The Secret Weapon to Your Employee Retention Strategy

5 min read
May 29, 2015

Optimized-iStock_000045016220_SmallThe balance between work and life is a constant struggle. You need to work to eat, and you need to eat to work. Basically, you can’t have one without the other. But what happens when work starts interrupting an employee’s personal life?

The amount of stress we all face at work is undeniably tough at times. And without the ability to take a break, employees risk becoming burnt out, which can ultimately lead to them quitting. Consider what this survey by BambooHR found:

  • Work/life balance is the 2nd top reason people quit

  • Work expectations during off time is the 2nd deal breaker for employees

  • Unflexible hours is the 5th deal breaker for employees

Employees need a break from work. They need to be able to take a chance to indulge in their personal lives. And if you’re looking for new employee retention strategies, try these out for a change.

Time to Relax

There’s an unspoken distaste towards employees taking their PTO (if your organization doesn’t suffer from this, then congrats!). Employees feel as if they will lose the chance to work on exciting projects or they’ll be derailed from promotion when they take time off. In fact, Project: Time Off found that 41% of employees don’t even take all the time off they’re given.

And also, the U.S. Travel Association reported that a staggering 80% of employees say they’d take more PTO if their boss fully supported or encouraged them.

Build a culture where time off is acceptable. Heck, even tell your employees to take a day off to relax after they’ve completed a huge project or closed an important deal. Doing this will not only remove that sense of guilt employees feel when they’re not in the office, but it’s also a great way to recognize them for their hard work.

Exiled During Vacation

Encouraging time off is the first step. The next is to cut them off during those days. That same survey by the U.S. Travel Association found these sombering stats:

  • 25% of employees feel they’re expected to respond to work matters and emails during their vacation

  • 11% of employees responded to work calls while on vacation

  • 20% of employees responded to work emails while on vacation

Even when employees are supposedly taking time away from work, they aren’t truly taking time for themselves. And yes, technology makes it difficult for us to truly disconnect. Sometimes it’s helpful to remind your employee to not check their work emails or take any client calls.

There’s a reason why the workplace is set up as teams — everyone is there to support one another. So although it might mean an increase in workload for the team, having colleagues take over some responsibilities will help keep productivity up and allow that one employee to truly take a break.

Cultivating this type of camaraderie is beneficial for your bottom line. People will be more willing to look after each other and lend a helping hand — whether someone’s on vacation or they’re behind on their workload.

Unlimited PTO

Some employees save their PTO for a major vacation once a year. Some might have used it up as sick days. Others may not even have the luxury of having accumulated enough hours.

So instead of putting a cap on vacation days, consider implementing unlimited PTO. We’re not saying that it’s going to work for every organization, but there are some great advantages:

  • Builds trust: Employees will feel empowered to complete their work on their own timeline and manage their own workload. Giving them your trust will motivate them to work hard and show you that they deserve it.

  • Recharges motivation: According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, 35% of employees feel better about their job and are more productive after they come back from vacation. Allowing employees to unplug helps prevent burn out and is a great way to refresh their mind.

  • Practicing equality: Putting everyone on the same playing field — regardless of job title or seniority — eliminates the sense of rigid hierarchy. Employees see managers coming and going all the time, and they want that option as well. Doing this gets rid of that sense of resentment employees may have.

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Be Flexible

Another major change you can make in the workplace to help work-life balance is to give employees flexible hours. We all have appointments, errands, and other obligations that need tending to, but it’s difficult to make time for them with our work schedule.

Offering flexible schedules or even allowing people to work remotely will do wonders for your bottom line. First off, employees don’t have to waste their accrued time off just for a doctor’s appointment. And secondly, they can go back to completing their work once they are done with their personal errands.

In fact, check out what these reports by EY and Millennial Branding have to say about flexibility and millennials:

  • 75% of millennials want the ability to work flexibly and still be on track for promotion

  • 45% would choose work flexibility over higher pay

Flexibility is now more important than ever. Millennials are the biggest workforce in the U.S. They have wants and needs that vary greatly from their older counterparts. But in general, employees want to be able to take a short break to take care of their personal obligations without feeling a sense of guilt or the stress of going into work the next day with double the amount to do. Flexible hours helps eliminate that stress.

Social Media Usage

Another small change you can leverage is the use of social media at work. It’s easy for managers to want their employees to put forth 100% of their focus on their work, 100% of the time. But is that feasible? Yes. Is that stressful? Of course. Take a look at what Micropact and UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School discovered:

  • 56% of millennials won’t accept jobs from companies that ban social media

  • 1 in 3 millennials said social media freedom is a higher priority than salary

Thanks to technology, we’re all connected. But for millennials, social media is an integral part of their life — they grew up with it. Let employees take breaks with social media. And we’re not talking about a whole 30-minute break. The University of Melbourne found that those who use social media at the workplace got 9% more accomplished than their social media-blocked counterparts.

Taking breaks in short spurts to do something enjoyable helps the mind hit reset. And it lets employees keep tabs on what their friends are up to or create exciting plans for the weekend.

Employees need a break. They put so much effort and time into their everyday work, and the last thing any manager wants is for them to burn out. From unlimited PTO to flexible hours, these mental breaks will do wonders for employee retention.




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