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Rethinking the 9 to 5

Grand Rapids companies are finding unique ways to retain employees during the Great Resignation.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Here's some food for thought — 89% of U. S. employees are burned out. That's according to a survey by Visier an analytics company. 

What's causing the burnout?

The pandemic, work-life challenges related to returning to work and busier workdays due to the Great Resignation top the list.

That burnout is leading to a strain on employees' mental health. And with workers leaving their jobs at a record rate, businesses are having to get creative to keep them.

And that includes understanding that many workers have anxiety about returning to work.

"Anxiety can hit us out of the blue just because of a turbulent undercurrent of unknowing," Bob Vanderpol with Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

He says he's seen an increase in people seeking mental health help during the pandemic and that's something employers need to take into consideration as employees return to a work.

"And so from a moral and ethical viewpoint, yes, I think employers have a responsibility to create and sustain a healthy, mentally healthy workplace, I do," says Vanderpol.

 And that may mean re-thinking the workplace beyond hybrid work.

"You have to make mental health a priority," Kim Bode is the owner of 8ThirtyFour Integrative Communications. She's had an out-of-the-box view of office life since she started her company 15 years ago. 

Kim has always had a work from home policy, and now more and more companies are following the trend as a necessary way to keep employees.

"It's interesting to see that more and more companies are embracing it because they realize that is what their employees need especially as it relates to their mental health," she says.

In addition to work-from-home options, Kim also has an open-door policy for her four-legged co-workers. At times, there can be more than 5 dogs in the office sitting at their owners' feet while they work.

Kim also makes sure she's keeping tabs on her employees' mental health, especially now as they return to work a few days a week. So when she saw her team getting stressed out, she shut down the office for a long weekend.

"We put it out on social media and it wasn't to draw attention to us, it was to say it's ok to do these things."

 In Kim's book a flexible work life isn't the only need her employees have, it's also a desire to be trusted they will get the job done even from home, "If you don't trust your employees then they're going to leave which is how we got to the great resignation."

8Thirty Four isn't the only company changing the office rules. 

"It was 'ok do we really need to be here 5 days a week,'" Janelle Anderson with Grand Wealth Management says the pandemic prompted changes to how they viewed the standard 9 to 5.

"That flexibility was really key to maintaining a sense of balance between personal priorities and professional priorities. So we didn't want to take that away from employees because we recognized how valuable it was."

Employees now only come to the office three days a week and they've added summer hours that include half days on Fridays.

"I think it just comes back to that flexibility and knowing that I've got all my work done. It's Friday it's 1 p.m. I'm going to take my kids to the pool. To me, that's a gift for all the other hard days that people put all the other days of the week," she said.

And while this perk was in place pre-pandemic, Grand Wealth is continuing their 4 weeks paid sabbatical for employees who've been with the company for 5 years as a way to reward their loyalty.

"Let them refresh, let them explore interests whether that's a big trip that's on their bucket list or giving back to the community or organizations they are really passionate about."

Vanderpol says when employers find ways to reward employees with actions that impact their lives, it can make a difference in the workplace. 

"Making the move to do something that communicates to your employee, 'we care about you, as an employee and as a person,' that engenders loyalty."

Another change that Grand Wealth is doing going forward is the way they look at benefits. They've recognized that not all employees have the same needs. Some may value better medical benefits, others may value paid time off more and some may value pay incentives more. 

Now they're looking at ways to accommodate the needs of individual employees instead of a one-size-fits-all benefits package.

These are just a few ways local companies are working to retain valuable loyal employees during this time of adjusting to our new normal.

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