Every month Prairie Business asks several regional business leaders a question or two about a relevant business topic. The question for August is: "What initiatives has your company implemented to help build a work-life balance for its employees?" Below is how four regional leaders replied:

Noah Fischer, human resources and organizational development manager, EAPC Architects Engineers, Fargo, N.D.

Noah Fischer
Noah FischerImage: EAPC Architects Engineers

We are proud of our culture at EAPC and continuously look for ways to improve it for the health and well-being of our employees. We recognize that our employees’ lives outside of work is incredibly important to them, whether it is their family, pets, hobby, life circumstances, or the need to just recharge. The challenge with work-life balance is that rarely anything in life is in balance, but rather intertwined as a constant push-pull. Our leadership recognizes that production, performance, and employee retention improve when we make concerted efforts to support our employees and what is important to them outside of work.

Some specific initiatives we have implemented include deploying an action team to review programs and processes on how we on-board and assimilate new employees, surveying current employees on our corporate culture on what we do well and how we can improve, and requiring each manager work with their employees to create a career development plan. These initiatives are creating conversations, building rapport, and informing managers on what our employees need to be supported both at work and at home. Our goal is that the cumulative effect will position both the employee and the firm to be successful.

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Steve Schmitz, president/CEO, First Community Credit Union, Jamestown, N.D.

Steve Schmitz
Steve SchmitzImage: First Community Credit Union

At FCCU, we think of our staff as family. As such, our company culture puts family first because we understand how important a work-life balance is for the overall health and wellbeing of our staff. In addition to generous Paid Time Off (PTO), we’ve implemented flexible schedule initiatives whenever possible to accommodate appointments, kids’ activities, family time, etc. where staff can make up time later.

Furthermore, during the initial outbreak of COVID and with schools closing, we understood this would put many of our families in the difficult position of choosing between the need to work and their family. To combat this strain, we immediately made changes to allow staff full access to their Extended Illness Bank (EIB). This bank of up to 30 days was initially designed for an employee long-term illness, but we realized that the pandemic was an extreme situation that needed a quick response to alleviate their concerns about lack of daycare, home schooling, underlying health conditions, etc. We also allowed those employees with limited PTO accruals to go up to 80 hours negative during these extreme conditions to ensure that no one missed a paycheck.

Overall, throughout our company, from our Board of Directors on down, we constantly try to be understanding that ‘life’ happens and know that happy employees are ones with a healthy work-life balance.

Sarah Aldinger, principal architect, Architecture Incorporated, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Sarah Aldinger
Sarah AldingerImage: Architecture Incorporated

“The challenge of work-life balance is without question one of the most significant struggles faced by modern man.” – Stephen Covey

At Architecture Incorporated we realize our employees are our greatest resource. Now more than ever we are faced with the challenges of juggling demands of our private lives and our careers. We strive to create an office environment that allows our firm to interact with each other in a collaborative and productive way. We take advantage of the latest technology, which allows us to provide flexibility in how we work as a team. Whether working together in the office or collaborating remotely, we are able to meet the needs of our clients.

We also believe that family comes first. Offering a flexible work schedule allows our staff to make adjustments as needed, especially during these unprecedented times. By supporting our staff in their personal lives, we in turn have staff who are vested in the success of the firm.

Jeremy Elbert, senior vice president, financial advisor and branch manager, D.A. Davidson, West Fargo, N.D.

Jeremy Elbert
Jeremy ElbertImage: D.A. Davidson

While we have always had tools in place for strengthening work-life balance, D.A. Davidson’s leadership is especially cognizant of the importance of balance during the pandemic, when we are more isolated and face additional stress and health threats.

A major tool is our wellness program, which encourages associates to care for themselves physically and emotionally and provides helpful direction. The program includes fitness challenges, a health-information newsletter, and incentives for personal improvement. We also have many offices that have designated wellness champions who help others with work-life balance.

D.A. Davidson’s Employee Assistance Program covers a range of mental health issues, such as abuse, depression, grief, stress, relationship and parenting problems, workplace issues and more. In addition, you can be connected to professionals to discuss financial and legal issues.

We offer a generous vacation and holiday schedule, and we schedule family-oriented events focused on having fun, from holiday events to celebrating milestones. Our company is equally generous with leaves of absence, allowing time off for children’s school activities, adoptions, maternity and paternity leaves and more.

Probably most effective, however, is a leadership environment that encourages everyone to take time for themselves. We work to assure everyone that it’s critical to take time away from work responsibilities.