Beating burnout: 5 Chicago companies on why work-life balance is critical to success

August 10, 2017

In the tech world, startups are expected to grow rapidly, which means long hours and late-night Slack chats and emails filled with to-do’s have become the new norm. It’s all too easy for companies to forget how important a good work-life balance is to maintaining morale and promoting high performance among employees.  

However, not every company tech company is wired the same. We spoke to five Chicago companies about why a healthy work-life balance is so important and the benefits it brings.

 

GoHealth makes the healthcare system easier to navigate for both consumers and carriers. Individuals can compare plans and enroll on the company’s site, and health insurance providers can use the platform to drive enrollment and increase retention. Employees cite shorter Friday workdays during summer and tech-focused Meetup groups as just two of the ways GoHealth prioritizes work-life balance.

Why is work-life balance so important?

“At GoHealth, we find that the most successful employees are those that draw strength and creativity from their lives outside of work,” said Michael Mahoney, senior vice president of marketing at GoHealth. “A healthy work-life balance helps encourage employees to focus on their personal lives, which positively influences their productivity at work.”

What measures does GoHealth take to maintain a good work-life balance?

“As a health-conscious company, we recognize that mental and physical well-being are equally important,” said Mahoney. “During office hours, we offer free group Pilates classes, haircuts and nail treatments so our employees can take care of themselves without needing to take time off.”

How has this allowed employees to follow their passions?

“Enabling our employees to have a great work-life balance has allowed our employees to pursue passions unrelated to work,” said Mahoney.

“One of our employees, Joseph, coaches collegiate wrestling at the University of Chicago. Another employee, Curtis, is a martial arts instructor. Yet another, Lauren, co-founded the Brain Research Foundation Young Leadership Board in her time outside of work.”

 

Via is a ride-hailing startup that strives to keep prices low and cut carbon emissions by pooling riders. The ride-share industry is a competitive one, but Via’s employees say it goes the extra mile to maintain a good work-life balance.

Why is work-life balance so important?

“Work-life balance is extremely important at Via!” said Yoav Mordowicz, general manager of Via Chicago.

“Tackling large-scale problems like improving mobility in the Windy City requires a team that's energized and motivated, so it's vital to us that we invest in finding balance for the Via team and ensuring that all our employees have time to pursue their personal passions.”

What measures does Via take to maintain a good work-life balance?

“Each Via office has its own little quirks for how to promote good work-life balance. Here in Chicago, we have a policy that allows team members to work from wherever they want, whenever they want. We also heavily involve the team in designing an office that suits their needs,” Mordowicz said.

“We recently added a ton of awesome team-selected amenities to our office, including standing desks, floating cocoon chairs, cold brew coffee on tap and a ton of other perks. Our New York office has someone come in to offer yoga and meditation for the team. In D.C., they like to blow off steam with daily toy drone battles.”

How has this allowed employees to follow their passions?

“Our flexible approach to work-life balance has made Via an incredibly diverse group of talented individuals with a wide range of passions,” Mordowicz said. “While working at Via, we've had employees travel to Brazil to build schools, lead a trek to the highest peak in Antarctica, tour the country with their band, and write, produce, and star in their own award-winning films!”

 

Networked Insights uses machine learning to help brands better connect with their customers by telling them the type of content they consume along with when they consume it. Nicole Komassa, vice president of customer success and support, and Chris Woody, director of partner strategy, spoke about how Networked Insights manages to analyze so much data while still leaving time for real-life.

Why is work-life balance so important?

Chris Woody: At Networked Insights, the importance of work-life balance is deeply rooted in our values, especially when fostering ownership and an entrepreneurial spirit. Life happens…often, and everyone here understands flexibility is key to innovation and producing high quality work, when and where life allows it.

What measures does Networked Insights take to maintain a good work-life balance?

Woody: Championing our values has led to a culture of self-accountability, and with that comes the freedom for every individual to be responsible for their own time. To stand behind that approach, Networked Insights offers unlimited PTO, freeing up all our colleagues from tracking time off, attendance and billable hours. This allows everyone to fully focus on achieving personal growth and business success.

Even after 11 years in business, we still maintain a startup culture. Our fast-paced environment is at times challenging, but we have built in the infrastructure to easily work remotely, and provide a meditation space, yoga classes, games like ping pong and shuffleboard and even workday volunteer opportunities to help colleagues decompress and collaborate beyond just business endeavors.

Nicole Komassa: About two years ago, our time off benefit moved to unlimited days. As a manager, I’ll admit that I was initially skeptical. However, I soon realized that instead of being “owed” a certain number of days, colleagues now owned the responsibility of taking time, meaning their work was covered or completed. It was NI’s way of saying, “We trust that you’ll do what we need you to do to be happy.”

No one tracks days taken, so there is no pressure when you have a Tuesday spa day with your girlfriends or leave early on a Friday for a weekend away. We have flexible work hours too, again trusting that colleagues will be responsible about when they arrive or leave, or if they need to work remotely. This flexibility is really great when someone wants to volunteer, take a class or work on an advanced degree.

How has this allowed employees to follow their passions?

Woody: I had the opportunity to work remotely in San Francisco to pursue a professional goal of building partnerships with some of the world’s top tech companies. It was a great experience, and because of the flexibility built into my workday I got involved in after-school reading programs, a long-time interest of mine.

Not only did this foster a sense of personal accomplishment, but I was able to build a relationship with another volunteer who went on to become a key stakeholder in a future business relationship.

 

CSG International helps companies around the world launch and monetize their digital services and content. Its cloud-based software and solutions help businesses quickly meet the changing demands of consumers in the digital age. Working with large companies from across the globe is demanding, which is why employees say CSG International encourages them to pursue their personal passions.

Why is work-life balance so important?

“I think it all boils down to the fact that ‘the grind’ is not conducive to producing quality work or inspired employees. It’s very apparent that CSG understands this and encourages us to pursue our interests, manage our time, and, most importantly, leave work at the office,” said talent acquisition brand strategist Andrew Brown.

“Beyond just professional development, CSG helps us reach our goals whether it be a fitness goal or a work certification.”

What measures does CSG International take to maintain a good work-life balance?

“If your work is in order, you are trusted to manage your day, no counting hours or looking down on taking a break,” said Brown. “In fact, it’s often encouraged, even if a break just means a quick game of ping pong or grabbing a tasty bagel.”

How has this allowed employees to follow their passions?

“CSG really stresses health and wellness and encourages employees to take the time to work out, take a walk or mental break,” said Brown. This atmosphere even helped a few of our employees take the time they needed to train together for a local marathon!”

“Beyond just professional development, CSG helps us reach our goals, whether it be a fitness goal or a work certification. We also take full advantage of CSG’s unlimited vacation. ”

 

For brands, creating content that people actually want to read and share is tough. That’s where Dose comes in. The digital media company behind Dose.com and OMGFacts.com uses proprietary tech to figure out what types of content social media users are reading and sharing. Senior HR manager Brenna Olexa and visual designer Jenni Stewart spoke about how Dose encourages a healthy work-life balance. 

Why is work-life balance so important?

Brenna Olexa: From quarterly in-office massages to one of the best nap rooms in town, work-life balance is consistently something we care about and value at Dose.

We believe employees do their best work when they feel rested, refreshed and relaxed. This is why we have a generous PTO policy, flexible working hours and work from home.

What measures does Dose take to maintain a good work-life balance?

Olexa: Every month, Dose provides $100 to every employee, which goes towards the wellness activity of their choice. We empower our team to pursue the wellness opportunities that they’re passionate about.

How has this allowed employees to follow their passions?

Olexa: Recently, a few Dose employees attended a self defense class and discovered a variety of corporate self-defense opportunities that Dose can take part in, which we now have on our wellness docket this fall.

Jenni Stewart: Because of the Dose Wellness program I decided to start checking out gyms around the office and I tried out a self defense class at the nearby UFC gym.

I left feeling empowered and really excited to join! It's great to work at a company that encourages its employees to be healthy and active, whether through wellness reimbursements or having a step challenge.

 

Images via participating companies. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

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