By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
One-third of workers aren't comfortable taking time off, survey shows
One of the most interesting results of a new survey is especially timely as we enter the holiday season. According to this study, 33 percent of respondents said they did not feel comfortable taking personal time off or vacation days. - photo by Greg Kratz
I would never assume that a company dedicated to audits and taxes would push for better work-life balance for its employees. It seems like a business that deals with hard numbers wouldn't have the time or inclination to consider something that "soft."

But based on a new survey, it seems my perception is incorrect. That's great news, because it adds one more voice to the diverse chorus calling for more emphasis on balance.

In this case, that voice comes from Deloitte, an audit, consulting, tax and advisory services company. Its Workplace Pulse survey was conducted in early October by KRC Research through an online poll of 1,016 full-time employed U.S. adults.

One of the most interesting results is especially timely as we enter the holiday season. According to the Deloitte survey, 33 percent of respondents said they did not feel comfortable taking personal time off or vacation days.

Confirming the sentiment of that finding, 32 percent of respondents said they had consistently placed work commitments over family or personal commitments, with more men (35 percent) than women (27 percent) saying they had done so. And only 48 percent of respondents said their organization valued their lives outside work.

I've seen these kinds of results before, and while I keep hoping for a bigger jump in the numbers in favor of work-life balance, the positive movement appears to be incremental so far.

I guess that's better than backsliding, but I firmly believe corporate America can do better. Apparently, so does Deloitte.

These findings should serve as a wake-up call to organizations looking to retain and attract talent, said Mike Preston, Deloitte LLP chief talent officer, in a press release about the survey. Organizations are investing in more and more benefits and perks associated with well-being, like flexible work options and unlimited vacation days, aimed at winning the war for talent. But our survey shows businesses can do more to create a culture of well-being, which goes beyond offering generous programs and focuses on everyday behaviors.

"Well-being is not mutually exclusive to delivering value to clients; in fact, its important in any high-performance culture.

I couldn't agree more, and I liked the characterization of this as not just a work-life balance issue, but a matter of employee well-being. It's a subtle distinction, but I believe it's important as well-being makes me think of physical and emotional health. Healthy employees are also generally happier and more productive, which means all companies should be striving for this goal.

Clearly, though, many businesses still have work to do when it comes to promoting employee well-being. Several surveys, including this one from Deloitte, offer ideas on how they can make headway.

According to the survey, 39 percent of respondents said they would feel more comfortable prioritizing personal commitments over work if they saw their direct managers do the same. And 38 percent said they would feel that way if senior leadership modeled more balanced behavior.

"These results were amplified among millennial talent, who are quickly becoming the majority group in the workforce," a press release about the survey said. "This group was more likely to say if they saw their peers, managers, senior leadership and CEO prioritizing a personal commitment over work, they would feel more comfortable doing the same.

"This is perhaps not surprising given they were also more likely to say in the last six months that theyve consistently placed work commitments over family/personal commitments (36 percent vs. 27 percent of Gen Xers)."

The survey also showed that men are more likely than women to wish their company leaders were "more open and honest about their experiences and challenges balancing work and life," the press release said.

I think that kind of transparency is important to everyone, regardless of gender. I've been fortunate to work for several bosses who are extremely hardworking and dedicated to their jobs, but who also take time for their families and let me know when they are doing so. That makes me more comfortable asking for a couple of hours off now and then to attend a concert or other school event.

I hope, in turn, that my example of taking time for such things will be good for the members of my team. Again, I firmly believe that everyone in an organization wins when balance is part of the company culture.

This was further emphasized by other results of the Deloitte survey. In it, only 8 percent of respondents said their CEO had a big impact on their happiness at work. However, 44 percent said that if they heard more about their CEO's experience of managing well-being, it would have a positive impact on their feelings about their workplace.

Jen Fisher, national managing director of well-being for Deloitte, said in the press release about the survey that these results were telling.

In the past, Deloitte offered a range of wellness and work-life programs and benefits, but we were hearing from our people that we werent doing enough to address their individual needs, Fisher said. This is why we are taking a more holistic approach to well-being, focused on creating opportunities for our people to personalize their experiences and empowering teams to support each other in managing work and client demands.

I like that point of view, and I think Deloitte is setting a good example for other companies.

I also hope we all have bosses who will take time off during this holiday season and focus on work-life balance during the rest of the year, too. Now's the perfect time for them to start setting such an example, and for the rest of us to follow it.