Those entities that did respond mentioned everything from flextime policies, which allow employees to work less traditional hours in order to accommodate outside responsibilities, to health and exercise programs, acknowledging the fact that overall wellness leads to lower health-care costs and less financial stress.
Some of the strategies employed by these companies are easy and cheap to implement and would seem to go a long way toward fostering goodwill among employees — such as the "Take the Day Off on Your Birthday" policy at Martin's Point Health Care. Others, like those that encourage healthy lifestyle changes, can be much more complicated and expensive, but have the potential to make huge improvements in workers' lives on and off the job.
And then there's the issue of unionization. Few of the employers I spoke to have unionized workforces; it's worth remembering that unions have been fighting for "work-life balance" long before the concept had a name.
What follows are some highlights from those Maine-based companies and organizations that did want to share the ways in which they support their employees' personal lives. Consider it a partial listing of best practices, policies that might be transferable to smaller businesses, and proof that some forward-thinking employers in the Pine Tree State are cognizant of the benefits of a happier, healthier workforce.
UNIVERSITY OF MAINE SYSTEM
Employees: 7001-7500 (employment numbers from the state Department of Labor)
•Option to reduce health insurance premium by half by participating in a confidential health assessment and following through with wellness activities. (To the same end, UMaine also used to offer financial incentive payments, but they found those were less effective than the premium reduction in terms of encouraging healthier choices.)
•On-campus childcare at some universities.
•Extensive leave options for new parents as well as employees who are caring for sick or elderly family members.
•Schedule-reduction, flextime, and telecommuting (up to one day per week) policies on the books.
•Eighty-two percent of regular (full-time) employees are represented by a union.
MAINE MEDICAL CENTER
•Wellness program (smoking-cessation, nutrition advice, subsidization of some gym fees).
•"One of the advantages on the clinical side is that there are multiple types of shifts that people can choose," says Judy West, vice president of human resources. For example, nurses can opt to work longer hours four days per week in order to have three full days off.
•Lactation rooms for new mothers.
•Paid-time-off policy lumps together sick, holiday, and vacation time for employees to use however they like.
•From Rebecca Acevedo, senior public relations manager: "While our ultimate goal is to deliver a Legendary Customer Experience, we recognize that Employees who are able to balance competing work and personal needs are often more engaged, and more productive in the workplace." To that end, she notes in an email, work-life balance polices at TD Bank include: flexible starting and ending times, compressed work week option, part-time or reduced hours, and implementation of TD "FlexWorkPlaces," which encourage working from home as well as non-traditional utilization of office space — no cubicles, no offices, more open and communal gathering places.
•"Core hours" from 9 am to 3 pm during which all employees are expected to be present (for ease of scheduling meetings and ensuring a certain amount of face-to-face time); "other than that, when people start and stop is . . . between them and their managers," says Marie Clements, assistant vice president of human resources.