Welcome to our latest 'Balance Beam' work life balance profile, brought to you by Amanda Tallent from Bennetts Boots Wide Calf Boots. It provides a great insight into the work life balance issues of organisations with seasonal staff.
We will be regularly placing our focus on organisations from Australia, New Zealand and around the globe who are implementing work life balance initiatives into their organisation. Our aim is to inspire you to seek greater work life balance inside and outside your business.
I hope you enjoy our 10th 'Balance Beam' profile, and if you would like your organisation profiled on our blog we would love to hear from you. Please scroll to the end of this post for further information.
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Company: Bennetts Boots Wide Calf Boots
Years in business: 6
Number of staff including business owner: 6-25 here and overseas (we are seasonal)
1. What are some of the work life balance issues your organisation faces?
We have two main life/work issues. The staff and the owners. With the staff we have found the best sales people to be similar to our customer. Thus they are generally mum’s with many family commitments that can change from week to week.
My husband and I are the owners and we need to balance being first time parents, business owners and in a couple. Although we do use day care sometimes, most of the year we co-care for our 2 year old daughter, one of the perks of being the boss.
2. What work life balance initiatives do you have in your organisation, big or small?
For the casual staff we allow them to organise their own hours with each other in each store. We set out what is required and they make sure it happens. Full time staff are on flexi time, as long as they complete their hours within the week, all area’s of responsibility are taken care of and there are no issues, they can come and go as they please.
3. What have been the main benefits to your organisation of these initiatives?
We rarely need to find replacement staff at short notice, we have very low absent rate as they cover each other, and the staff are happy that they can organise their work life around their personal and family life.
It cuts down administrative duties as we don’t need to waste time doing rosters and checking what days staff have asked for off etc... Generally the staff give above and beyond in gratitude for being able to work and have a family life. We have two employees who are single mums with children who have disabilities. The flexibility we give allows them to have a job and income without neglecting the needs of their kids. As parents ourselves we understand how important it is to be there when you’re needed.
4. Have there been any obstacles or issues in implementing your work life balance initiatives?
The main issues have been finding the right people and keeping tabs on their productivity. Two years ago we hired two full time staff, both were put on flexi time. One, we quickly worked out that the lack of supervision and direction was not working for her. We remedied this by giving her training in time management. Unfortunately this just made her more skilled at delegating and negating responsibility. In the end we had to let her go. It was very sad it didn’t work out. If she was given a traditional role with supervision she would have been an excellent employee.
The second was much more adaptable to the flexi time with time management skills, an understanding of what the business needed and ability to prioritise. Over the past few years we have been able to let her have even more responsibility and flexibility. The main issue has been communication, this is due to the very fast pace of our business growth. In a high growth faze, roles change quickly and what was urgent important one day can easily be redundant the next. It would be much easier to do flexi time with a position that does not change.
The other issue has been documenting what has been done and working out if the time taken is accurate. It’s also harder to pinpoint areas that training is needed as much of the work is done after hours or off site. To deal with this we implemented a time : activity report which ended up taking more time and effort then the value we gained from the exercise, thus we no longer do this.
We now have a system where staff register for time in lieu so we can keep track of it on a weekly basis. This is needed to make sure both parties don’t feel they have given more than they have received. There have been times where a staff member thought they have worked longer hours than they actually had and times where we, the owners, have felt they staff were taking advantage of us. Having a system of documentation makes everyone feel secure in their positions and responsibilities.
5. Do you conduct any regular surveying or evaluation of your work life initiatives?
It’s an on-going process for us. We are growing so fast and the seasonal nature of the business means we have times with many short term casual staff. This influx of different people and the high growth of the business, means positions within the company change quickly. Because of this, evaluating and tweaking the flexi time arrangement happens every few months according to the requirements of the business at the time.
6. What are some of your own personal work life balance and/or time management tips?
- Learn time management skills, read books, go to classes and then implement.
- If you’re the employee make sure you are communicating effectively the level of input you are giving. It is easy as an employer to worry when they can’t see what the people they are paying are doing.
- Schedule in relax time and don’t miss a party or event for work. In the long run it’s not worth it. If you’re in business you’re in for the long haul so start making the things and people that are important to you apart of your schedule. It’s hard at first as you sit around chatting when you could be building your empire. Most of us started businesses so we could have the lifestyle we wanted then get caught up in the excitement the business world gives. The business will always be there, but those special occasions are one offs, don’t miss them.
- As a boss put yourself in the employee’s position and see if you can make their lives a little easier. You may find by doing so it also makes your life easier. Eg. Letting them do their own rosters.
7. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love spending time with my husband and 2yo daughter Mary-Clair. I enjoy doing courses and learning new things. Reading, travel, spending time with family and friends are always fun. I’m looking forward to learning how to fly a plane and trekking to the Inca temples.
8. Tell us about your organisation. What are the key services of your organisation and what is your target market?
Bennetts Boots, designer wide calf boots. For women with curvy calves, who want to be comfortable and in fashion.
We have the largest collection of wide calf boots in the world and 24 sizes to choose from. That is three calf widths for every size shoe, we will have the boot to fit you. Specialising in only wide calf boots, each style is designed to elongate the leg and make the wearer look taller and slimmer.
Bennetts Boots are made from high quality Nappa leather that moulds around the calf; full length zips so they are easy to get on and off; inner sole cushioning so you are comfortable for longer with added shock resistance; broader in the foot so your toes have room to move and; the Bennetts Boots blue lining that has anti sweet and anti-smell qualities. When you feel the soft fine fur lining against your legs you will feel the difference a good quality boot makes.
We have two stores in Victoria, Australia. 39 Bridge Rd, Richmond and the Factory Outlet at 1/10 Dunlop Rd, Hoppers Crossing. You can also buy online at www.BennettsBoots.com or over the phone 1300 309 866.
9. What is your role within the organisation?
CEO & Designer
10. Other comments, tips or ideas:
Make sure you have the right person before you give them flexi time. Personality and commitment are what makes it work.
Abbie's Comments: "A great example of where it is so important to have the right person in the right role. Also, have you considered leaving it up to your employees to organise their own roster? Would this work in your own organisation?."