Today's employees expect more than just to have a life outside of work: They expect their lives to take priority over their work. Smart employers know this, and they work to accommodate their employees as much as possible in this regard. Need time off to attend a child's play? No problem. Want to adjust work hours around heavy commute times? Makes sense. Why not?
Recently, an employee told me about the time, several years ago, when she was grappling with some difficult personal issues. Her struggle did not go unnoticed. In the middle of a meeting, her manager looked at her from across the conference room table and said: “Mary, I want you to go home, take care of whatever you need to take care of there, and come back when you're ready.” She did, and she returned to work later, grateful and refocused.
In one major corporation for which I consulted, more than 50 percent of the employees said they would like recognition to involve their families. They did not feel that traditional rewards — such as years-of-service awards — were even a form of recognition. After all, if everyone gets the same pin, for example, it tends not to make any one person feel special. They thought that a choice of a Weber grill to enjoy with one's family, or a bed-and-breakfast weekend getaway to share with one's spouse, would make that 10-year service anniversary a bit more memorable.
Other companies work to integrate employees' families with their work life. At Hewitt Associates, a compensation-and-benefits firm headquartered in Lincolnshire, Ill., employees' spouses are invited to attend company orientation. The company also sends a fruit basket home after a project is completed, thanking an employee's family for all their support in the long hours the employee had to work late on the project.
I personally feel it is important to “put back” when you draw from the home front. If you need to ask an employee to work on a project over the weekend, do something to refurbish the good will on the home front — perhaps an American Express restaurant voucher the employee can use to take a spouse or significant other out to any restaurant in town. Such actions are good business, plain and simple.
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