Are there more idiots on your commute than usual? Does it seem like everyone in your life needs an exorcism? Are you drinking more?
Some of the common practices at companies with the best work-life balance include: flexible work schedules, telecommuting option, job sharing and compressed workweek. Plus, some one-off items like free snacks in the kitchen, an on-site gym and massage.
“It’s something that’s in the employer’s arsenal that will help employee satisfaction and keep morale up,” said Samantha Zupan, the corporate communications director at Glassdoor.com. “It’s simple things. If telecommuting is an option and productivity is up – why not? How much does a ping-pong table cost?”
Nearly one-fourth (24 percent) of companies have a formal work-life balance policy in place and more than half (52 percent) have an informal policy, a recent study from the Society of Human Resource Management found.
So, which companies have the best work-life balance?
Not surprisingly, technology firms are very prominent on the list — everyone from social-networking site LinkedIn (No. 8) to network-services firm Rackspace (No. 11) and travel site Orbitz (No. 12) . ( Facebook actually made the top 25 list last year but fell off this year. Perhaps the IPO threw off work-life balance a bit?!)
THE TOP FIVE COMPANIES
Here are the top five companies for work-life balance, according to Glassdoor:
1. Mitre (government research)
2. North Highland (consulting )
3. Agilent Technologies (electronic test-equipment maker)
4. SAS Institute (business-intelligence software maker)
5. CareerBuilder (job web site)
“In today’s highly connected world, striving for work-life balance can feel virtually impossible given greater access to our jobs around the clock,” said Rusty Rueff, Glassdoor career and workplace expert, who ran global HR departments at Electronic Arts and PepsiCo before co-authoring “Talent Force: A New Manifesto for the Human Side of Business." "Companies that make sincere efforts to recognize employees’ lives outside of the office will often see the pay off when it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent.”
As for those who think more slack in the leash will make employees slack off and play ping pong more, Zupan said it’s actually good for productivity — especially in a tough economy like this.
“A healthy work-life balance can support greater productivity in the workplace and keep employees from getting burned out and tired,” Zupan said.
At Mitre, which is on the list for a second year in a row (No. 2 last year, No. 1 this year), one employee, a business analyst, said, “Work-life balance is very real and everyone is encouraged to take time off and keep their work hours under control.”
When was the last time you heard that from yourboss?!
At Agilent, one engineer said, “The work environment is much less stressful than the competition. It’s very easy to change projects and even job functions within the company.”
One SAS employee said the company offers a lot of perks, including an aquatic center, onsite child care, subsidized meals at the onsite cafes, a gym and “the list goes on an on.”
Overall, Facebook is still ranked high by employees, with 122 of more than 180 reviews coming in at the highest rating — “very satisfied.” Among the pros one engineer noted were working with smart people, an “amazing” campus, “fantastic” perks, flexible hours, good management and an “inspiring workplace.”
But it’s not all “likes” and bumper crops in FarmVille. Among the cons were that the environment may be too stressful for some and the work is very challenging.
“Many people do not realize the scale of the infrastructure or the size of the datasets involved.," that engineer said. "You cannot simply take an idea that worked at another company and apply it successfully here, new scales require new solutions. If you don't like being in uncharted territory then this may not be the place for you.”
THE REST OF THE LIST -- 11-25
Here is the rest of the top 25 list:
6. REI (sporting-goods retailer)
7. National Instruments (test-equipment maker)
8. LinkedIn (social-networking site)
9. Factset (financial services)
10. United Space Alliance (aircraft maintenance)
11. Rackspace (network services)
12. Orbitz (travel site)
13. Novell (networking)
14. Susquehanna (financial services)
15. Slalom Consulting (consulting)
16. Discover (credit-card provider)
17. Morningstar (financial-data service)
18. Wayfair (furniture and housewares)
19. Citrix (networking)
20. Hitachi Data Systems (information-technology services)
21. Southern California Edison (electric utility)
22. Bain & Company (consulting)
23. Navteq (engineering)
24. W. L. Gore (textile manufacturing)
25. Fluor (architecture and engineering)
OK, so what do you do if don’t work for one of those companies, you’re not ready to dust off the resume and you just really want a little more balance in your life?
John Sumser, an HR analyst, offered this advice on Glassdoor:
“Call your mentor (you DO have one, right?) Tell him or her that the world has been overtaken by demons and you need a quick head pull. This tool works if you both know that you have a problem and are willing to let someone else in on it,” Sumser wrote.
He also suggests taking a long walk, practicing breathing exercises, reading some spiritual literature and writing five thank-you notes (ahem, handwritten) to people who have helped you in the past month. Yes, I know you think this song is about you, don’t you, but thinking of others and forcing yourself to say nice things about them, Sumser says, can actually help get your perspective (CLICK!) back into place.
And, while I’m no HR expert, I would also add, do something ridiculous that helps blow off steam and hits the reset button full on with both hands. For example, earlier today, my colleagues and I, in the name of, um, product testing, shot a few toy arrows using a Zing Air Z-Curve Bow at a target crudely drawn on a dry-erase board.
I won, but of course, that’s not the point of this story. The point is, figure out what you can do to get some work-life balance back, draw your elbow back and then let it go.
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