Working from home can be wonderful: You avoid traffic, crowded trains and noisy co-workers, and you’re within your comfort zone. But it can also have a downside: Sometimes, you can get unbelievably distracted.
Between your professional duties and the responsibilities you have at home, working from your house can mix up your focus and take away from the work that really matters.
“Working from home can open up a lot of opportunities to do anything but work,” said Gerald D. Vinci, owner of Vinci Digital Marketing. “A pile of dishes in the sink or laundry in the hamper might be calling your name, but too often, these distractions wind up greatly impacting productivity.”
To help you avoid distractions and keep you on track, here are six strategies to use when you’re working from home. [See Related Story: Ready to Work from Home? Ask Yourself These 6 Questions]
Have a designated workspace
A dedicated space, whether a home office or a dedicated corner of the bedroom, is the key to staying successful and productive. You still need to feel that you have, in some way, “gone to work,” said Bill Conlon, corporate communications manager at business communications company Polycom.
Be technologically equipped
Beyond a reliable and speedy Wi-Fi connection, you’ll want strong collaboration tools that will let you hear, see and share effectively. Conlon noted that videoconferencing and content-sharing technologies are critical to being productive.
Stay connected with your co-workers
When employees work from home, the biggest thing they miss is the conversation and commentary that occur after the meeting, Conlon said. Make sure to use your cellphone, instant messaging or audio or video calls to check in. To avoid being forgotten by not being “seen,” consistently communicate about progress, ideas, insights and what you’re thinking — but make sure it’s relevant, he said.
Commit to work tasks during your working hours
For some people, keeping focused on their job while working remotely can be difficult, especially at first. When you’re on the clock, ignore the laundry, yard work, dish washing or cleaning. Conlon reminded telecommuters that this is another reason why having a dedicated workspace is so important.
Remember to move
It’s easy to stay glued to your desk or couch all day if you work from home, and that’s not good for your health or your mental acuity. Make sure you get up regularly, stretch your legs and walk around, Conlon said.
Working from home doesn’t need to literally mean “from home,” either. Getting face time with clients at a coffee shop, working in a Wi-Fi-capable location or changing scenery are ways to remain productive while moving around.
“I find myself running out to meet with clients or attending networking events on a weekly basis,” Vinci said. “By establishing a routine to dress and look the part, I can easily come and go throughout the day without stressing about getting ready for a last-minute meeting.”
Don’t work 24/7
Drawing a line of when work begins and ends is crucial as well. After work, it’s important to keep your home office door closed, as it’s easy to walk back in at midnight to check emails, Conlon said.
“Working from home could very well become a 24-hour-a-day job if you let it,” Vinci added. “Set office hours, and stick to them.”
Stress is a part of work. It provides the correct amount of pressure to complete a task with excellence and efficiency. When the anxiety becomes too overwhelming, however, stress follows you out of the office and affects your personal and professional lives.
While it may not be feasible or necessary to change jobs, here are a few steps to help you better manage your stress at work.
Identify the cause
It may seem simple, but identifying the root cause of your issues will help begin the healing process.
The American Psychological Association said some workplace stressors can be come from low salaries, excessive workloads, few opportunities for growth or advancement, work that’s uninteresting or that isn’t challenging, a lack of social support, and a lack of power over your career.
These issues can have negative physical side effects, long and short term. You may experience headaches, stomachaches or sleep disturbances; have a shorter temper; or have difficulty concentrating. Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system, the APA said. Such stress can also contribute to health conditions, such as depression, obesity and heart disease. Compounding the problem, people who experience excessive stress often deal with it in unhealthy ways such as by overeating, consuming unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes, or abusing drugs and alcohol. [See Related Story: 5 Simple Scientific Ways to Be Less Stressed at Work]
Once you’ve identified some of the stress weighing on you, assess your relationships with your co-workers. Do you have friendly relationships, or do you duck behind your computer screen and avoid contact? Slight changes to your communication and work style could establish a better connection with those around you and remove some anxiety.
Socialize with your co-workers. You don’t have to be a social butterfly and hit up happy hour every week, but making small talk with your colleagues might actually help you relax. Bring up light, interesting subjects and get a conversation going. This can be beneficial for productivity and stress release, said Austin Paley, corporate marketing communications manager at web-design agency Blue Fountain Media.
“You will begin to understand one another on a more individual level and work in a more collaborative environment as a result,” he added.
Even just getting to know the people on your immediate team can improve your mood and help you work together better.
Projects “can be very stressful if you’re working with people you don’t know well,” Paley said. “Lead the team you’re working with through team-building exercises when you have downtime — whether it’s playing a cooperative game, going out for food or just doing something you all love — together in your free time.”
Unplug. Being connected via your mobile device 24/7 comes with its own set of stressors. Constant phone calls, texts and email updates have become overwhelming, especially when you’re answering messages after clocking out for the evening.
Say yes more often when co-workers offer help on a big project or are willing to collaborate. This will alleviate some workload, and staying organized and on task will make for a more productive workflow.
“While there are undoubtedly instances when staying connected is legitimately necessary, it’s rare for a business to require that every team member stay logged on continuously. In fact, it’s in a company’s interest to allow employees to recover,” social psychologist Ron Friedman wrote for Fast Company. “If an associate is frequently working late into the night and through the weekend, she is likely doing so at a cost to long-term engagement.”
Keep a handwritten to-do list. Staying on task with a to-do list is essential for success. In the digital age, the notion of writing out your tasks for the day might seem tedious, wasteful and unnecessary. But Paley said that a prioritized, handwritten list of your most important to-do’s could help you get a clearer outline of what your day should look like.
“By having a handwritten to-do list, my tasks for the day never get lost amongst all the other things happening on my computer over the course of a day, and I don’t stress out over whether or not I’m forgetting any important tasks,” Paley said.
“[Writing] the list in the morning helps to outline what the day will look like and make it clearer at the beginning of the day what needs to get done. Additionally, crossing off items of your list physically can be incredibly gratifying and instill a feeling of relief and accomplishment.”
Do more for yourself
Your day-to-day practices and routines often play a huge role in your stress levels. Breaking bad habits and forging good ones can help you feel more at ease during the workday. Here are some good habits to adopt:
Schedule breaks into your day. If you’re glued to your chair for the entire workday and never give yourself any time away from work-related tasks, you’re much more likely to be stressed out. Paley advised building designated breaks into your daily schedule, and really sticking to them.
“Go for a walk, grab coffee, or take the time to sit down and have lunch,” Paley said. “All of these things give you the time to clear your mind, give your brain a break from whatever you’re working on and reduce stress. Breaks lasting no more than an hour won’t cut into your productivity and are especially beneficial if you work in a position where creativity is important.”
Paley noted that scheduling these breaks at similar times every day helps you train yourself to be prepared for a “brain reset,” making you far more productive over the course of a day.
Devote time to physical, mental and emotional self-maintenance. John Koeberer, author of “Green-Lighting Your Future: How to Manifest the Perfect Life” (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013), said a healthy diet and regular exercise, along with a good self-image and spiritual practices, can prepare you to deal with stress successfully.
“Just the knowledge that your mind, body and soul are in sturdy shape is a huge deterrent to stress getting a foothold,” Koeberer said.
Be kind to yourself. When you’re bogged down with stress-inducing projects and deadlines, it can be difficult to see beyond them. Even long-term assignments end eventually, so you just need to keep going and remember that the challenges you’re facing now will seem small and insignificant when you’ve finally overcome them.
“We can all recollect instances that we thought at the time were real deal-killers, only to have them turn out to be a small anthill,” Koeberer said. “Adopt the thought that this, too, shall pass.”
It may be impossible to eradicate every stressor from the workplace. You may not even want to do that, as some stress can be healthy and encourage you to meet deadlines and keep your head on straight. But working to eliminate bad stress and making your workplace healthier will change the way you view your job.
Choosing a career can be a difficult task. College students and seasoned professionals alike often seek out the advice of career counselors to get them on track for a fulfilling and enjoyable occupation. You might have an idea of what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about, but where do you begin the search for a job that lets you do both?
Whether you’re an entry-level candidate who’s unsure of where to apply or an older worker who wants a career change, follow these steps to help you decide your ideal path.
Determine if you’re really in the wrong career
If you’re considering a career change, chances are you already know you may be on the wrong track. You first need to determine if you’re in the wrong field or just the wrong environment.
“Many people who contact me don’t need a career change but just a move to another company,” said career coach Phyllis Mufson of Catalyst for Growth. “What was bothering them was their relationship with their supervisor, or the need for a new challenge, or perhaps they need a change of culture.”
However, if you frequently find yourself feeling anxious, bored or stressed at your current job and struggle with or dislike your daily tasks, a career transition may be necessary. Dreading going to work, constantly watching the clock and daydreaming about leaving your job are other telltale signs that you’re not where you should be.
People end up on the wrong career path for many reasons. They may choose a job to please a friend or family member, to achieve a certain status or salary, or simply because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
“We are taught that if we are good at something, we should do it as a career,” said Joanne Sperans, owner of Volo Coaching. “The problem is, we’re often good at several things, and we’re passionate about several things. It’s where those two meet that we should look. I know many people who followed a career because they were told they were good at it, and 20 years down the line, they found themselves miserable.”
Figure out what you want — and don’t want
Once you arrive at the decision to change careers, your next step is to ask yourself what you really want from your next job. Jane Sunley, CEO of employee engagement company Purple Cubed and author of “It’s Never OK to Kiss the Interviewer” (LID Publishing, 2014), said it’s best to be specific about your end goals when deciding on a new career direction. You can discover those goals by asking yourself questions such as:
What do you enjoy doing?
What skills do you use when doing the things you enjoy?
What means a lot to you?
What are you good at?
What do others admire about you and why?
What things do you do that you’re better at than others?
Once you’ve answered these questions, where you want to be and what you need to do to get there will become clearer, Sunley said.
You also need to consider what type of role you want. David DiMartile, president and managing director of DiMartile HR, said there are three generic roles in any given career: individual contributor, manager of people and executive. Based on your individual preferences and capabilities, you should determine which of these roles best suits you before settling on a specific career discipline.
“Each path requires different competencies, and not everyone is skilled in or can develop the required competencies,” DiMartile told Business News Daily. “Some of the questions that individuals need to ask themselves related to their competency skill level and job fit are: Am I most comfortable when others rely on me to solve problems, or when I am given solutions to implement? Would I rather lead a team or be a team member? Do I want recognition for my personal accomplishments or for the accomplishments of my team? Would I prefer dealing with the here and now or anticipating what challenges are ahead?”
Assess your background and personality
When you know what you want out of your career, evaluate your qualifications for jobs in that field. Two of the most important factors in choosing your ideal path are your background (education, previous experience, practical skills) and your personality (character traits, interests, values). Both should be taken into consideration, but depending on your desired career, your personality may be more important than what’s on your résumé.
“Obviously, for highly technical careers like engineering, medicine and law, training is very important,” Sperans said. “However, for the ‘softer’ roles, including executive management, personality traits — like a commitment to one’s workplace and employees, a strong work ethic and empathy — are as important if not more so. You can teach skills, but you can’t teach attitude and ethics.”
Holding a degree in your chosen field can certainly help, but not having one won’t necessarily bar you from getting a job. A person with the right aptitudes and a willingness to learn can be a good fit for a position, without having formal education in that field. Ideally, your career should be a place where your personality and background intersect.
“People who are thriving in their careers are easy to spot because there is such consistency — they are living what they do, and it shows,” said Lisa Severy, career services director at the University of Colorado and past president of the National Career Development Association. “People who are dissatisfied and stuck in their careers are usually experiencing some disconnect between what they are doing and who they are.”
Before you search for potential workplaces, Sunley advised defining your own personal values, so you can find an employer whose values align with yours.
“If you’re looking for a workplace where you can progress, make a contribution and enjoy yourself, it will help if you know in advance what the employer stands for and how they do things,” Sunley said. “If you know your own personal values, then you can compare these to those of the employers, telling you how they run their business and whether there will be any conflict. You can learn a lot by looking at [an employer’s] website, [but you can also] ask interviewers what’s important to their company. If you find that they don’t have an answer, then that should tell you a lot.”
Ask for advice, but don’t always take it
The people closest to you often take an interest in your success and want to offer their advice when you’re taking your life in a new direction. These individuals may know you fairly well and have nothing but good intentions, but ultimately, the decision about your career needs to be based on your own self-assessment.
“Suggestions can always be welcomed as a courtesy, but it is unlikely for friends and family to know all the dimensions of the person who is making a career choice,” said Jane Roqueplot, owner of JaneCo’s Sensible Solutions. “Most people don’t even realize their own total person until [they are] assessed to reveal the information about their style, aptitude and values. Family and friends can be far more important in helping one get a job after the appropriate career path has been determined.”
Similarly, Mufson noted that outside advice can be very helpful, but only if you take control and ask specific questions that will assist in your self-discovery and career research.
Be open to all possibilities
No matter what stage of your life or career you are in, the most important thing to remember when choosing a job is to keep your options open. If you’re just entering the job market, take the time to explore your interests and learn about different career paths.
“Trust your own instincts, and refrain from being swayed by naysayers,” said Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, owner of The Career Success Coach. “Know that trial and error in choosing a career path is part of the process.”
The same can be said for individuals making a career change. It’s never too late to achieve your professional goals. Even if you’ve been on the wrong path, you can still switch to a job that you may not have considered but that will make you far happier than the one you have now.
Feeling stressed and overwhelmed at your job? Science can help.
It’s well-known that things like exercising regularly and getting enough sleep are important for both your physical and mental health and can have a huge impact on your stress levels as a result. But when the stress of the office has got you down, you can’t always drop everything to take a nap or hit the gym. Luckily, just a few small changes to your daily routine can take your stress level down a few notches.
These five scientifically proven tips will have you feeling more relaxed and ready to take on the work week.
1. Go green.
Being stuck in a cubicle or office with fluorescent lighting all day isn’t the most relaxing or inspiring environment. When you’re stuck in a small workspace and the work keeps piling on, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and feel stressed. But studies show that adding plants to your workspace can do more than just liven up your desk — it can help you stay calm and collected, too.
A Washington State University study found that, by adding plants to a windowless work place (in this case, a college computer lab) workers were less stressed, more productive and felt more attentive.
Researchers measured participants’ blood pressure, emotions and reaction time to a computer task both in the presence and absence of plants. When plants were added to the environment, participants experienced a 12 percent quicker reaction time as well as lower systolic blood pressure readings, according to the study.
2. Try aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy is a holistic therapy technique that uses natural essential oils to improve physical and mental health. Essential oils can be used for many different reasons and in many ways (massage, topical application for healing, inhaling, etc.) but lavender and rosemary oils in particular have both been shown to have a positive effect on stress.
A study in the journal Holistic Nursing Practice found that smelling lavender and rosemary essential oils reduced test-taking stress in a group of graduate nursing students. This was “evidenced by lower scores on test-anxiety measures, personal statements and pulse rates,” according to the research.
Another study in the journal Psychiatry Research found that when sniffed for five minutes, both rosemary oil and lavender oil decreased levels of cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone,” in participants.
So how can you take advantage of this research? Keep small vials of lavender and rosemary oils in your desk, and when you start feeling overwhelmed, take a break to breathe deep and enjoy the scent. You can also try burning candles made with these essential oils to de-stress at home.
3. Chew gum.
Chewing gum isn’t just a great trick for avoiding that ear-popping sensation you experience on a flight — it’s actually an effective way to relieve stress, too, according to research from the Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia.
Researchers studied 40 subjects during performance on a multi-tasking, stress-inducing platform called DISS (Defined Intensity Stressor Simulation) while chewing and not chewing gum. Anxiety, stress and alertness levels were measured before and after the activity. When chewing gum, participants reported lower levels of anxiety, with an almost 17 percent decrease during mild stress, and 10 percent during moderate stress. They also experienced an improvement in alertness and performance, according to the study.
Most important, however, measurements of the subjects’ cortisol levels showed that those who chewed gum during the activity also experienced lower stress. During mild stress simulation, levels were 16 percent less than those of participants who did not chew gum, and 12 percent less during moderate stress.
4. Take a walk.
So, maybe you can’t hit the gym for a vigorous workout when your midday workload has you feeling extra stressed, but you can take a break to go for a quick walk. Not only is being sedentary all day bad for your physical health, it’s not good for your mental health, either. Taking a midday stroll could is a great way to stay more active and reduce stress, too.
According to a study from the Psychology and Speech Pathology School at Curtin University in Australia, taking lunchtime walk breaks can help employees feel less stressed in the afternoon, TIME reported. Researchers studied 75 university administrative staff members over a 10-week period and found that subjects felt more relaxed, more enthusiastic and less nervous on days they took lunchtime walks as opposed to those when they did not.
So whether you go for a walk with your work friends or you take a solo stroll, a few minutes of walking can really boost your mood and help you de-stress at work.
5. Schedule time for emails.
With dozens (maybe even hundreds) of emails popping up in your inbox all day long, stress is practically inevitable. But research shows that setting aside specific times for checking your email — as opposed to checking them as they come in — can lead to lower stress.
A study from the University of British Columbia found that when subjects were limited to checking their email three times a day, they experienced significantly lower daily stress than they did when they could check their email an unlimited number of times.
The researchers explained that “limiting the number of times people checked their email per day lessened tension during a particularly important activity and lowered overall day-to-day stress,” New York Magazine reported.
Now you have an excuse for being a little more laid back when it comes to responding to all those pesky emails — it’s better for your health!
Whether it’s a few days a month or a few days a week, the ability to work from home is becoming an increasingly common workplace perk.
According to a recent survey by WorldatWork and FlexJobs, 80 percent of today’s companies offer flexible work arrangements for their employees, including the option to occasionally telework. FlexJobs also found that 76 percent of people said their home, not the office, is their preferred place to work when they need to get important things done.
Although many of these programs are discretionary and on an ad-hoc basis, nearly half of employers who allow remote work said telecommuters are just as productive as in-office employees. But is a remote work arrangement the right one for you?
Questions to ask yourself
Employees thinking about working from home need to consider all of the factors that come with working remotely. Jane Sunley, CEO of employee-engagement company Purple Cubed and author of “It’s Never OK to Kiss the Interviewer” (LID Publishing, 2014), advised potential telecommuters to ask themselves the following questions before changing their work structures:
Am I happy spending long periods of time on my own?
Am I self-disciplined and self-motivated?
Am I confident working without supervision?
Am I comfortable communicating with my colleagues via email, chat, videoconference, etc. instead of face to face?
Do I have a quiet, distraction-free area at home in which to focus on my work?
Will telecommuting help me achieve the work-life balance I want?
If the answer is “yes” to all of these, telecommuting could be the right choice for you.
Consider your personality
Scott Boyar, an associate professor in the Department of Management, Information Systems and Quantitative Methods at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said that whether an employee is successful working from home depends on the person, the job and the training the organization provides for the individual to do that role remotely.
“An organization has a lot of responsibility when letting workers go virtual, but the employee carries a lot of it too,” Boyar said.
Some professionals may not have the personality suited for remotely working a few times a week. The best way to determine if you’re ready is to do a real audit of your abilities and skills, said Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs.
“I recommend talking with other people who work from home regularly, to find out their perspective on what it’s really like and what you can expect,” said Sutton Fell. “Whether you know people in real life, search online for people’s stories, or ask questions on sites like LinkedIn or Quora to gather people’s opinions, try to get a good sense of what it’s really like to work from home, and whether you’re ready for it.”
Asking your boss
If you’ve decided you’re well-suited for remote work, how do you bring it up to your boss?
“The best time to [discuss working from home] is after you’ve thought your options through,” Sutton Fell said. “You should be ready to discuss how often you want to work from home [and] how you think it will benefit your job, team and company.”
Sunley noted that it’s easy for telecommuters to forget about taking breaks, which can decrease productivity over time. Remote employees need to be willing and able to structure their days to include those breaks, but also set boundaries with friends and families to maintain good work habits.
“You may now appear more available to not realize the demands that working from home requires,” Sunley told Business News Daily.
If your employer isn’t on board with full-time remote work, Boyar noted that an ideal situation for most employees may involve a combination of working in the office and at home throughout the week.
“There are many benefits to working from both the home and the office,” Sutton Fell added. “In some ways, it gives you the best of both worlds, because at home, you get a quiet space that you can control to help you focus and dig deeply into projects and important work.”
Working long hours does not necessarily equate to increased productivity, found new research from the B2B marketplace Expert Market.
Researchers came to their conclusions after examining the workforces of 35 countries around the world. Specifically, they determined each country’s level of productivity by dividing the annual gross domestic product (GDP) — the value of all of the goods and services produced within each country over a year — by the average number of hours worked by both full-time and part-time employees in a five-day workweek.
Overall, the U.S. ranked eighth worldwide in terms of productivity. Based on the average workweek of 34.4 hours, American employees produce an average of $31.19 per hour and $214.59 per week.
But that’s only about half of what employees in Luxembourg churn out. Employees in the small European country (which borders France, Germany and Belgium) topped this year’s list, with employees working 31.6 hours each week and producing $60.26 per hour and $381 per week. [See Related Story: Want to Boost Employee Productivity? Offer an Incentive]
The study revealed that all seven of the countries that were ranked ahead of the U.S. have employees who work fewer hours each year than employees in the United States. For example, Germany has the shortest average workweek, at 26 hours, yet still produces $34.21 per hour.
On the flip side, of the countries included in the study, employees in Mexico and Costa Rica work the most hours each week — 42.85 hours and 42.65 hours, respectively, yet they rank the worst in productivity. Mexicans produce just $7.85 per hour, while Costa Rican employees produce $6.99 per hour.
Michael Horrocks, a publishing manager at Expert Market, said the research proves that hours spent in the office do not equate to business success and that chaining your workers to their desks doesn’t benefit anyone.
“Hopefully, this means that the culture of presenteeism will be a thing of the past and we will see a more flexible and balanced approach to work in the future,” Horrocks said in a statement. “Employees are clearly more beneficial to organizations when they are happier, so in this instance, what’s good for the individual is also what’s good for business.”
The top 10 countries in the study in terms of productivity were:
Luxembourg – hours worked per week: 31.6; hourly productivity: $60.26
Norway – hours worked: 27.4; hourly productivity: $47.93
Australia – hours worked: 32; hourly productivity: $39.30
Switzerland – hours worked: 30.15; hourly productivity: $39.30
Netherlands – hours worked: 27.4; hourly productivity: $34.53
Germany – hours worked: 26.4; hourly productivity: $34.21
Denmark – hours worked: 27.6; hourly productivity: $31.82
United States – hours worked: 34.4; hourly productivity: $31.19
Ireland – hours worked: 35; hourly productivity: $30.47
Sweden – hours worked: 30.9; hourly productivity: $29.77
The countries ranking in the bottom 10 were Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile, Latvia, Russia, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Portugal and Estonia.
Many studies suggest that longer hours in the office decreases productivity due to employee stress and burnout, and experts advise taking breaks and time away from work. Check out this Business News Daily article for more tips on decreasing workplace stress.
Though many employees strive to attain a positive work-life balance, achieving it is easier said than done.
A new study by career site Glassdoor revealed that some employers are more generous than others in giving employees those perks, which include flexible schedules and the opportunity to work from home.
Leading the way is business analytics software and services provider SAS Institute, which tops this year’s rankings of the best companies for work-life balance. The North Carolina-based company earned high marks from employees for its flexible work options, 35-hour workweeks and other benefits, like the opportunity to have their own office.
Allyson Willoughby, Glassdoor’s senior vice president of people, said promoting a healthy work-life balance can help with both recruiting and retention efforts.
“By encouraging a healthy work-life balance — such as instituting flexible schedules, the option to work from home or even fostering managers to recognize employees are people with lives outside of work — employers can build a really solid company culture that employees appreciate and want to be a part of, leading them to stay longer and, oftentimes, be more productive as well,” Willoughby told BusinessNewsDaily.
This year’s rankings were based solely on the input of employees who elected to participate in an online company review survey. The survey gathered employee feedback on some of the best and worst reasons to work for their employer.
Other organizations ranked on this year’s Top 25 Companies for Work-Life Balance include the following:
“Employees at top companies on this list report workplace benefits like flexible schedules, telecommuting, and perks such as child care on-site, laundry on-site or transportation to and from work as positives that contribute to a healthy work-life balance,” Willoughby said. “For employers, it’s important to recognize that these are easily adoptable practices that resonate among employees at the highest-rated companies for work-life balance, so they are policies to consider.”
This is the third year in a row that Glassdoor has ranked companies based on their work-life balance.
Want to retain your best employees? Your first thought may be to offer them a raise, but as it turns out, the old adage is right: Money doesn’t buy happiness.
“Bonuses, company perks and paid days off aren’t enough to keep employees happy,” said Pete Pedone, president and founder of home audio/video system design firm Interactive Home. “Showing an employee how much the company appreciates, respects and values them on a personal level is much more gratifying.”
Many studies have shown that employees with high job satisfaction are generally more productive, engaged and loyal to their companies. Hiring managers, HR experts and business leaders weighed in on the best ways to keep employees satisfied when salary isn’t the driving factor.
“Our employee engagement survey found that the No. 1 contributor to employee happiness is transparency. Money and promotions are important, but what people want to know is the truth about the state of the company. The cost of improving transparency is almost zero, but it requires an ongoing dialogue between management and staff.” – B.J. Shannon, manager of customer happiness at TINYpulse
Make work-life balance a priority
“To engage the workforce and remain competitive, it’s no longer sufficient to focus solely on benefits. Top employers create an environment where employees feel connected to the organization and have a positive work experience that’s part of a rich, fulfilling life. – David Ballard, assistant executive director for organizational excellence at the American Psychological Association
Encourage communication in common areas
“Businesses should take steps to create spaces where employees can easily communicate and share ideas. Casual conversations in the break room can become collaborative conversations. Make it inviting and effective, with nice furniture, tables, and snacks and beverages, if possible.” – Tom Heisroth, senior vice president at Staples Advantage
Create a career pathway
“[Our research] found that providing developmental support, such as training opportunities and career mentoring, to employees who do not believe there are attractive career opportunities for them within the company led to such employees leaving the organization. It’s critical for businesses to have regular career planning discussions with their employees. As part of training and development, make sure employees are aware of the different types of career paths or job opportunities throughout the company.” – Maria Kraimer, business professor at the University of Iowa
Recognize and reward employees
“Achievement and recognition are high motivators for employees. If they take risks, reward them. Give them a coupon to go out for dinner, an extra day off, tickets to a show, etc. The small stuff adds up.” – Charley Polachi, managing partner at Polachi Access Executive Search
Help employees be healthier
“We are seeing employers increasingly realize the importance that health and productivity programs can play in their efforts to control health care costs and maintain a productive workforce. While the outcomes of any one tactic can’t be guaranteed, high-effectiveness companies with thoughtful, multifaceted programs are reaping clear returns on their investments in workforce health.” – Wendy Poirier, health and group benefits leader at Towers Watson
Offer benefits beyond the basics
“There are many ways to supplement salary by assisting employees in other areas of their lives. You can offer an extra level of life insurance or disability insurance for employees to protect their incomes. Other ancillary benefits, such as dental, optical [and] wellness, are all well received by employees. And gym memberships and transit benefits are great perks to keep employees happy and healthy. It is important to [provide] higher benefits so your employees know that you truly care about them and their families.” – Bobby Hotaling, president and CEO of The Hotaling Group
Cut back on emails and meetings
“Many employees feel that a flooded inbox and a constant string of meetings waste time and hinder productivity. Replace some of those emails and meetings with technology that helps them save time and collaborate more efficiently.” – Sydney Sloan, director of customer and social marketing at Jive
Make employees part of the big picture
“The best benefit you can provide to your employees is the opportunity to make a difference through their work and help guide the course of the company. Benefits such as clear and frequent communication on company happenings, individual and department direction, and big-picture company direction make all the difference in employee happiness.” – Anthony Smith, CEO and founder of Insightly
Keep in touch
“A one-on-one conversation with an employee or group dinner goes a long way. Whether it be a private conversation at the start of the day, taking them out to lunch or even a beer after work, [it] helps keep that bond. Once you stop ‘showing the love,’ you begin to lose employees. A small company has to go the extra step.” – Pete Pedone
Ask employees for their input
“Companies should consider surveying their own workforce to gauge their satisfaction levels. Insights from employees themselves can point employers in the right direction for shaping a more a positive and creative work environment, and for developing more formal career development programs. By partnering with employees to improve their satisfaction levels, employers will reap business benefits today and tomorrow.” – Sandy Mazur, president of Spherion
Everyone wants a healthy work-life balance, but it seems that few are able to achieve it. Some even say that true balance is unattainable, because it doesn’t exist in the modern world — smart devices ensure that workers are connected to the office 24/7, eradicating the line that once existed between “home” and “work” time.
“Smartphones are the modern professional’s biggest blessing and biggest curse,” said Lewis Howes, entrepreneur and author of “The School of Greatness” (Rodale Books, 2015). “Because of them, I can work from anywhere at any time and be really efficient with my downtime. However, there’s [also] no stopping me from working ’round the clock.”
With no clear boundaries, work-life balance does appear to be a goal that’s just out of reach. However, as many experts on the subject have pointed out, balance isn’t about building an impenetrable wall between your personal and professional lives, but finding ways to connect and integrate the two.
In their speaking series CEO Real Talk, entrepreneurs and business experts Garnett Newcombe and Kay Woods frequently cover the topic of work-life balance, and acknowledge that it’s difficult to navigate the high demands of both career and home responsibilities. Newcombe and Woods told Business News Daily that employees often lack the ability to prioritize and balance their work and family life. Workers also have trouble overcoming the guilt of working long hours and accepting the need for individual personal time.
So what can workers do to stop stressing and start getting work-life balance right? Here are six actionable ways to help you adjust your attitude and feel more in control right now.
Recognize the role of work. Work plays a significant part in life. It keeps the lights on, pays the mortgage, makes the car payment, funds retirement and permits yearly vacations, Newcombe said. Adopting the right mind-set allows you to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of your labor, rather than making your job seem like endless drudgery.
Develop one calendar for work and family. A calendar keeps you accountable to both work and family. When a calendar is implemented, Woods said, you will be able to schedule work activities during the work day and establish a cutoff time to be with family.
Create (and stick to) a daily routine. Like maintaining a calendar, implementing a strong daily routine will help keep you on track to achieve the balance you want. Howes noted that setting strong habits, such as sleeping 8 hours, avoiding checking your email for the first couple hours of the day, getting outside daily, and taking time to eat right and work out, will make you healthier and happier.
“It will absolutely reflect in your mental clarity, emotional capacity, relationships and creativity,” Howes said. “Those are the traits that make up the greatest leaders and most successful people.”
Learn to breathe. Work can get so demanding that you experience anxiety or become overwhelmed, causing you to literally or figuratively hold your breath. Neither state can be maintained for long if you want to be healthy. Relax, release and breathe, Newcombe said. As you slow down, it gives you the opportunity to regroup and assess where you are.
Make time for yourself. Feeling overwhelmed with work? Clear a small block of time on your schedule today to truly disconnect from your job (that’s right, shut your phone off) and do something that relaxes you.
“Whether you take a walk in the park, get a massage or [take] a hot bath, it’s important to always set aside an hour a week to do something for yourself,” said Mark Feldman, vice president of marketing at Seven Step RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing). “If you don’t, the time will seem to fly by, resulting in your stress levels and exhaustion going up.”
Be present, consistent and accountable. Being present requires you to be attentive at home, at work and during free time, Woods said. Where you spend your time and energy has a direct connection to how successful you are in achieving work-life balance.
Today’s employers place a high premium on keeping workers happy. After all, research shows that happy workers are the most productive.
A strong mission, like-minded co-workers and a great company culture can be rewarding, but there are other, unique perks that can both attract prospective employees and keep your existing ones motivated and engaged. Here are 15 awesome perks offered by large and small businesses across the country.
1. No official work hours
What 9 to 5? At Netflix’s California headquarters, vacation days and work hours aren’t tracked. The company only measures what people get done — so, as long as employees do their work, it doesn’t matter when or for how long they’re in the office. But Netflix’s staff members know better than to slack off: Abusing this policy gets you a one-way ticket out the door.
2. Tons of time off
When you work hard, it’s nice to have an employer that lets you play hard, too. Some big-name companies, such as Glassdoor and Virgin Group, offer unlimited time off. However, this type of policy usually discourages employees from actually taking vacation days because there’s no incentive to “use it or lose it.” Boston-based Metis Communications does put a cap on its employees’ paid time off, but the amount is incredibly generous: On top of the standard three weeks of vacation time (four, if you’ve been there four years or more), staff members get their birthdays off, a bonus vacation week during the last week of December and, after five years of employment, summer Friday vacation days. [See Related Story: 5 Ways to Cultivate Happy Employees]
3. Focus on family
Forget standard maternity leave. Facebook offers some incredible perks for parents and parents-to-be. New moms and dads get four months of paid parental leave, reimbursement for day care and adoption fees, and up to $4,000 in “baby cash” after their child is born.
Similarly, fast-food restaurant chain Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop allows its on-staff parents to take time off, no questions asked, to attend their children’s events and activities.
4. Food for thought
Lots of companies offer employee enrichment programs, but for most, these beneficial lectures and events typically happen only a few times a year. But footwear brand BucketFeet sponsors a monthly Learning Series, an hour-long gathering where employees listen to a guest speaker and ask questions. Co-founder and CEO Raaja Nemani said the team really values these informal sessions, which usually have a clear tie to the company’s mission and values.
5. On-site health services
Everyone seems to want to work for Google, and for good reason: It’s the king of amazing employee benefits. There are lists dedicated to all of Google’s perks, but it’s the company’s commitment to its workers’ health that sets it apart: In addition to medical doctors, you’ll find physical therapists, chiropractors and massage therapists on the Google campus.
6. Total wellness
It may not have on-staff physicians as Google does, but the Institute for Integrative Nutrition does a pretty good job of making sure its employees have what they need for physical and mental wellness. A professional chef prepares a healthy organic lunch for the staff every day (breakfast and snacks are also provided), and fresh flowers are placed on everyone’s desk. If biweekly chair massages and in-house yoga classes aren’t enough to de-stress you, just go on the staff yoga retreat.
7. Continuing education
Higher education is undoubtedly valuable to any employee, but it’s a privilege that not everyone can afford. Starbucks offers a College Achievement Plan, a program that allows all eligible U.S. employees (those who work 20 hours or more per week) to earn a bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program, with full tuition coverage.
While smaller companies may not be able to afford four-year degrees for their staff, they still find ways to invest in their employees’ personal development. For example, Los Angeles-based Konnect PR offers financial assistance for employee classes and other educational interests.
8. Midday surfing
It makes sense that a company selling outdoor clothing and equipment would want its employees to stay physically fit. Based in California, Patagonia provides company bikes, volleyball courts and on-site yoga for its workers. Employees are also encouraged to catch a wave or two in the middle of the workday: The reception desk posts daily surf reports and makes companywide announcements on especially good surf days.
9. Volunteer hours
Millennials are known for their social consciousness, and numerous studies have shown that this generation, in particular, values brands and employers that emphasize doing good in the world. That’s why companies like The Goddard School, Jennifer Adams Worldwide and Zimbra give their employees paid time off and/or flexible work hours to engage in volunteer projects. In another Business News Daily article, Zimbra CEO Patrick Brandt said civic engagement is a necessity in the modern workplace, and ultimately boosts staff morale.
10. Event tickets and transportation
Employees of Quicken Loans don’t get into all events for free — just the ones happening at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Quicken CEO Dan Gilbert owns the Cleveland Cavaliers, so workers get transportation and tickets to home games. They can also snag seats for the various concerts, comedy shows and other events happening at “The Q.”
11. Game time
Quicken Loans’ employees may get to attend basketball games, but Zynga staff members actually get to play on the company’s full-size courts. The San Francisco-based gaming company (perhaps unsurprisingly) also has in-house relaxation lounges with classic arcade games and Nintendo, Xbox 360 and PS3 gaming systems for its workers to enjoy.
12. Extra credit
At Weebly, every employee gets a company credit card, presumably for anything the company’s workers might need during the workday (with no set hours, just like Netflix’s policy). As if that weren’t enough, the web-hosting company also provides a $50 monthly credit to Exec, a housecleaning and errand-running service, for when its workers are too busy enjoying their free meals, gym membership or bimonthly massage.
13. Student loan debt reimbursement
As many recent grads struggle to pay off student loans, some companies are offering an attractive perk: student loan debt reimbursement. For example, PwC offers its employees $1,200 a year strictly toward student loan debt.
14. Freedom (and money) to travel
For every five years employees have been at Epic Systems, they are eligible for a four-week paid sabbatical. In addition, if they choose to travel during this time, the company helps fund the trip for each employee and one guest.
15. Snow days
Snow days aren’t just for students: Employees of Burton celebrate “snow days” with their season ski passes, courtesy of the company. Burton is based in Burlington, Vermont, which offers beautiful scenery as well as ski resorts within an hour’s drive, so workers are guaranteed some fun on the slopes.
Have you ever skipped out on happy hour with your colleagues? Speculated with an officemate about those two co-workers who are getting a little too friendly? Gone to a networking event you didn’t care about just because someone influential would be there? For most people, the answer to at least one of these questions is yes.
On the surface, these all probably seem harmless; you may not even think twice about them. While declining a few social invitations certainly won’t get you fired, habits like these could damage your professional reputation over time. Here are six common actions that are worse for your career than you may realize.
Engaging in office gossip. Smart workers know better than to spread rumors about their colleagues, but many people get sucked into the occasional game of “he said, she said” in the office. Or perhaps you don’t contribute to the conversations, but you’ve listened intently when someone else told a juicy story. You spend most of your waking hours with these individuals, so it’s only natural that they’d be the subject of less-than-professional conversations now and then, right? Not necessarily, said Cristin Sturchio, global head of talent at business research company Cognolink.
“You might think that everyone does it and it’s no big deal, [but] office gossip is harmful,” Sturchio told Business News Daily. “If you align yourself with gossips, your reputation will suffer, because people know who the gossips are in a company and they are not trusted. Besides, if someone is talking to you about someone else, what do you think they’re saying about you when you’re not around? Be brave and politely tell the people around to stop gossiping.”
Being a “yes man/woman.” You’ve seen them in movies and TV shows, and probably even know some yourself: the people who take the boss’s word as gospel and never dare to disagree. Sucking up and telling the boss exactly what he or she wants to hear may seem like a smart strategy to stay on management’s good side, and you should support your manager if you genuinely agree with his or her approach. But the truth is, no one likes a sycophant.
“What is the value of an employee if he or she doesn’t bring anything to the table?” said Ruslan Fazlyev, CEO of e-commerce solution Ecwid. “Companies hire different individuals for their unique perspectives and skills. So do not hesitate to speak up when you think there is a better way to address something.”
Skipping workplace social events. You’re tired. You’ve already made other plans. You don’t want to be out late. These trite excuses are your ticket out of an after-work group outing you’d really rather not attend. It’s technically not part of your job description, so you may not feel any obligation to spend more time with the people you just clocked eight-plus hours with today. However, you might want to reconsider your stance if you hope to bond with people who could one day boost your career.
“Not everyone loves going to office social gatherings, but if you don’t go to any, you miss out on building relationships with colleagues,” Sturchio said. “You can’t get results without relationships — they go hand-in-hand. These events are also opportunities to get in front of people you may not interact much with in the office.”
Faking an interest for the sake of networking. The opposite career-killing problem occurs when a person attends every event they possibly can, even if they have no interest in it, just for the chance to network with someone influential in the individual’s industry. This is especially true in the higher levels of the corporate world, where golf outings and tennis matches are the ultimate work-leisure activities. But Suni Munshani, CEO of data security firm Protegrity, advised against feigning interest in anything in the name of networking.
“I’ve seen people take up [sporting] activities thinking that they will be able to form friendships with powerful executives who like those activities,” Munshani said. “However, the people who really enjoy those things can see right through someone who is just doing it for networking opportunities.”
Munshani suggested pursuing your own interests outside of work before taking up someone else’s hobby. When you engage in things you’re passionate about, the right networking opportunities will occur naturally, and you can develop business relationships based on mutual respect, he said.
Staying at a job for the money. Struggling with the choice between a job that pays well and a job you genuinely love is more common than you think. The big paycheck is nice, but is it really worth it to be stuck doing something you hate? If your financial situation allows for it, it’s always better to take an opportunity that lets you pursue your passion. You may have to give up a few luxuries, but at least you won’t be stressed and miserable going to work every day.
“If you choose a job that you do not enjoy because of the higher income, then you’re trapped,” Fazlyev said. “Doing something you don’t like will negatively impact your career development. Your peers who chose to pursue their dream job will see a steady growth professionally and income-wise, while you will most likely not because you lack the passion. Your personal life could also be affected if you do not enjoy your job.”
Walking away without fixing issues. Any professional who’s had a rough week (or month or year) has likely contemplated throwing in the towel and looking for a new job. If you’re having problems with your job duties or co-workers, it’s best to try to work through your issues before deciding to quit.
Munshani gave an example of a former employee who was unable to effectively communicate with his team and supervisors when market changes forced the company to take a new approach. When it was time to implement a plan, the employee couldn’t explain what he needed his team to do, nor could he explain to management what the team needed in order to be successful through the transition.
“Rather than work on improving those skills or asking for help from others, he ended up leaving the company and giving up a potential $1 million in compensation he could have earned if he had seen the transition through,” Munshani said.