Telecommuting, daycare, and other employee benefits help workers balance their duties at work and at home.
Perhaps a psychologist or sociologist can explain why—given the wherewithal to do so—Americans in the early 21st century seem unable to stop themselves working. Wellness programs are all to the good, but perhaps the healthiest thing companies can do for employees is help them regain space and sanity in their lives, and remove from family time the stigma of a guilty pleasure. First comes the realization that whenever possible work should be shaped to accommodate life and not the other way around. Here are a few things our 2010 Top Small Company Workplaces do to help employees maintain balance and remain productive on the job.
Almost all the top small workplaces try to accommodate employees' personal lives. Gongos Research, a $13.2 million custom market-research company in Auburn Hills, Michigan, offers its employees a choice of starting times. In her 11 years at Gongos, Anne Tully, the vice president of finance, has worked every imaginable schedule. She now comes in at about 9:30 a.m. "I do my personal things in the morning, like working out and doing errands," says Tully. Senior project specialist Emilio Ditrapani is at his desk by 7:30 a.m. "My wife and I drive in together, and going early gets her to work on time," he says. "We get an extra hour together every day, and it saves on gas. It's a very nice perk."
Work-from-home arrangements are good for productivity, morale, and the environment. At Honest Tea, a $47 million beverage company based in Bethesda, Maryland, about 60 percent of employees work from home. The rest are allowed to telecommute when the need arises. Sue Mounts, the company's director of supply-chain management, worked for nine months from Tulsa while tending to her 30-year-old son, who was recovering from a car accident. "I would have had to leave him with home health care," says Mounts. "Instead, I was able to take him to doctors' appointments myself. It was a blessing for me and my family."
Given that women now outnumber men in the workplace, family friendliness is a critical differentiator among employers. Patagonia, a $314.5 million maker of outdoor apparel, has a child development center at its Ventura, California, headquarters. It is licensed to care for the 105 junior Patagonians, aged 8 weeks to 9 years. Every afternoon, three vans pick up older children for the after-school program.
Jen Rapp, director of communications, met her husband, John, a clothing designer, at Patagonia in 2003. Since then, the couple has twice taken advantage of Patagonia's eight weeks of maternity and paternity leave. Their children have attended the child development center since infancy. "You can go cuddle your baby or nurse them," says Rapp. "It made the decision to come back to work very easy."
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan