Balancing act: To build better balance, start with your ABCs

Published: Tuesday, June 17 2014 8:30 a.m. MDT

Surveys and studies are great, but we all need a break from numbers every now and then. So, instead of numbers, this week I'm offering letters — the ABCs of work-life balance, telecommuting and flexible schedules.

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Work-life balance is a hot topic of conversation in corporate circles these days. If nothing else, the surveys and studies I've shared in my last few columns should confirm that.

However, I think we all need a break from numbers now and then. I know I do. (And if you don't believe me, just ask my children how helpful their writer father is when they're trying to complete their math homework.)

So, this week I've decided to try something different. Instead of numbers, I'm offering up letters — the ABCs of work-life balance, telecommuting and flexible schedules.

These are some of the nuggets of wisdom I've gleaned from all of those surveys I mentioned earlier, along with my own personal experience. I hope you'll find something helpful here, whether you're a manager or a front-line worker.

A is for absence. While a telecommuter may be absent from the office, that doesn't mean she is absent from work. Make sure you build the infrastructure to communicate with remote workers.

B is for balance. It's hard to build in these busy days, but it's something many of us seek. And studies and surveys show that employees who have better work-life balance tend to be happier and more productive than those who don't.

C is for communication. Make sure people who have flexible work arrangements are kept in the loop about developments in Cubeville.

D is for dedication. Once you commit to helping your workers build better work-life balance, be sure to follow through. While offering such opportunities can be a great morale (and productivity) builder, taking them away can have the opposite effect.

E is for evaluation. Provide specific, meaningful feedback about your workers' performance. This holds true whether they are in the office or working from home.

F is for flexibility. Offer it, whether that means building a plan that lets someone work from home several days a week, or letting an employee leave early occasionally to attend a recital or baseball game. Either way, your efforts will be appreciated.

G is for gain. When you help your workers build better balance, you gain an employee who is happier, more productive and probably more loyal.

H is for home office. If you're a telecommuter, make sure your work space at home fosters productivity. Limit distractions and temptations to goof off.

I is for isolation. Some people who work from home feel like they are cut off from their co-workers. Invite them to spend time in the office often so they can build connections and rapport.

J is for justice. When you're building a telecommuting program, make sure it's fair to all of your workers. If it's not, your efforts could backfire.

K is for knowledge. It's important to do your research before setting up a flexible work plan for your team or your company. Fortunately, it's not hard to find resources that can help. Seek them out, and learn all you can.

L is for labor. If you're a telecommuter, make sure you work as hard at home as you do at the office — if not harder. Flexibility is a privilege, and the best way to protect it is through productivity.

M is for model. Find out how other companies handle their employees' requests for flexible hours, and use the ideas that are most likely to work for you, too.

N is for new. Don't fear flexible work programs just because they don't represent how you've always done things. Sometimes new ideas are better.

O is for opportunity. Take advantage of telecommuting opportunities that could prove to be of great benefit to both you and your workers.

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