With an increasing level of competition, in a growing world economy becoming ever-present, the pressure on staff (particularly management level) to perform in the short term is higher than ever. This pressure has brought with it a growing workload that makes a mockery of the 38-hour working week. However stress does not just come from the direct pressures of the job - the balancing of personal and corporate lives is increasingly difficult. Some surveys suggesting four in ten executives stating “lifestyle” choices over poor work conditions as their reason to leave their place of employment.
More and more companies are beginning to realise that flexibility and staff incentives (above cash bonuses) is important to a happy and productive office. Staff are now demanding that which was once believed impossible - a good job and a life! If employers wish to attract and retain the best people, they are being forced to confront issues loosely bundled under the term “lifestyle,” (Schmidt, Lucinda. Finding A Balance. BRW: June 11, 1999. Pgs 88-90) as they begin to realise the easy tools for motivating employees - higher pay, better perks or a corner office - are not enough to hold onto the most productive of people. Flexible hours, social support within the workplace, health care and fitness benefits are now becoming important as people begin to make lifestyle choices in relation to their careers.
The critical element for the creation of a great workplace is to work at the group level, not the corporate level. Constructive and supportive relations at work, help to make a workplace a great place to be. John Cross of United Capital Securities (UCS) believes ensuring peoples lives are balanced makes good business sense.
“For real estate agent John McGrath, the wake-up call to change came after losing two key salespeople to competitors several years ago. McGrath did not want it to be remembered as just another round of inter-office poaching, he wanted to stop the practice. So he started looking at fostering a different corporate culture, one which employees would find it difficult to leave.” (Cossar, Lynee. Warm fuzzy companies lure their own staff. BRW: October 1, 1999. Pgs 72-73)
Companies all over Australia have started to build this culture - McGraths own company McGrath Partners Estate Agents offers its staff grooming sessions with top hairdressers and stylists, free introductory yoga courses and the services of a “life coach” who helps his staff keep balance in their lives. Staff at UCS can look forward to a healthy lunch prepared by top chef’s everyday. Larger firms such as Westpac provide free personal counselling services and yearly health checks. The advertising firm George Patterson Bates built a coffee shop in the middle of the creative department on the top floor of the Sydney office, giving the team a chance to get to know each other and build team morale. People actually talk!
Brisbane and other smaller regional Queensland cities has seen this trend emerge. The Energising Energex program sees various divisions undertake regular exercise classes together three afternoons a week. While staff at Toowoomba Mobile Taxation Consultants have ‘Hippies in Suits’ - the staff here have regular yoga, thai chi and qi gong classes each week; with monthly social functions designed to bring the staff and their families closer. While Star Staff, a hopsitality labour hire firm provide their staff with free reflexology treatments, body masssages, vaccinations and exercise programs.
Kait Luker of Star Staff concludes, “my guys (staff) are my best asset. If my people are fit, healthy and happy, they provide a better service to the guest, which in turn impresses my client more, increasing our profit levels three-fold.”
This article was first published in the Real Estate Institute of Queensland magazine