Work-life balance 'just part of IT'

Balancing work and private life is just part of the picture, says Ron Stroeven, managing director of Auckland-based Information Tools.

Balancing work and private life is just part of the picture, says Ron Stroeven, managing director of Auckland-based Information Tools.

“We just try and do the right thing. What is key for us is that people are well settled,” says Stroeven, whose 50-staff company provides marketing software to help companies, including many multinationals, carry out surveys.

Equal Employment Opportunities Trust executive director Trudi McNaughton praises Information Tools -- a finalist in the 2002 EEO Work & Life Awards -- for “a great deal of commitment to optimal life balance”, citing the example of a staffer on a four-day week who was able to work five shorter days to please her son.

Making the company's software requires creative thinkers, says Stroeven, so it takes time for people to come up to speed. Consequently, curbing staff turnover is vital so the company is “sympathetic” to anyone wanting time off, say maternity/paternity leave. “It is always going to be worthwhile for them to come back to work for us, or work from home, as the nature of our work allows this."

Information Tools also claims a strong culture of teamwork and understanding, saying it tries to get people involved. "We work for each other, not staff not working for directors. We are part of the same team, an organisation having the same interests,” says Stroeven.

The founder of the 12-year-old business says staff are offered “prosperity sharing schemes” and the company is wholly owned by its working members. “The impact on business is very good. Only one person has left in the past 12 months. The company is very profitable. Staff have a vested interest in its success. Its success is fed back to the workforce and their own prosperity,” Stroeven says.

He claims to have recruited 21 staff this year, only one of them a replacement.

A teamwork culture also reportedly boosts productivity, as people don’t waste time. “If they are stuck, they will ask someone for help. They don’t have to feel they have to solve the problem on their own,” Stroeven says.

The typical working week has a “core” day of nine-to-five, but some start earlier and finish later. “We discourage people from working too long as it affects their ability to be creative in using the brain. However, what happens is the work is so interesting and some feel such a sense of responsibility that they get caught up in it. But we remind them to have a balance,” Stroeven says.

His main advice to employers is to treat your staff as you would treat yourself and help them. “The more you help them, the more everyone will gain."

Stroeven advises that some staffers seen as marginal can become good employees “by talking though the attitudes that are required in the workplace and the opportunity that is there for them if they apply discipline to whatever they are doing".

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