Top Places to Work | Work-life balance

Recognizing there’s life outside work

Skanska employees worldwide participate in Stretch and Flex exercises in the morning. Skanska employees worldwide participate in Stretch and Flex exercises in the morning. (Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)
By John Dyer
Globe Correspondent / November 7, 2010

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In a tough economy, it becomes tougher to maintain the boundary between work and personal life.

The organizations that placed high in the Top Places to Work survey for work-life balance said personal enrichment benefits, like on-site gyms and traveling with the company, as well as flexible time off and sick days, were key.

“In this day and age, everyone is crunched for time, especially working parents,’’ said Greg Strakosch, chief executive of TechTarget in Newton,which has no set policy on vacation or sick leave. “We trust our employees. We don’t really care when and where people do their work, as long as it’s done well and on time.’’

Here are three companies that help their workers enjoy duties in and out of the office.

BBN Technologies

Administrative assistant Abby Tirfe has lost 20 pounds since she started a workplace summer fitness program in July at Raytheon BBN Technologies in Cambridge. “I don’t think I would have been able to accomplish my goals personally if I hadn’t been working here,’’ she said.

She joined the program with 100 other employees who shared her goal. She and her co-workers recorded their weights and meals in a log to keep the group motivated. “Everyone helped each other out,’’ she said.

BBN also schedules free workout classes in a company gym in the morning, during lunch hour, and after work, so employees can exercise, but not lose precious time commuting.

Tirfe said she enjoyed other healthy innovations at the company, including the way workers are given airy spaces, not cubicles, and the shuttle bus the company provides for employees who use the Alewife T Station.Walking might be healthy, she said, but she can do without it in the winter.


Joe Wilcox was overseas when he realized he loved his job at the Massachusetts office of the international construction company Skanska. The 25-year-old assistant project manager had worked there for three years when he was accepted to its Unlimited Exchange Program, which sent him and a handful of other employees to work on company projects around the globe.

Wilcox helped build a toothpaste factory in Wroclaw, Poland, from January to June. It was a life-changing opportunity, he said, especially since he had never spent a significant amount of time outside the United States. “Not only are you seeing Skanska in action, but you are really seeing a developing economy,’’ he said.

Wilcox visited Berlin and Ireland and became heavily involved in helping the factory to follow leadership in energy and environmental design, or LEED, standards. “I was able to really serve a purpose in getting this building certified,’’ he said.

In the process, he gained a greater appreciation of the size of his employer, too. “You have this global view of Skanska by allowing you to see it locally,’’ he said.


At technology media firm TechTarget, a flexible vacation and sick leave system helps employees arrange their own schedules so they can fulfill their work and life responsibilities more easily. “Someone who has a balance is a better employee,’’ said director of marketing communications Garrett Mann.

With three children under the age of six, Mann needs a lot of flexibility to maintain that balance. “Having a lot of things going on in your life at once, that’s pretty much how it works for me all the time,’’ he said. “Having a half day, a full day, a few days off here or there for doctor’s appointments, day care coverage, things like that — there’s never a question.’’

Of course, employees need to discuss their plans with managers, to make sure the office can plan around the days off. But because managers judge workers by the tasks they accomplish more than the time they spend in the office, few people abuse the system, said chief executive Strakosch. “If you are going to do your best work at 3 in the morning,’’ he asked, “why are we going to dictate you work at eight in the morning?’’

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