Work-Life Balance (Jeff Hankins Publisher's Note)

For the last seven years, we have played an active role with the statewide awards event celebrating companies that are family-friendly and understand the value of helping employees balance work and life.

In a tight labor market, companies that embraced this concept won many recruiting wars. Those that continue these practices even in a recession when job candidates are plentiful will prevail in the coming years when the labor market tightens again.

Here are some of the best initiatives that we heard last week at the Governor’s Work-Life Balance Awards event:

• Several companies took on initiatives to help employees who were commuting and facing $4 a gallon gasoline. These included lodging options, paying for gasoline, shorter workweeks or work-from-home options.

• Nabholz Construction Co. uses a wellness coordinator to assist employees with a variety of health issues, from exercise to smoking cessation.

• Flexible work hours remain popular to help employees accommodate college classes, reduce travel time or enable them to use transit systems.

• The Benchmark Group pays for two hours of personal legal services for employees each year and provides a catered lunch once a week.

• The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith rewards employees with health and dental insurance cost benefits if they enroll in an employee wellness program.

• Delta Dental of Arkansas pays for a prescription smoking-cessation drug that isn’t covered by health insurance and pays bonuses to employees who meet and maintain weight-loss goals.

• 3M helps employees pay for adoption expenses.

• Southwestern Electric Power Co. offers pet insurance for veterinary care.

• Procter & Gamble Distributing LLC drew gasps and applause when it was announced that it brings a massage therapist to the office twice weekly.

• At Daisy Outdoor Products, the boss has a variety of surprises: giving employees the afternoon before Thanksgiving off or having pizza delivered on a wintry day so employees don’t have to venture out on the roads.

• Mid-South Health Systems Inc. brings in a mobile mammography unit for on-site testing of women employees so they don’t have to take time off from work or family.

Additional awards honored companies that reach out to mature workers. The Arkansas Educational Television Network has a formal mentor program in which its most experienced staff work closely with new employees. Bank of the Ozarks allows time-off considerations for employees who want to travel with a retired spouse.

Our experience at Arkansas Business Publishing Group has been that sometimes small, relatively inexpensive efforts can go a long way toward staff happiness. The ice cream truck coming by during the summer, occasional free lunches being served and even installation of automated paper dispensers in the restrooms all add up to positive feedback and a happier staff.

You can find more ideas in the special Work-Life Balance Awards section in this week’s newspaper edition of Arkansas Business. Initiate a few of these, and you’ll be amazed by the impact on your staff.

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Lance Turner (@LT) and Natalie Ghidotti (@ghidotti) hosted last week the first Little Rock “Tweetup,” which pulled together users of the Twitter social media application.

About 45 people gathered after learning about the event almost exclusively through Twitter social networking. The demographics were quite a mix, but I’m guessing: 60 percent men, 90 percent under 40 years old, and almost all working in some type of white-collar professional capacity, with marketing and technology types in particular.

One interesting note from this exercise: Neither Twitter, the organizers nor Arkansas Business made a penny on this particular event. But the ability to bring people together through this medium with virtually no cost was remarkableand can’t be ignored by marketers.    

Jeff Hankins can be reached via e-mail at jhankins@abpg.com and followed on Twitter @JeffHankins.