10 Best Employers for Work-Life Balance in 2010

best employer for work-life balance

Is your company one of the 10 best employers for work-life balance?

Fortune recently released their list of the top 100 companies in America to work for.  Included in that list were the top 10 Best Employers for Work-Life Balance.  According to Fortune, “These are the companies where employees feel encouraged to balance their work and personal life.”

Best Employers for Work-Life Balance

Here’s the list of the 10 best companies for work-life balance, ranked from 1-10. The number in parenthesis to the right of each company’s name is their ranking as part of the 100 best companies to work for.

  1. SAS (1) – One of the Best Companies for the 13 years Fortune has been counting, SAS boasts a laundry list of benefits — high-quality child care at $410 a month, 90% coverage of the health insurance premium, unlimited sick days, a medical center staffed by four physicians and 10 nurse practitioners (at no cost to employees), a free 66,000-square-foot fitness center and aquatic center, a lending library, and a summer camp for children.
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  3. Edward Jones (2) – The investment adviser weathered the recession without closing one of its 12,615 offices or laying off a single employee (the British division was sold in October). Salaries were frozen, but profit sharing continued.
  4. Recreational Equipment (14) – This consumer co-op that attracts active, outdoorsy employees has grown from 10 stores in 1985 to 110 today. CEO Sally Jewell identifies its chief competitor as an “increasingly sedentary lifestyle that leaves adults and children with little time for outdoor recreation.”
  5. Scottrade (27) – Brokerage house where almost all managers are promoted from the lower ranks bucked the recession, laying off no one, hiring more than 1,000 new associates, and opening 58 new branches. Benefits include an on-site fitness center and subsidized gym memberships.
  6. Robert W. Baird & Co. (11) – No Wall Street blues here. Investment adviser continued to hire throughout 2008 and 2009, screening applicants via rigorous interviews to ensure that they passed the firm’s “no a**hole” rule.
  7. DPR Construction (57) – No one has a private office at this general contractor, and titles are taboo. Employees get fat checks ($5,000 to $20,000) for new-hire referrals.
  8. MITRE (69) – Nonprofit systems-engineering firm for the federal government spends $7 million a year on employee training; 65% of employees hold an advanced degree.
  9. Nugget Market (5) – The tough economy prompted the supermarket chain to help associates by giving them cards good for 10% discounts on $500 of groceries every month. At one employee-appreciation event, the executive team surprised everyone by washing the cars of all associates.
  10. QuikTrip (41) – New employees at this Midwest chain of convenience stores are taken under the wing of mentors, who work with them for two weeks. Full-time turnover is 12% (unheard of in the industry), and the company maintains an IT staff of 79 to keep things running smoothly. Sales per store are the highest of any convenience store in the U.S.
  11. Johnson Financial Group (22) – Employees who fall on hard times know they can count on Johnson for support. For instance, pay will be kept intact while an associate is out due to crisis. Says CEO Richard Hansen: JFG will always “do what is right.”

My take on the list:

  1. It is interesting that #1 and #2 on this list of the top 10 employers for work-life balance are also #1 and #2 on the top 100 list.
  2. SAS is the world’s largest privately owned software company.  Fortune reports that staff turnover there is only 2%.  Truly, they’ve created a culture of trust between the management and employees, because no one wants to leave!
  3. Four companies are in the financial services industry: Scottrade, Robert W. Baird, Johnson Financial Group and Edward Jones.  Has their corporate culture played a role in helping them whether the recession?  I visited Johnson Financial Group’s website and noticed their tagline is: “We’ll treat you like family.”  Sounds like it begins with their employees.
  4. Two companies, Nugget Market and QuikTrip, are grocery/convenience store chains. I worked at a grocery store during high school and a convenience store during my university days, and I can tell you that there can be extremely high turnover in those stores because it is an entry-level job for many.  I’m very impressed that QuikTrip’s turnover rate for full-time employees is just 14%.

Looking back on my own employment experiences, I realize that I’ve been pretty blessed to work for good employers for all of my professional life.  For bosses who cared not only about my performance at work, but also my personal and family life.

Ten years ago, I faced a personal crisis when my oldest son was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  He was 3-1/2 at the time and went through two surgeries, was hospitalized for 5 weeks, and endured several months of twice-weekly therapy appointments.  In addition to this son, we had an 18-month old toddler, and my wife was nearly 9 months pregnant with our 3rd child (who was born while our oldest was still hospitalized).

It was a crazy time in our lives, to say the least.  My employer was extremely generous in giving me time off and a flexible schedule when I did return to work, so I could take him to all those therapy appointments.  Oh, by the way, my son is now 13 years old and, except for a scar on the back of his head, you’d never know any of this happened. We thank God for this nearly every day.

Today, I’m the CEO of a nonprofit organization.  Do I care about helping my very small staff balance their work and personal life?  In the words of Sarah Palin, you betcha! I personally enjoy the freedom of a flexible work schedule and I offer that to my staff. And, when I travel away from home (as I frequently do) for work, I make it up to my family when I get home.  I don’t have any employees that travel, but if I did, I’d offer them the same.  Also, I don’t care what people wear (as long as it’s neat) and I like to make work fun – for myself and everyone.

How would you rate the company you work for in terms of how they promote your sense of work-life balance?  What factors are important to you?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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  1. Enjoyed reading this list – I always check out the work-life balance list before the “best of” list. However, the way the lists are developed tends to score big companies higher than smaller companies, maybe because it’s easy to see and count pricey employee amenities (e.g., SAS aquatic center), as opposed to “caring boss.” I’m starting to believe that, while, financially, a big company can provide so many benefits to its employees and therefore score high on these surveys, the personal connection of an owner who cares in a smaller firm is priceless. Those smaller companies rarely make these lists – even though they should.

  2. What these top 10 companies offer employees is impressive. But why? Because so many other employers use the “blanket” approach to management and policy development. One size does not fit all. The companies mentioned here obviously take more singular approach – what works for the individual? These companies seen to be more focused on relationship development v. policy development.

    A fresh approach to how we work, which was pioneered at Best Buy seven years ago, and has been steadily gaining momentum and earning support is the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) created by Cali Ressler & Jody Thompson, This is a strategy rooted in common sense with an intense focus on results. People have the freedom and control to work whenever, wherever, and however they choose as long as the work gets done.

    For more info about ROWE, please visit: http://gorowe.com

  3. I found the list very interesting…one of my neighbors is a telecommuter for SAS and today my friend who works for Edward Jones was over. Even though the latter isn’t paid much, she said she really appreciates the flexibility she has and her boss. Your mention of your employer giving you the flexibility to deal with therapy appointments is not necessarily a given. On Friday I was riding with 2 men in an elevator at my work building and one was talking about his son’s severe medical issue and how he needed treatments in a special facility in another state and his boss had told him, “We are really too busy right now to have you taking any leave time.” I was horrified and just wanted to follow the man into his office and tell the bossman what a unfeeling jerk he was. It’s scary how out of balance so many of our lives are, that’s why I really appeciate learning the Seven Keys to work life balance
    as not everyone has understanding employers so we need to learn these keys to better manage what we can.

    • Life Compass says

      Kendra, thanks for your comment. Yes, I know I was very blessed to have the flexible work schedule when I really needed it!

  4. More and more people are looking for a career that promotes work-life balance. I’m glad that more companies are aware of this and are adapting.

  5. For me, being a high-powered exec is more important than being a good parent.

    Things cost money. Staying at home doesn’t buy things. Going out there and making as much money as possible is the best thing to do. Everyone wants to live the good life. But the good life costs. So what if you can’t make it to the softball game or the ballet recital! If you are bringing home big bucks, you are doing more for your family than any amount of time will.

    A parent that doesn’t make a ton of money is shameful. Kids want iPhones, computers, jeans, sneakers, and other cool stuff. How can a kid be cool if mom or dad only works 40 hours a week but brings home diddley squat? I would rather work a ton of hours and make a ton of money than come home at the same time and sit in the house with a nagging wife and bratty children. A family has to understand that having things is more important than being together. Working less is not an option!

  6. @ Life Compass,

    I do have kids. But I am not going to let that stop me from making a lot of money. I think people use kids and/or a spouse as an excuse to be lazy. I think that you should work HARDER when you have a family, not less.

    Making money is really what’s important in life. Of course workmis boring and unimportant. But since I have to work, I might as well get paid large sums of money for my suffering. I do not know anyone who works a 40 hour week that is happy with making low wages.

    Families have to realize that sacrifices are necessary.

    • @ Yadgyu,

      While there are plenty of people sacrificing currently to protect our way of life, they choose to do so in order for us to be able to do what we wish. However, are you not aware or simply do not care that work-life balance is an important thing for family health? Sure you make tons of money, but where were you when your kids took that first step? Said his/her first word? Saw their first tooth? It is things like that and many more that make more and more companies look to employee retention. Working 90 hours a week to get your gobs of money leaves you out of the best times of your children’s lives. What about ball games or band practice? You should be a family man that is supportive of his family, not just monetarily but mentally as well.

      And another thing, working HARDER is not the correct way to get things done, it’s working SMARTER that is more productive. Take a look at results-only work environments (ROWE). These businesses have adapted to a very drastic change and are more profitable because of it. Granted ROWE is not for all businesses, but it allows companies to enrich and empower its employees.

  7. @ JohnPR,

    I know that “memories” are precious and valuable for many. But I myself do not get caught up in those small things. I was there when my kids were born and took their first steps. But these were not mind-blowing events. Those kids are going to grow up fast.

    They are going to require a lot more than my recollections of first steps and baseball games. I know that kids do not understand money and the sacrifices parents make. But I am not going to cut out work just to spend more time with the family. It sounds horrible, but I am a provider. Many generations before us had men that sometimes left their family behind in order to work. Those men were not terrible. They sacrificed their time so they could send money back to their families. Without those men working hard and bringing in money, those families would have starved.

    Money is extremely important.

    • Yadgyu,

      Memories in quotes is an interesting take. To me, this indicates that you are a hard, cold person with too much pragmatism to truly care about anyone but yourself. This is not an insult, just an observation.

      I never said money wasn’t important. After all, that is what makes the world go ’round. But have you considered that the way you are conducting yourself is an antiquated outlook on being a provider. Granted, I am a bit old-fashioned myself, as I prefer to be the sole provider for my wife and I. However, I would prefer to be with her when she needs me most, not 20 or more miles away where I cannot do anything. A work-life balance is important to maintain a healthy relationship.

      Take a look at what is going on today in the work environment versus what was happening 50 years ago. The 40-hour work week that was mandated by law was a result of factory and assembly workers not getting fair recompense for their time. That same law also clarified what constituted child labor and thus what was illegal for companies to do. In today’s work environment technology abounds. We need to start leveraging the tools we have in order to up our quality of life. Therefore, my statement work SMARTER not HARDER is the best way to increase income.

      Showing up early to work and leaving late from work essentially looks good to those that know no other way of conducting business. A 40-hour work week where attention to time is required and not attention to production is an outdated mode of work AND progress. Being electronically involved allows us to not be tethered to something when we know we are not being productive. Would you rather spend 2 hours “looking productive” after your work is done? Or would you rather take that two hours of “looking productive” and miss all of the crazy traffic a bunch of areas have so you can be with your loved ones? Just a suggestion here: Quit living in the past and come to the 21st century.

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    I heard it was a good game but I am not sure if it is online enabled.

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