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Inspiring Workplace Places Huge Emphasis on Work/Life Balance

I recently had the great pleasure of touring the world headquarters of SAS in Cary, North Carolina. SAS, a business analytics and software company, is perennially listed as one of the best places to work in North America and indeed, throughout the world.  In fact, SAS made the #3 spot on Forbe’s coveted “100 Best Places to Work in the U.S.” 2012 list and earned the number one spot on the elite “World’s Best Multinational Workplaces” list based on three criterion: work that is inspiring; open communication; generous benefits and work-life balance.

Their sprawling 900-acre campus, home to more than 6,000 SAS employees, has a university-feel to it. It truly is a campus, complete with beautiful sculptures, ponds, rolling terrain, and majestic trees. It almost felt like going to summer camp. What a fabulous feeling, I thought to myself, to arrive at work and feel like you’re getting away from it all!

There are numerous reasons SAS merits a listing in the best places to work “Hall of Fame”: a positive culture that supports creativity, innovation and open communication; an emphasis on work/life balance that is perhaps unprecedented for an organization this size; a physical work environment that makes you actually want to show up on a Monday morning; and an amazing array of employee benefits.

A lot of the benefits are tied to their emphasis on work/life balance and the belief that if you take care of the 24-hour human beings working for you, and alleviate employees of many of their day-to-day stresses and time pressures, they will be more productive, more creative, make fewer mistakes (especially critical for their computer programmers), stay healthy and be, lo and behold, actually  happier in their jobs.

So at SAS you can drop your four year-old off at the daycare (and pop in for a visit throughout the day), drop off your tennis racquet for restringing, visit their on-site medical clinic, listen to a live pianist while having a healthy lunch in one of the cafeterias, and when you need an energy-boost in the afternoon, go for a swim in their Olympic-sized pool or workout in the gym.

And perhaps most impressively of all, they have a work/life center which offers resources and support to employees on issues ranging from dealing with aging parents to handling your rebellious teen.

And despite the serious nature of their work, they know how to have fun at SAS: I was privileged enough to watch a hilarious, extremely well-produced parody video  that poked fun at themselves which they used internally to help celebrate a milestone.  And their M & M Wednesdays, where they collectively devour an enormous amount of M & M’s, is a long standing tradition that dates back to the founding of the company.

So what was the impetus for creating such a remarkable work environment? The co-founders simply wanted to create the kind of place where THEY would have wanted to work.

Other companies might look at SAS with a certain level of credulousness, wondering how they can afford to spend that much money on benefits or questioning how much work anyone gets done.

The answers, of course, speak for themselves.

SAS has an employee turnover rate of 2.6%, in an industry that averages 20% or higher. They have lower health costs, less absenteeism rates, and more productive, creative and engaged employees.  And despite numerous economic downturns, SAS revenues and customers have steadily increased for 36 years.  SAS has crunched the numbers to show that the investment they put into their employees’ well being pays off in spades.

Happy employees = happy customers.

Happy employees = a successful, innovative, profitable business.

Create the kind of workplace where you’d want to work and great things can be accomplished.

These simple formulas for success, demonstrated so remarkably at SAS, seem to be too easily forgotten in today’s business environment.

Copyright Michael Kerr,  2012.   To sign up for Michael’s critically acclaimed Humor at Work newsletter, cruise on over to









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