The Washington Post

Company: Bright Horizons.

Area locations: 35.

Number of employees: 450 locally; 20,000 worldwide.

Is a happy worker a productive worker?

Dan Henry, the chief human resources officer for Bright Horizons, thinks so. There are close ties between an employee’s well-being and his or her job performance, Henry said, and that’s why he set out to get a better understanding of the personal factors that were causing stress for his firm’s workers.

Henry developed a survey that aims to measure staffers’ satisfaction with various aspects of their life. It was administered to all 20,000 of the child-care company’s workers earlier this year.

One of its key findings, he said, was that respondents reported that they lacked basic financial skills. Many weren’t so much worried about long-term goals such as saving for retirement; they were concerned about day-to-day budgeting and saving.

That prompted Bright Horizons to take action: It established a “well-being help center,” which, among other services, offers free financial counseling. Advisers are available to work with employees over the phone on creating a budget, curbing spending or even planning for a costly vacation.

The program, Henry said, is designed to “give people a better sense of control or ownership over their financial health.”

Jennifer Foster, one of the company’s office managers, recently started working with one of the advisers on a plan to save money to purchase a home and send her three kids to college. After going over her credit report as well as debt and income statements, the adviser is now working with her to define a concrete budget.

In addition to fielding financial questions, the help center has assisted employees with everything from coordinating a move to planning a child’s birthday party.

Henry acknowledges that there are limits to any company’s ability to support workers as they tackle difficult personal issues.

“We’re not in the aisle with somebody who’s overspending,” Henry said. But, he added, “If we can influence that upstream, we’ve reduced a potential life stressor that comes to work in other ways.”

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.



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