Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good ping pong match…especially the idea of that happening at work!
I even have my own professional ping pong paddle (in a carrying case). It is true! The thought of discussing business strategy while using my pro paddle is like a dream come true. I can only imagine what it was like, in the pre-COVID days, to have the Outlook Calendar meeting location noted as: Ping Pong Table on the Fourth Floor.
But what I love more than companies offering employees ping pong tables, foose tables (or the like) is that there has been an evolution of sorts.
Companies are realizing and (responding to) the new reality that employee recruitment, retention, and overall productivity are tightly intertwined with the importance of work-life balance, in ways that go beyond a friendly “match” with your colleague.
Now that so many are working in the virtual space, ping pong tables are being replaced by virtual happy hours, craft time, and “let’s learn a new skill” opportunities! All of this is great! In fact, I have led some of the same feel-good events for my own teams.
However, the question is, will activities such as ping pong or virtual craft time really help employees:
- Manage day-to-day stressors in life? (maybe, short-term)
- Understand overall physical and mental wellness tools/strategies to apply to daily life? (not likely)
- Effectively manage family and life responsibilities? (nope)
- Better prepare for longevity…physically, mentally, spiritually, financially? (not unless the employee is a professional ping pong player?!?)
Take a look at this Inc. article from 2016. We have come a long way from focusing on nap pods, game rooms, and free lunches. 20 Hottest Tech Companies With the Best Employee Perks | Inc.com
Although there should always be space for “fun” in even the virtual workplace, one possible silver lining of the pandemic is that some companies have reprioritized what really matters, specifically the LIFE part of work-life balance.
Now, the headlines feature employers who provide employees child-care, financial planning, and therapy!
Erin Makarius, an associate professor of management at the University of Akron, stated, “We’ll see a continued need for supporting people outside of the workplace in terms of their mental health, physical health and their family life,” in the Wallstreet Journal Article, The New Silicon Valley Perks: Childcare, Financial Planning and Therapy.
As leaders and business owners, recognizing the importance of work-life balance by incorporating it into our organizational cultures and budgets is just the beginning.
However, understanding that there is a direct relationship between WORK and LIFE may help inform future business strategies, especially when it comes to internal programs that support employees’ overall physical and mental wellness.
In other words, sometimes what is offered at WORK can have a direct impact on LIFE. Similarly, what is happening in LIFE can have a direct impact on WORK. The relationship between the two can be positive or negative, but I am going to focus on the positive…because why not?
A big part of my world focuses on “The Girls” (yep, breasts). I am the Founder and CEO of Night Out with “The Girls” (NOWTG), which is a virtual wellness experience that educates participants about early breast cancer detection.
When an employer offers NOWTG events to their employees, it leaves them more knowledgeable about how to detect breast cancer early, when to take action and what to do when it comes to their own “girls”. We educate employees on this incredibly important (and, let’s be real, hard to tackle topic) in a way that focuses on comfort, connection, and conversation.
Participants take this knowledge home and start applying it to their own lives, by making breast-self exams a priority, following up on that annual mammogram appointment, proactively checking in with a healthcare provider because something just doesn’t seem quite right with “the girls”.
When a woman takes what she has learned and finds out that she is the one (out of eight women, nationally) who gets breast cancer, there is no doubt that the diagnosis is going to have a major impact on work. A few examples include:
- Employees often need to take time away from work for the physical-side of the diagnosis, such as treatments, surgeries, appointments.
- Additional time off could be needed just to mentally deal with the stressors of becoming a new breast cancer patient.
- Productivity could be negatively impacted due to the time away from the office.
- There could be a direct impact to health insurance expenses, from both an employer and employee perspective.
To what degree all of this could happen depends on a lot of factors. However, one big one is: was the breast cancer detected early?
As a survivor, an executive leader, and entrepreneur, I know this first-hand.
When I got the dreaded “you have breast cancer” call, my healthcare provider said something that proved to be a gamechanger for me, physically, mentally, and emotionally. She said, “good news…you caught it early.”
As it turns out, I learned that was also a game-changer for my employer too. I had minor surgery and was back to work in a few short weeks. Yes, I have had my fair share of screenings, medical appointments, and the occasional biopsy (ick) to this day. However, during my breast cancer journey, my time away from the office was minimal, mentally I felt strong, hopeful, and determined and I know the costs to the company (time and health insurance) could have been a lot more extensive if I had detected the breast cancer in a later stage.
I am completely biased, but I believe the companies that are offering employee therapy, providing child care, supporting financial planning, AND early breast cancer education are cutting edge in ways that no foosball table, “ping pong meeting”, food in the office, or virtual cocktail hour could compare.
Like the companies mentioned in the Wallstreet Journal Article, The New Silicon Valley Perks: Childcare, Financial Planning and Therapy, and our NOWTG clients, they understand they have the power to truly impact the LIFE of an employee. Furthermore, there is no doubt that providing employees with “life-giving” opportunities speaks volumes, demonstrates value, and shows up in “work” in ways no bottom line could truly measure.
As I have done with my own team and the companies mentioned above, I now challenge you to think outside-the-box and bring an initiative into your workplace that exemplifies how much you care about your employees’ well-being. Have you already implemented something that spoke volumes to your employees? Share in the comments below!
Jessica Sidener is the Founder and CEO of Night Out with “The Girls”, a virtual corporate wellness experience that focuses on early breast cancer detection. She has also served in executive leadership for more than 10 years, has a public relations/marketing background and a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership. For further information about Jessica or Night Out with “The Girls”, visit www.nightoutwiththegirls.com.