When I started my first job out of college at a large consulting firm in Washington D.C., I worked in an office building with hundreds of other employees. I then commuted to a smaller branch office downtown. It was there that I witnessed real-life workaholics, not just those often portrayed in movies.
In my new reality, I saw coworkers sending emails or taking conference calls at all hours of the day or night – during lunch breaks, on the elevator going to their cars in the parking deck, the entire metro-ride home, at restaurants and after-work group activities such as baseball games. Some colleagues would work before coming into the office, put in a 10-12 hour day at the office and then plug back in at night to keep on top of their email inboxes.
I found myself starting to do the same – logging in over the weekend, taking work home with me at night and extending my daily hours for an extra hour or two. I began to lose sight of other things – important things – like dinner plans with friends, the gym, my family.
But then I got married and my priorities changed. I moved and got my position at Altitude.
And now, my husband and I have our first baby on the way. So now – more than ever – having a work/life balance is of paramount importance to me.
According to a USA Today article, the United States is the only developed country in the world without a single legally required paid vacation day or holiday. Additionally, nearly 25 percent of U.S. workers in the private sector have no paid vacation or holidays. This can make it difficult to find a company that not only provides paid vacation days and holidays, but also understands the importance of spending time away from the office with those you care about.
I knew when I landed at Altitude I was lucky.
I feel so fortunate to work at a business where the partners purposely created an environment that enables us to have a flexible schedule when it comes to family.
If someone’s child is in a play at school or there’s a parent-teacher conference scheduled, Altitude leadership encourages us to participate in those activities. They have a trust in us that we’ll get our work done and don’t question when it comes to family.
This summer, the partners decided to implement summer hours. This meant that every Friday between Memorial Day and Labor Day, people were free to leave at 2 p.m., with the office officially closing at 3 p.m. Everyone was required to shut down their computers and be out of the office by 3 p.m. to enjoy the weather and be with family and friends. It was amazing how just having those two extra hours at the end of each workweek made such a difference. I looked forward to that and worked harder during the week in anticipation for Friday afternoons. I was able to run errands or attend appointments without taking time out of my day at work or evenings at home with family. It was wonderful.
To take work/life balance benefits a step further, I was recently presented with the option to take a three-month maternity leave. Being a part of a smaller company, I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to take after my baby was born and it was something that weighed on my mind.
Before I could do too much worrying, however, the partners at Altitude approached me with an amazing solution. Instead of providing a few weeks’ leave, we hired someone to come into the office and fill in for me temporarily while I’m out, allowing me to be home with Baby Heintzelman until the New Year.
I believe these benefits not only help increase productivity and morale within the workplace, but also have a direct impact on employee loyalty with the company. Employees feel a sense of belongingness and trust, which go a long way. If a company goes out of their way for their employees, the employees will reciprocate.