these next two are both things your managers can do. First is recognize signs of stress. We talked before decreased productivity is a big sign of stress. Some other signs of stress are short [00:32:30] snappy responses, employees getting into a lot of arguments, or just general employee conflict, or just a feeling of discomfort in the workplace. When employees start calling out with giving almost no notice, or just making uncharacteristic mistakes, these can be some signs of stress, and you really want your managers to be able to recognize those.
When it comes to solving workplace conflict, your managers may need some help in doing that. So, make sure [00:33:00] they know they can always go to the owner when two employees are having a difficult time working together, or when there’s an employee-manager who are dealing with some conflict. It’s important to ask for help. Ask for third-party help to really get through those situations. You want your managers to ask employees what work-life balance looks like for them, because it’s a little bit different for everyone. I know for me, being online at 11:00 PM is not good work- [00:33:30] life balance, but I have colleagues who they love that, that they have that flexibility, and maybe they left a couple hours early, and they want to catch up on a few things at 11:00 PM.
It looks different for everyone, so it’s really important that managers are asking employees about what it looks like for them, and what sort of flexibility they need. Managers also need to be good at approving vacation and PTO requests. That doesn’t mean [00:34:00] they have to approve all of them, but as soon as they get one, they need to either approve it, or they need to go back to the employee, and be like, “This isn’t going to work, because we’ve had three other people in your department or out. Let me help you reschedule this, because it’s important to me that you do take vacation time. So, let’s look at alternate options.”
Then the biggest thing, and it’s so hard, but to get your managers to change their mindset a bit to really focus on productivity, not hours. It’s not the butts in [00:34:30] a chair mentality. We want to really look at productivity, and if you don’t have great ways to measure productivity, watching employees is not a good way to measure it. So, we need to find some ways. We need to find some ways to track metrics, productivity metrics regardless of what the job looks like if there’s always some way that we can track an employee’s metrics, and compare that among other employees in the department. That’s what we really want to focus on, productivity, not just hours.
[00:35:00] Tip number nine, also for managers, I would say this is probably the most important tip of the day in my opinion. We talked about a lot of things, but if you were only going to do one thing from today, I would have it be number nine. It does sound hard, but in my opinion, the most important thing when it comes to employee engagement is their relationship with their direct manager. That’s going to be able… If I could [00:35:30] measure how an employee feels about their direct manager, I can likely tell you how long they’ll stay, I mean not exactly, but whether they’ll be there for a long time or not, and also how engaged they are, and how productive they are. So, an employee’s relationship with their direct manager I consider to be probably more important, and when it comes to engagement and longevity than even their salary.
So, the [00:36:00] managers in the company are always going to be the most intimately familiar with what employees value, and they need to be, because they really need to be building those relationships, and asking those questions. You really want to encourage your managers to work with employees regularly. Again, if you’re not doing one-on-ones once a month or maybe once a quarter, I would recommend implementing that, requiring all managers to put [00:36:30] some one-on-one meetings on their employee’s calendars just so they can talk about, “Think of it as half work, half how they’re doing.” So, you give them an idea of how their productivity numbers are looking and that kind of thing. Then you talk about their vacations and their commitments outside of work and whatever they want to share, and really try to build those relationships.
Like I said, their relationship with their direct manager is it’s a huge indicator of their likelihood to remain [00:37:00] with the company for the long term. This is probably my favorite quote of the day too. It’s by an author that I enjoy. His name is Bill Marklein, and he said, “Culture is how an employee’s hearts and stomachs feel about Monday morning on Sunday night.” How your employee’s hearts and stomachs feel on Sunday night will in large part depend on their relationship with their direct manager. Tip number 10 is [00:37:30] it’s a sad one, but you will inevitably have to deal with some type of employee tragedy, like a death in the employee’s family, or a serious diagnosis or other type of tragic situation, and all of your employees are going to be watching.
They’re all going to be watching how leadership deals with this, and they will really judge the company on how leadership manages this. So, it’s the perfect time to show employees that the organization truly cares about its employees and their families. [00:38:00] So, you want to really think about what can the organization offer to the employee who’s going through the tragedy. It doesn’t have to be the same. Every tragedy is different. It doesn’t have to be the same thing to every employee, but you could offer financial contributions to the employee, extended pay time off, pay for grief counseling, donating to a charity in their loved one’s name or something. We just want them to feel very supported.
Then another point [00:38:30] when an employee’s going through a tragedy that I think is really important is I always hear people, mostly friends of mine and stuff say, “My boss didn’t even call me, or the owner didn’t even reach out, right?” Everyone freezes up, and they’re a little worried like, “What do we do?” It’s important for a senior manager to immediately call the employee going through the tragedy. The biggest question they need to ask, they need to show support of course, and they need to ask what [00:39:00] they want the senior manager to share with the rest of the company, because employees get really offended if they’re going through something personal, and the management shares too much with other employees, but then some of them get offended if the management doesn’t even mention anything.
So, it’s important to ask like, “Hey, I know you had a death in the family. What would you like me to share with other employees? Would you like me to share the obituary? Would you like me to share this or that?” [00:39:30] Really ask those questions. Sometimes employees prefer a ton of privacy, and they don’t want much shared. Other times, they find it really helpful for senior management to share all the details of the tragedy, because then they don’t have to upon their return. I’ve seen it both ways. I’ve seen this very, very widely, and you don’t know what your employee wants or expects unless you ask. So, I think it’s really important for someone senior to reach out immediately, and ask those kind of questions.
[00:40:00] So, this is the time really for the employer to exceed all expectations. We want to make employees really proud of who they work for. So, you want a really generous approach, a really respectful approach to dealing with tragedies. Think about one of your employee’s at dinner with their friends, and they’re talking about how their co-worker had a death in the family, and how amazing the company was, right? That’s the kind of things that make them really appreciate the company that they work for. [00:40:30] Lastly, I want you to consider your current bereavement leave policy. I think the typical policy is three days to a week. I mean, if you think about if your spouse or child passed away, you’re not going to be ready to return to work in three days. So, I suggest considering revising that policy to provide two to four weeks of paid leave if it’s a member of their immediate family, like a spouse or a child.
Three to five days may work well for a member [00:41:00] of the more extended family, like an aunt or an uncle or something. We had an employee. His name’s Kyle Cupp, who experienced a horrible tragedy. He lost his 14-year-old son. He’s a beautiful writer. He wrote this article that was published in the USA Today, and so I wanted to share a quote from that article from Kyle who works for us here at Mineral. He said, “In the United States, [00:41:30] the typical bereavement leave is three to seven days. If I had been given only three days of leave, I would’ve been expected to be back to work a few days before we held the funeral. After seven days, I wasn’t functional, let alone productive. I don’t know how people do it. Other than that, they have no choice. We have many freedoms in the United States. The freedom to grieve is rarely one of them.” I’ve linked his article here in the previous slide if you want to read the whole thing. It’s really beautiful.
[00:42:00] Tip number 11 is to reduce stress in the workplace, and there’s always going to be time. The employment relationship inherently has stress in it. So, your managers are going to have to discipline an employee, or terminate an employee, or give a bad performance reviews. Employees, they may have to give feedback to a peer that they find stressful, or they may have to meet a hard deadline they find stressful. All of these are normal stressors [00:42:30] in the workplace. The best way to deal with normal stressors in the workplace is not to try to spare people necessary stress. These are things that we have to do at work. So, the best way to deal with those is just to always act in good faith. You want to approach decisions that’s going to cause much stress in good faith, just kind of the golden rule of how you’d want to be treated.
It just shows you care about them as a person, their success and wellbeing, and [00:43:00] it puts them in a better frame of mind if they trust you to really take that feedback to heart, or deal with that stressful situation in a productive way. So, there’s definitely some necessary stress. There is a lot of unnecessary stress in the workplace. If you have any issues with sexism, racism, homophobia, any other forms of inequity, then we need to acknowledge those, and we need to fix those. If you need help with that, we can [00:43:30] certainly chat about it, but that’s not necessary stress. That’s stress that we can get rid of. People aren’t meant to struggle with stressful situations alone, so I think it’s nice to have support networks at work, maybe employees that…
I don’t know. You could have a group of employees that have dealt with a loss in the family, and that they have a little time once a quarter where they all get together and video conference or in-person [00:44:00] meet or something. I think that’s fine. I think it’s good for people to take a little time in the workday, and be able to talk to each other, and relate to each other on non-work matters. My interest can set the tone by talking about stress at work. I also think it’s important. This last one here is to give people permission to step away. So, you know how when you get really stressed, or you’re really angry with someone, you get that fight or flight response. [00:44:30] I want you to give immigrant employees permission to flight, because we don’t want them to fight.
So, I want you to give them permission, like step outside, take a few minutes to yourself. They shouldn’t have the added stress of worrying they’ll be punished for taking care of themselves, and doing what they need to do to de-stress the situation. I think it’s important to give all employees permission if they just are stressed out, or they’re having that fight or flight response to just go take a break. I linked a little [00:45:00] article here or a little brochure, I think, from the CDC about stress at work that hopefully you’ll find helpful. That brings me to tip number 12, which is to encourage wellness and safety. Unsafe working conditions cause people a lot of stress, and that stress, they bring it home with them.
Seeing an employee get injured, same thing can be traumatic, and they bring that home with them. So, the best way to get your employees to take safety seriously [00:45:30] is to talk about it constantly. Keep the topic of safety front and center. The more you talk about it, the safer your workplace will be. I mean, we do it for other things. We do it for customer service. We do it for performance, so we need to do the same thing about safety. You can do things like you want to give employees… They should be able to anonymously share any safety concerns they have, and those should always be addressed. I like the little short [00:46:00] monthly trainings, maybe like 10 to 15 minutes on safety or even wellness. So if you have really safety sensitive jobs, you’ll have a lot of safety things you need to cover.
But if your job aren’t that safety sensitive, some things you could cover like avoiding sleep deprivation, or the proper keyboard and screen height, or I don’t know, the benefits of exercise or something. If you need ideas about safety for your industry, [00:46:30] I think talking to your workers’ compensation company is a good place to start. Safety committees are also great, and you want to make sure safety committees always include employees who are doing the work. We don’t want a bunch of managers just sitting around talking about safety. We want to get everyone involved. With all my clients, and I’ve talked to my colleagues about this a lot, we are getting so many calls about mental health concerns in the workplace. The best advice I have for you in that regard is to just treat [00:47:00] mental health like physical health.
We use all the same processes. We figure out we have them consult with their doctor, and figure out what they think would best help them in the workplace, and then we work through that. If you do have an employee that has threatened suicide, or said anything about that, one of the big questions we get is, “Can I call their emergency contact?” Yes, you always can. That’s not a HIPAA violation or anything like that. You can call their emergency contact [00:47:30] if you have any concerns. I also would never discourage you from calling 911, and just let the professionals go do a wellness check on an employee. Let me know if you have any questions about other tips for managing mental health crises and situations in the workplace.
Tip number 13 is to lead by example. We want your senior managers, your owners, we want them talking about [00:48:00] work-life balance and how they use their time outside of work. Maybe have a place where people can post pictures of their vacations, and make sure managers and owners do that as well. Make sure managers and owners talk about how they de-stress and other things they like to do besides work and that kind of thing. So if the managers really lead by example, then that’ll encourage employees to do the same. When you’re doing these one-on-ones, or your managers [00:48:30] are doing these one-on-ones, if one of the employees went on vacation, they should ask about it like, “How was your vacation? Now, you guys all went to Disney, right? Tell me all about it.”
That’s just really important in that relationship building, and let’s give them permission to talk about things other than work in the workplace. So, you definitely want to make work-life balance a topic of discussion. You want to do that in one-on-ones like we talked about. You want to do it in team meetings, employee engagement surveys. Have employees talk to each other about [00:49:00] it. Then I think it’s really important to set boundaries with clients, and encourage your employees to do the same as well. Employees are watching. Do you allow clients or customers to verbally abuse your employees? Do you step in and disallow that? All employees really watch how you protect one employee from an out-of-line customer. So, it’s really important to take those situations seriously, and really lead by example there.
Like we talked about, encourage [00:49:30] employees when they’re out of the office to set up out-of-office replies, and make sure they put who’s covering for them. That helps set boundaries, and give your employees permission not to respond to customers and clients at 11:00 at night. Give them permission to set some boundaries for themselves. Tip number 14 is to be open to change. I know we talked about a lot of things today, and a lot of them [00:50:00] sound a little scary. I’ve mentioned this a few times, but consider piloting a program. I want you to keep in mind that to find new and successful ways of doing things, you’re going to have to do some experimentation, and you’re probably not going to get that perfect balance right immediately. So, we’re looking for that just magical combination when the program works for your company.
So, let’s say you want to try the idea of core [00:50:30] hours from 10:00 to 3:00 every day, and then allow employees to pick their own hours to get to eight hours in a day. Instead of making that change indefinitely, I would try it for a quarter, and then access the results, publish the results, and really show employees what happened when we did that like, “Hey, look, we tried this, and it worked great, so we’re going to do it again next quarter.” If it didn’t work, great. Then just let them know that it didn’t work great, so we’re going to try something different, and show them the results like, ” [00:51:00] All our employees are adults, and they can…” If they see numbers, I think that’ll be helpful. So, I just want you to always consider this an evolving process. It’s a journey, not a destination.
So, things that may work well today wouldn’t have worked 10 years ago, and stuff that works well today might not work next year. So, just keep an open mind, and just try to be open to when your employees suggest [00:51:30] things. If they do suggest something, you don’t want to automatically shoot it down. If they really want something, and you let them try it, it’s likely that they will walk through a wall for the company in attempt to keep it. So, keep that in mind. No HR presentation is complete without your obligatory Peter Drucker quote. So, here it is. This one’s about turning change into opportunity, says, “The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds [00:52:00] to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.”
This is my last tip, so you guys made it. That is to assume good intent. When your employees request flexibility, I want you to assume it’s coming from a good place. They’re probably not asking for it to be lazy. Because the workplace is home to so much stress, it’s easy to get cynical in that employee-employer relationship, and it is true. [00:52:30] I mean, there are bad employees. There are horrible bosses. There are toxic cultures, and workplace problems can be difficult and very stressful, but the employment relationship isn’t just inherently bad, and it’s a mistake, and it’s counterproductive to think that it’s just a uniquely bad human relationship. There are great star employees. There are terrific bosses. There are great places to work, and these things are not rare.
So, assuming the worst about [00:53:00] all your employees, or seeing them as threats or liability, it’s like assuming all your friends are going to betray you. It might be a self-fulfilling prophecy if you go into it with that mindset. It’s an attitude that just creates drama, adds stress, and can even ruin otherwise good relationships. So, these are just some good dos and don’ts to keep in mind. They’re supposed to just help you remember to assume good intent. [00:53:30] Just some final thoughts, I mean, this is mostly just repetitive, but I would say in the past work-life balance, it was something that wasn’t talked about that much. Few workplaces really focused on it, but now it’s almost getting essential, right?
In order to compete, it’s not really a nice to have anymore. It’s becoming something that employees are really looking for. We see that more and more as we survey younger and younger employees, [00:54:00] A lot of them consider flexibility more important than salary, which is not something that was common in my generation. So, offering the benefit of work-life balance, it’s also a great way to really give benefits like flexibility benefits that is pretty cost-effective for small and mid-sized employers. A lot of my tips today cost some money, but nothing compared to your health plan or something. So, a lot of my tips today and some of my tips today [00:54:30] don’t really cost anything.
Like we talked about, I don’t recommend making a bunch of changes at once. So, look back at the presentation, do a little research, consider one or two things, talk to some of your colleagues about it, and then try to implement them maybe on a trial basis. Let’s see. Just keep doing that until you find your sweet spot. The ultimate goal is happy healthy employees. You want really engaged [00:55:00] workforce, and hopefully that will lead to a more profitable organization. I’m going to leave you with a really good work-life balance quote from Evan Thompson. He’s a wealth manager, and he manages several billion in assets, so hopefully he knows a thing or two about business, and it’s a great quote.
It says, “Your work isn’t simply your job description, title or industry. It’s when you wake up, what you wear, and your first 30 minutes in the office. It’s what your office is or is not, the five people [00:55:30] you are physically closest to, and whether you can get up and walk or have to sit all day. It’s whether you feel fear for your job due to changing laws or innovation each day. It’s how it fits with your family and all the people and events that matter most. It’s the person you are when you come home.” So, that’s just a pretty profound quote there, and that takes us to our Q&A. Let me check the time. I only left about five minutes, so let’s see what we’ve [00:56:00] got in here. Let me get a quick drink of water.
Our first one says, “Do you recommend or requiring doctor’s notes?” Good question. For short leaves, I don’t. If it’s only they’re going to be gone for a few days, I don’t. It’s part of that assume good intent. I recommend measuring performance. I recommend tracking attendance. I recommend tracking metrics, and I think [00:56:30] those will tell you the true story. Instead of like, “I need a doctor’s note, because I don’t really believe that you were vomiting or whatever.” For longer leaves though, I do think it’s important to get some doctor’s documentation just so that we can make sure we’re providing the accommodations the employee needs, and a fitness for duty certification upon return to work so we can make sure that they’re safe.
So, I would say is the leave is less than five days, [00:57:00] if you’re looking for a number, then I probably wouldn’t. But beyond a week, missing a week of work, I probably would. My second question is, “How do you take away a work-life balance benefit if it doesn’t work well?” That’s such a good question. First, it’ll be easier to take it away if it was a pilot program, but I recommend complete transparency, like explaining the reason. I wouldn’t blame the employees, but just be like, “Hey, I made a mistake. The business… [00:57:30] This idea wasn’t conducive to our business. It works well for some. It didn’t work well for ours, so we’re not going to do that anymore.” You can show some results. If you can show some metrics, that’s helpful. Then, I don’t know, maybe consider another replacement program, trying a different idea.
So, there’s no great way to take a benefit away from employees, but I think transparency is probably the best idea there. I [00:58:00] have another one here. Can we, as managers, force employees to take PTO if they don’t voluntarily make time to do it themselves? You can. There’s no laws that preclude an employer from forcing an employee to take PTO. I like to, in their manager one-on-one meetings, encourage them to first, and then if they don’t, in the next one-on-one meeting, I like to be like, “Hey, we’re not hanging up until we get some days on the calendar for you, because it’s important. [00:58:30] I think that it’s important for you to take time away from work, and rest and recharge. Let’s get it on the calendar, or email me by Friday with what days you want to take.” So yeah, it’s definitely totally fine.
Well, I want to end on time, so I’ll stop the Q&A there, because I want to respect your time. I should have followed my own advice, and made it a 45- [00:59:00] minute presentation, right, so you get back those 15 minutes. But as a final reminder, we’re going to email you a PDF of the slides, and the recording in about twenty-four hours, and then there’s a little post-survey poll. I would love if you would do that. So if you’re so inclined, that would be great feedback for me, and I hope you have a great rest of the day. Have a great Thursday. Bye.