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How To Achieve Work-Life Balance

Finding a balance between your career and your personal life is a challenge that is often faced across industries and professions. But what does it really look like to balance both successfully? With the pandemic, work environments have changed and there has been an increase in remote work. Employees have enjoyed the added flexibility but there is a new challenge of knowing when to disconnect. We’ve laid out a few ways you can encourage your employees to balance their work and play. In return, your employees will have increased productivity, improved overall happiness, and fewer health issues

Encourage Meaningful Breaks 

It can be draining to work a full day without time to decompress. That’s where breaks come in. A break can range from a 15 minute microbreak at your desk to an hour-long walk with your dog during lunch. It can be tempting to work through the lunch break when you’re behind or simply want to get ahead, but it’s crucial to take the time for yourself. It’s important to break up your work day and encourage your employees to do the same, especially when they work remotely.  

Set Boundaries and Communicate Them Company-Wide

It can be challenging to truly unplug from work. That being said, it’s not only important but it’s necessary. Encourage employees to utilize their calendar to block off when they will be unavailable and stick to those commitments. If your company uses Slack, Microsoft Teams, or any other communication tool, have your teams mute their notifications past working hours and update their status if they are away. If your employees have access to email on their cell phone, it’s also a good idea to mute notifications when not working. 

Offer A Flexible Working Environment 

When an employee feels valued and trusted at their company, it’s proven that they will perform better and stay longer. Employees who have the freedom to manage their time will feel less burnt out and use their time more efficiently. For example, employees who feel unable to complete outside of work responsibilities such as a doctor’s appointment during the workday will feel an added stress trying to fit everything into their day. If your employees are unable to step away during the day, allow for flexible scheduling and hours. Set the expectations early on and allow your team to perform where and when it works best for them. 

Lead By Example 

Leaders play a big role in the workplace. As important as it is for your employees to have a work-life balance, it’s just as important for managers and leadership to as well. With heavy workloads and busy schedules, there are times when it is necessary to work extra hours. But, that doesn’t mean breaks and boundaries shouldn’t exist. Set an example for your employees by utilizing your time off, setting working hours, and communicating flexibility. Not only that, but ensure your team’s are aware that they are not expected to respond to any messages or emails sent after their working hours. You’ll see that with time, employees feel more trusted and engaged when you lead by example

It is challenging to balance your employees’ workload and their everyday life effectively. As an HR leader, there are plenty of ways to encourage a balance and set expectations at a company-wide level. By promoting work-life balance, your employees will be less stressed, more engaged, and a lot more content. 

Interested in taking your efforts further? Download our E-Book “Building Culture in the New Normal” to see how to start building or rebuilding culture in our changing world and workplace.

National Work and Family Month

In 2003, Congress declared October National Work and Family Month. According to Former President Barack Obama’s official White House statement in 2010, “National Work and Family Month serves as a reminder to all of us, especially working caregivers, their families, and their employers, that while we have made great strides as a nation to adopt more flexible policies in the workplace, there’s more we can do.”

national work and family month

Great Strides

Yes, as a nation, we’ve come a long way and that’s worth celebrating. Less than 100 years ago, during World War II, women began to flood into the workforce, increasing from 27 percent of the working population to 37 percent in just five years, meaning one in four women were working outside the home for the first time. Today, 54 percent of the U.S. workforce are women, showing the great strides we’ve made in a relatively short amount of time.

There’s More We Can Do

But, October is off to a rough start. From natural disasters in Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico, to the mass shootings in Las Vegas, now more than ever is the time for employers to remember the humanity their companies were built to serve. This means providing a flexible work environment that understands the needs of parents and their growing families.

1. Provide Better Policies

This is the bare minimum of what companies can do to provide a flexible work environment for employees. While the Family and Medical Leave Act was implemented in 1993, the U.S. still falls way behind when it comes to providing mandatory paternity leave. The first thing an employer should do is provide policies that protect their employees against discrimination and encourage them to take necessary time away when starting their families.

2. Walk the Talk

Plenty of companies boast of their workplace flexibility, but few are actually practicing what they preach. We hear of countless employers providing “unlimited paid time-off” but the reality is without clear expectations or good management, employees are left with guilt and misunderstanding, and often take less days off than before. When thinking about expectations, this seems to incite negative connotations for many of us. But expectations can also mean encouraging an employee to stay home when they’re not feeling well or take a few days off when a big project wraps up. At PerkSpot, we are lucky to have implemented this policy with great success, but not without constant work and re-evaluation. It works because the managers provide clear expectations of when to take time off and when we should be in the office. Plus, they model the benefits by taking off for week-long family vacations or much-needed downtime.

3. Lead by Example

This brings us to our next point. No company policy in and of itself is going to solve problems. That’s where it’s important to hire and train effective managers who not only implement policies, but who can model this behavior to their team. No one feels safe to take time off when the boss is sneezing all day long in their office. Managers, take care of yourselves and take care of your team.

4. Bend the Rules

Even your most flexible policies might stand in the way, so don’t be afraid to bend a little. We’re all human and we all face circumstances out of our control. Think outside the HR box and get creative. There’s a time and a place for every rule so make sure you discuss when a situation might arise that requires a reassessment of company policies. Being flexible means being flexible… even when it comes to your policies.

What are some ways you’re celebrating National Work and Family Month? How has your company made strides to protect families inside the workplace?

Why We Decided to Offer Sabbaticals This Year

While we operate like a start-up, we actually celebrated TEN years at PerkSpot last year. With this longevity came a need to reward and challenge our employees who have been around for the long haul. That’s why this year PerkSpot decided to offer sabbaticals to our more tenured employees.
sabbaticals

What is a Sabbatical?

Sabbatical comes from the word “sabbath”, which means “rest”. A sabbatical is a paid leave granted to an employee after they have fulfilled a set number of years in service at their company. In our case, this begins with a two week paid leave after an employee has been with PerkSpot for three years and is increased to three weeks after five years.

 

What is the Purpose of a Sabbatical?

There are many reasons behind taking a sabbatical. In addition to giving employees some much needed time off, a sabbatical should also be focused on personal and professional development. Each employee is encouraged to spend the time away pursuing their “hopes and dreams”. Oftentimes we find ourselves so caught up in the daily grind, we forget about those bigger goals and aspirations we want to accomplish. This could mean perfecting your Spanish with lessons in Cuba or discovering artifacts on an archeological dig (yes, these are real PerkSpot sabbatical plans). While these experiences may not directly relate to our jobs, they can enrich our lives and in turn make us better individuals and employees.

 

Making the Most of a Sabbatical

If you’re considering taking a sabbatical or offering this option to your employees, here are a few things to consider:

1. Make It Challenging: A sabbatical can be relaxing, but it should also stretch you. It provides the perfect opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and discover something new. These are the moments where we truly grow. If you’ve never been outside the country, consider traveling for your break. Or if you’re a travel nut, maybe you decide to stay local and spend the time reflecting. Whatever you decide, just make sure it’s pushing you to greater heights.

2. Make It Relevant: While we’ve already said that a sabbatical doesn’t have to directly apply to your career, it should help you master new skills, improve upon existing ones, or provide an opportunity to improve relationships with clients, employers, or colleagues. Use this time to generate experiences that will help you in the future.

3. Make It Last: The experience shouldn’t stop when you get back to the office. Bring along a journal to document what you’re learning. You’ll be more likely to retain the information and have something to reference when looking back on your time spent away. If you’re not a writer, maybe document your experiences through photos. Your Instagram account will thank you.

 

We love to hear about our employees’ sabbatical plans. If you took a three week sabbatical, how would you use your time away?

Embracing Seasonal Office Changes

One thing we love about Chicago is that the city really comes alive in the summer. Patios open up and flood with people, baseball season is in full swing, and weekend trips to the beach are an absolute necessity. But with warmer weather and longer days, it can be hard to stay motivated behind the four walls of your office.

perkspot seasonal office changes

That’s why many companies are offering perks that change with the seasons. From cutting down your hours to taking a day off to volunteer, here are a few of our favorite ways office leaders can help employees stayed engaged and productive, while still finding time to enjoy the sunshine.

Flexible Hours

While this is not the newest trend out there, summer fridays are still amazing for boosting office morale. Chances are your employees are daydreaming out the window around 3pm on Friday afternoon anyway, so why not reward them for hitting their sales goals or nailing that project by allowing them to head out early. Plus, there are tons of reasons why flexible hours are great for company morale and ROI.

Seasonal Events

Summer is a great time to enjoy the great outdoors. Whether it’s a beach day or heading out for a baseball game, grab your employees and head outside for some seasonal fun. Last year at PerkSpot, a few of us participated in a 5k together. It really brought the team together for a great cause and motivated us to stay in shape!

perkspot 5k seasonal office changes

Spice Up Your Recognition

Looking for a new way to recognize and reward employees? Summer can be the perfect time to pre-purchase tickets to concerts or sporting events to give to your company’s overachievers. Not sure what to offer? Take a survey to see what events your employees are planning on attending this summer to make sure your prize offerings are relevant and truly incentivizing.

Do Good

There are so many volunteer opportunities available in the summer. From building a house with Habitat for Humanity to serving at your local food pantry, explore options to give back with your office while the weather is warm and your employees are itching to get outside. According to a survey of corporations that encourage employee volunteering, employees who volunteer are 60% more likely to feel loyal to their company than those who do not.

Sun’s out, fun’s out. How is your office incorporating the summer season into your corporate perks?

Exploring the Five Hour Work Day

In a previous post, we explored the notion of the Four Day Work Week. But recently, we’ve been reading up on a similar phenomenon known as the Five Hour Work Day.

It all started with this Fast Company article about Stephan Aarstol, CEO of Tower, a beach lifestyle company. Aarstol made a shift not only in the amount of hours employees worked per day, but also in how they were compensated. The results? Over 40% higher revenue annually.

So how did he do it? And is this something every company can implement effectively?

five hour work day

Execute carefully

Aarstol knew that this shift wasn’t something he could enforce overnight. He started by introducing the idea of “summer hours”. By making the change temporary, he put himself in the position to be able to switch things back around if the hours didn’t work out or hurt productivity. Lucky for him (and his employees), productivity soared and the 8-1 work day is now permanent.

Explain the whys

For Aarstol, the key to the success of the Five Hour Work Day was having a clear mission behind the change. He not only switched the hours, but also the compensation structure by offering employees a 5% profit share. By doing so, he enforced the importance of productivity, not just presence. He asked more of his employees in a shorter amount of time knowing that the rewards would be greater. He also knew this lifestyle might not serve everyone, and was therefore prepared to lose employees that might not fit into this new way of work. By keeping his mission at the forefront of the change, he was able to not only increase profits, but also increase compensation for his employees. Talk about a win-win.

Explore the change

While you may not work for a beach lifestyle brand, the Five Hour Work Day doesn’t have to be a far-off reality for all of us.

But how can we make the switch?

  • Start at the top: Most managers think that employees who show the most “face-time” are also the most dependable. Make sure your management is rewarding and recognizing employees based on their output, not their time-clock.
  • Provide concrete goals: Again, make it very clear why you’re making the switch and how you’re measuring productivity. Put measurable goals in place so employees know exactly what’s expected of them.
  • Be flexible: Aarstol knew that this change would be difficult during certain busy seasons. He gave employees the freedom to leave after 1pm, understanding that special projects may require more time and attention. However, making this adjustment meant that 12 hour days became the exception, not the norm.

Could the Five Hour Work Day work for you? What hesitations would you have for implementing this change?

March Madness Doesn’t Have to Kill Productivity

The madness is starting. Today marks the official beginning of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and according to global outplacement firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, this year could cost employers over $2.1 billion in productivity. They also estimated that approximately 23.7 million workers are filling out brackets… most likely on company time.

So does the old saying hold true, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”? Or should we put a stop to the madness?

march madness doesn't have to kill productivity

A survey by Office Team reported that 57% of managers feel that while they don’t encourage watching games or participating in office pools, they are ok with these activities in moderation. 32% said they should not be allowed at work and a mere 11% actually encourage this behavior.

Let’s be honest, though. Would you rather work with these 11% of employers who embrace the insanity of March or with the 32% that shun this type of behavior? Odds are you’re in favor of the former.

But, March Madness doesn’t have to kill productivity. Here are a few ways to have your cake and eat it, too:

Embrace the Competition

A great way to celebrate March Madness at work is to embrace the competition. This can be awesome for team bonding and office morale. Keep pool minimums low or consider offering a “free pool” option where you give away company swag or other small prizes to the winner.

Keep it Playful (and Respectful)

While some friendly competition can be great for office morale, it can also get into slippery territory when office fanatics find themselves facing a losing streak. Make sure to manage expectations around the office and keep conversations light-hearted. Smack talk is fun but can turn into bullying quickly. Steer clear of anything that could be offensive or disrespectful.

Manage Expectations

While streaming the games during lunch may be totally acceptable, there still needs to be an expectation of office performance during these crazy few weeks. Make sure expectations are clearly communicated during this time. Consider offering extra incentives for high-performers by letting them leave early to catch a game or providing some team gear. By celebrating wins both on and off the court, you can enjoy the season while still reinforcing productivity standards.

You can make the most of the Big Dance while still staying productive by preparing strategically and being transparent about the impacts of the tournament. Celebrating and staying productive is easy… picking your winning bracket is not.

Employee Appreciation Day!

Today is Employee Appreciation Day!

To commemorate this special day, we’re giving you a few ideas on how to appreciate your employees and introducing you to a few of the PerkSpotters who make the office a better place to work.

Celebrate Birthdays

celebrate birthday employee appreciation day

Not only is today employee appreciation day, but it’s also this guy’s birthday! Dan currently holds the record for most years at PerkSpot (and most push-ups). He is the ultimate idea man, always cooking up a new way to make us better and keep the office exciting. So today, with breakfast sandwiches and candles, we’ll celebrate Dan and let him know that we’re glad he was born 21 years ago (don’t worry, DB, the real number is our little secret). If you’re thinking about celebrating birthdays at work, we say GO FOR IT! Here are a few things from our friends at SHRM that you’ll need to know before you roll out a birthday program.

Share Their Story

share stories employee appreciation day

Hands-down one of the hardest working PerkSpotters is our Client Service Lead, Karla. From bestowing exotic treats on us to filling the office with her laughs to completing more customer service calls than we thought humanly possible… Karla is basically superwoman. Actually, she’s so awesome, we thought everyone should know. So when the Chicago Tribune approached us to highlight an employee, we immediately thought of her. Being able to celebrate her life in a major outlet was such a thrill for us and a great way for Karla to see how much we value her contribution to our team. She’s kind of a big deal, and we thought the world should know.

Embrace Life Changes

embrace life changes employee appreciation day

So much is changing around the PerkSpot office, including introducing our first PS baby into the world. We were so excited to congratulate Anthony on the birth of his daughter. He recently rejoined our team after three weeks of paternity leave and we were anxious to hear how he filled his time with his family. Anthony is a major force behind the PerkSpot wheel, bringing in new and exciting clients, so it was an easy choice to give him the well-deserved break from office life to embrace this new change. Plus, Fast Company studied California organizations implementing paternity leave and saw that 89% reported increased productivity and employee morale and a decrease in turnover. So while being out the office was not only great for Anthony’s well-being, we’re also excited to see what he brings to the table with his refreshed energy. Welcome Back, Anthony!

 Allow for Flex Schedules

work from home policies employee appreciation dayOne of the biggest perks at PerkSpot is the ability to flex our schedules and work from home. Our masterful designer, Evan, graciously takes on so many projects for us and we all know Wednesdays are Evan’s day to work from home. We are so appreciative of the attention to detail and creativity that goes into each of his designs. Thursday he comes back with incredible work to show for his time spent away from the office distractions. In fact, we think he might have magic pajamas. Magic pajamas or not, a Stanford University study reported a 13 percent performance increase in workers who had the ability to work from home one day a week versus not at all. This could be the easiest employee appreciation tactic for your company to boost morale and get ahead.

Treat Them to a Night Out

work perks employee appreciation day

Our master appreciator, Leia, is constantly spending her efforts at PerkSpot recognizing others. After planning our anniversary party last fall, Leia definitely deserved some R&R. Boss’s orders were to take a week off and enjoy a nice dinner on the company. Just a small way of saying we see all the many, many things she does to make our office a better place to work. Whether it’s a gift card to their favorite restaurant,or just a day of rest, small tokens of appreciation mean more than you might think.

What makes your employees worth celebrating? Consider ways to recognize them today!

The Illusion of Busyness

illusion of busyness perkspot culture

“I’m so swamped”
“Just trying to keep my head above water”

You may have uttered one of these phrases at some point this month, week or even just a few hours ago. But is it busyness that has us feeling overwhelmed or, like a mirage in the desert, is it merely an illusion?

Technology has advanced at such a rapid pace I wonder if we are really as busy as think or if we simply have an unhealthy relationship with time. In fact, I think deep down some of us like saying these phrases as if they somehow make us feel important or purposeful. Multi-tasking is no longer a skill that only the most successful possess, but something that inundates the ins and outs of our everyday lives. But while we may get things done when we multitask, we often neglect to do things well.  We find ourselves running around from one task to another all for the sake of feeling “busy”, but never really accomplishing anything. Priorities are out of line and our work begins to suffer.

So how do we dispel the illusion of busyness in our lives? Is it even possible?

First of all, breathe. I think many of us grab our coffee and sit in front of our inbox dreading the day to come. When we let the weight of our tasks overwhelm us, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. Take a breath in the morning and spend time planning out your day. Prioritize tasks based on their importance and deadline. With a clear vision in front of us, the work will seem less monumental and more manageable.

Secondly, do something that you’re passionate about. We spend a lot of time just going through the motions of our days without focusing on the things that truly make us happy. If you’re truly passionate about your work (and I hope that you are!), spend time developing a new skill, read an educational book, or attend a seminar. These activities will renew your passion and keep you moving forward. If your passion lies outside your nine-to-five, jump into a cooking class, take photography lessons, or just spend time with your friends and family. Prioritizing our passions can refresh us and more importantly, give us purpose beyond our full agenda.

Remove the word “busy” from your vocabulary and start prioritizing. At the end of the day, you may not respond to every email in your inbox, but that doesn’t mean you weren’t productive.

Introducing the “Pre-Cation”

pre-cation employee perks program perkspot

In the land of start-ups a new trend is emerging called the “Pre-cation”.

If you’ve ever interviewed for a job, chances are one of the questions you were asked throughout the process was, “how soon can you start?”. Most of us jump right in after the obligatory two-weeks notice in our former roles just to fall into the same old trap of limited vacation days and fears of what will happen if we actually do decide to leave the office for a few days.

As a way of dispelling these fears companies like Atlassian, have taken a fresh approach by offering new hires paid time off before they even work their first day. As they put it,  “This is all in the spirit of our “Build with Heart and Balance” value, in which we encourage all new teammates to start refreshed, recharged, and revitalized so they can bring their A-game when they start work.” Especially if you’ve left a job that was frustrating and draining, this little break could be exactly what you need to start off on the right foot in a new role.

It’s no secret that we struggle to find that perfect balance between work ethic and being a workaholic. By rewarding employees before they even start, the “pre-cation” helps to ensure new they leave the stress behind and start fresh. And what’s more is that by eliminating stress, retention levels are higher which can actually save employers funds they would have otherwise spent on recruitment and development.

Of course, the “pre-cation” is not without its faults. Starting a new job can be stressful in-and-of itself, so many people may find they are unable to relax and clear their minds before jumping into their new position. Not to mention, someone is paying for this time off. Unless you’ve come into a huge round of funding or already manage a very successful business, most companies cannot afford the luxury of giving employees this time off. Many of us are hiring to fill a void and therefore simply cannot afford to wait.

While flexible time-off policies may be trending, it seems the “pre-cation” notion may take some getting used to.

The good news is that you don’t have to offer your employees a “pre-cation” to be a great employer. Start by offering your employees exclusive perks through PerkSpot.

Thursdays are the New Fridays

It’s no secret that the workplace has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. There are 53% more women in the workforce, The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid protected leave, and minimum wage has increased dramatically. It’s pretty amazing to see the progress we’ve made, but there’s one change that’s yet to make its way to the U.S.: The Four Day workweek.

In many European countries, four-day workweeks are the rule, not the exception. The Netherlands boast average annual wages of $47,000 and average only 29 hours of work per week. But for many companies in the U.S., the trend remains that working longer hours means an increase in productivity. But what if this isn’t the case? Whatever happened to “less is more”? Can this apply to our workplace?

four day work week perkspot culture thursdays are the new fridays

No Time to Waste

Let’s be honest, there are plenty of times we procrastinate on projects or reschedule meetings until the last possible minute. With shorter workweeks, employers have found that there is less time to waste, so workers are more likely to remain focused and motivated. And for those who still need those 40 hours, some businesses have incorporated the four-day workweek by simply working longer hours during these four days. Workers then have the weekend to catch up on errands, spend time with loved ones, and get refreshed for the next week.

Thinking About Making a Switch?

Keep in mind these “Dos and Don’ts” for a successful transition.

Don’t: Make it a seasonal thing.

Some companies tend to offer shorter, summer hours, which is a great start, but often employees start resenting those days when they have to stay until five instead of leaving at three, or whatever the case may be.

Do: Make it a regular thing.

Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall – you wouldn’t require your employees to work only one part of the year, so why shorten their hours only during summer? To increase motivation year-round many companies start by offering a shorter workweek even in the winter months.

Don’t: Go all in.

Incorporating the four-day workweek means a huge change in the office, so make sure you think before you leap. Don’t make the change overnight but give your employees time to adjust.

Do: Take baby steps.

When it comes to big changes at the office, it’s best to take baby steps. For example, some employers start by having early release on Fridays instead of jumping right into the four-day workweek. They then examine productivity and employee engagement levels to ensure the plan is right for their office environment.

Don’t: Stay silent.

You may know the famous quote “Where there is no vision, there is no hope”. Don’t just make the change without stating the whys, whos, and hows.

Do: Provide clarity on the “fifth day”.

Are employees expected to be available on the fifth day? What extra work does this require for the other four days? It’s important to think through all the questions employees may have and provide clarity before incorporating this new policy. There’s nothing more frustrating than walking in the dark, so if you’re thinking about making the switch, be sure to shed light on the new changes.

Keep Employees Happy

One of the challenges many human resources departments face is keeping employees happy and engaged. Training new talent is expensive and time-consuming, so when focusing on employee retention, many companies are beginning to consider the four-day workweek. For companies that cannot afford raises or other employee benefits, this can be a great perk to offer employees who have been loyal to the company.

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