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The Break Room: Wave Goodbye to Summer, Not to Work-Life Balance

Sept. 10, 2012
Why employers should encourage teambuilding and work-life balance all year round.

Summer might have rushed by in a blur this year, but I tried to make the best of it. I attended a few baseball games, rode roller coasters, picnicked, listened to the Cleveland Orchestra under the stars, shared drinks with friends on outdoor patios, walked to the lake, watched the Olympics and got my hands dirty in the garden.

Despite those fun summertime activities, I couldn’t simply hit the beach and neglect my responsibilities as a senior editor of this magazine. Instead, I had to cast off my sunglasses during the workweek and buckle down. After all, I was facing one of the busiest summer seasons I’ve seen in my tenure at this magazine.

Along with Editor-In-Chief Sandy Smith and other EHS Today staff members, we developed and planned our first-ever America’s Safest Companies Conference; embarked on an entire Web site redesign; chose eight America’s Safest Companies winners from a deep and impressive applicant pool; worked with our art director to improve our use of graphics online; expanded our social media presence; set new performance goals for ourselves and for our magazine; and, as always, worked hard to produce stellar monthly print issues of EHS Today.

It’s been a lot of work, and it picked up just when the lazy heat of July and August screamed “pool party” instead of “productivity.” But at least we weren’t alone in our efforts: Our company leadership recognized that even if work doesn’t stop in the summertime, this is still a season for fun.

Thus began our company-wide 10 Days of Summer initiative, where offices across the country settled on 10 fun summer activities for employees. Here in Cleveland, we celebrated this new initiative with trivia quizzes, a walking tour, a games day, a Hawaiian party, a wine tasting, a schools supply drive and more. It all culminated with an outing to an afternoon Cleveland Indians baseball game followed by a happy hour.

True, I didn’t always have time to attend these activities. That’s the downside of having so much to do. But I did make sure to clear my schedule to attend that Indians game. I think it’s important for a company to offer team-building activities and to recognize that none of us want to pass an entire summer in our offices – and I also think it’s important for employees to participate when possible.


Recent research has promoted the importance of work-life balance and of supporting not just employees, but their families, too. Numerous studies have suggested that happy employees are productive employees. They might even be safer, too.

“The protection and improvement of the well-being of all people who work are goals shared by workers, their families and employers,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D., following the release of a NIOSH Total Work Health article that connected work-life balance to reduced workplace injury risks. “There is increasing evidence that the work environment and the overall well-being of the workers within it are strongly connected, and many employers are offering family-friendly benefits and programs for their employees.”

Summertime is coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean that team building and hosting special activities to bring together employees (and their families, too) should end. So I’d like to hear from you: What has your employer done to support work-life balance? Did you participate in any company-sponsored summer events? What kind of initiatives would you like to see in place at your workplace to help bring employees together, support families or encourage teambuilding? Send me an email at [email protected] and let me know. And hurry – the long days of summer are getting shorter as we speak. 

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