Lack of Work/Life Balance Driving Employees Out

A new survey shows that one in five workers wants to quit their job this year to pursue a more balanced life. What are companies doing wrong and how can you retain good people?
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Now that jobs aren't as scarce as they were just a few years ago, a lot of workers are sitting back and assessing just how happy they are in their current positions.

And a big part of their decision will center around whether they have a balance between their work lives and their home lives. Are they spending too much time at work? Are they waking up or coming home stressed? Do their bosses give them time to go see their kid's school play or softball game?

For many workers, that balance is off -- way off -- and the solution may very well be to find a new job.

According to a new survey commissioned by Key Group, a management training and consulting company based in Pittsburgh, Pa., one out of five workers plans to quit their job this year to pursue a more balanced life.

''That is a high number but I actually think it's higher in some places,'' says Dr. Joanne G. Sujansky, chief executive officer and founder of Key Group. ''I always joke about standing outside a corporation and stopping employees to ask, 'Are you happy to be here today?'. ''I believe work places miss the mark when they don't need to. If you think about what most people need at work, it doesn't always cost money. It isn't always a big deal. Some of the things we don't do as executives take less time than some of the things that we do wrong.''

The Internet-based survey, which was conducted by MMc Marketing Research and Consulting, polled 1,727 workers. It shows a high level of frustration among employees across various industries. The high tech sector, says Sujansky, is no different.

''I see this finding as an early warning of a huge turnover issue soon to face the U.S.,'' she says. ''Many companies simply don't have a culture that emphasizes work/life balance. There's a prevailing attitude among employers that employees are there to work and their personal life, or lack thereof, is irrelevant. Let me bluntly say that if you think this way, it will harm your company. Guaranteed.''

And Ryan Gilmore, who is with Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm based out of Menlo Park, Calif., says now that jobs are more plentiful again, the time is ripe for unsatisfied workers to start moving around.

''Having gone through the high-tech crash from '99 to 2003, those were tough times,'' says Gilmore. ''It impacted many, many different working professionals. At that time, people who did keep their jobs felt very fortunate... And people weren't treated so well during those times. Companies weren't generating revenue so there was a lot of pressure to perform and work extra hard because there was such a fear of losing that job.''

And those workers who weren't laid off had to deal with more than stress. They often had to pick up the extra workload left from their departed colleagues. In a lot of cases, IT workers had to say good-bye to their friends who had been let go and then they had to turn around and take on a second set of responsibilities. And with budgets tighter than ever, tech workers had to struggle to keep older systems running and to keep users happy with it.

But change is in the air.

''There's been a shift. The pendulum has gone the other way,'' he adds. ''As the economy started to expand again in 2004 and up to today, a lot of people did some soul searching and realized there's a lot more to life. Maybe they changed their outlook on what is really important to them, whether it's family or personal time.''

That means CIOs and IT managers better be thinking about what they can do to keep their employees from looking for greener pastures.

''Retention is critical,'' says Gilmore. ''These people are not easy to find, and turnover is very costly, in terms of productivity lost, intellectual capital and training expenses to rehire people. It's never a good time to lose an employee but when things are expanding so, the productivity has to go up and you need more people. If someone is well-skilled, you can't afford to lose them.''

Read on to find out what steps you can take to retain good employees.


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