Enjoy your weekly update from the GWU Staff Association.
WEDNESDAY, October 05, 2016

Making Work-life Balance a Reality & Open Enrollment

Choosing Your Benefits Plan. The Open Enrollment period for medical, dental, vision, and insurance benefits and flexible spending and health savings accounts began this week and will continue through Friday, October 21st, 2016.

Due to the significant changes to this year's benefits plans, GWUSA recommends that staff attend one of the Open Enrollment fairs being held throughout October and take advantage of the tools and support available to employees as they make these important decisions.
Open Enrollment Fairs
Foggy Bottom - Grand Ballroom
Thursday, Oct 13 - 10am-3pm
Tuesday, Oct 18 - 10am-3pm

VSTC - Enterprise Hall
Tuesday, Oct 11 - 10am-2pm

Flu shots will be offered at all fairs.
Visit the Benefits Events page to register for Benefits Overview sessions online or on campus.
Work-life balance: making it a reality
Melisma Cox, GW staff member since 2009

Being home with enough time on weekdays to perhaps do something fun for yourself and still get enough sleep. Not having to use your vacation days during the winter holidays when children are off school-- and then having fewer days left for the rest of the year. Not having to drop back to a mere 10 days of vacation when switching jobs. Are those the definition of work-life balance? Can GW be a trailblazer?

Recent weeks have seen this newsletter discuss what it means to be incentivized to stay healthy with the goal of lowering medical costs on our employer-sponsored health insurance (which is in and of itself an anomaly in industrialized nations). But let’s consider the greater picture of work-life balance.

In many offices at GW, the standard working hours are 9am - 6pm, with an hour for an unpaid lunch. This means that for many employees, it is rare to get home before 7 p.m. For working parents, that means less time at home with their children and even less time for workers to kick up their feet and relax before having to get up to do it all again, but perhaps a bit more tired and less productive as the week progresses.
The Independent reports on a study in which workers who clocked a shorter work day were more productive, took fewer sick days and reported being happier and more energetic. Couldn’t the 9-5 work day become the standard at GW?

Along the same lines, GW employees are given paid legal public holidays over the course of the year. During the winter break, the university is also closed for two days at Christmas and two days for New Year’s. How much work is really getting done during the three or so days that the university remains open, and at what cost?

Many employees have to stay home anyway to take care of children who are out of school. Their colleagues who remain in the office may be less productive with so many of their peers out of the office. Is it worth the downturn in morale for employees who must eat up their precious few personal days or stress about finding a babysitter during the winter holidays? What if the university closed entirely for the week between Christmas and New Year’s, like NYU, Georgetown and American Universities do? Science shows that we are more productive after a restful vacation. (Not to mention that it could also save the university money on energy costs. NC State reports that the school has saved over $3 million on energy costs by closing the school during the winter holiday since the program was established in 2004.)

Europe has some of the most generous vacation mandates in the world. Are their economies suffering as a result? Not according to lists of the strongest economies across the globe. Furthermore, workers’ vacation allowance in Europe does not go back to start when they change jobs, as it often does in the US.

It seems to go without saying that more time to unwind and spend time with their families would allow workers to improve their mental and physical health. This in turn would benefit employers who would have more productive workers.

Allowing for a more holistic view of work-life balance as described in this article would require an enormous cultural shift by employers across the nation, and is not something that is likely to happen any time soon, if at all. But it could happen if enough citizens demanded change. It would have to start somewhere, why not set a precedent at GW?
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