THE BLOG
09/12/2014 01:46 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Family I Didn't Expect to Find

altrendo images via Getty Images

Written by Shannon Heath, Sr. Communications Specialist for SAS

What does it take to be on the Huffington Post's B-team? Led by Arianna Huffington, this not-for-profit initiative is a group of global business leaders committed to making businesses more socially responsible -- and blogging about it.

It takes a real commitment to corporate culture, and not just the inspirational poster kind of commitment. It takes a real dedication to work/life balance, along with a real understanding from management that this difference can improve business and a real understanding from all employees that this difference can improve their lives.

What exactly is that difference? Let me tell you a story....

Earlier this year, my family experienced an unexpected tragedy. The kind of tragedy which knocks you out of yourself and turns your whole world upside down. A tragedy which also caused me to be out of work for three months. It was completely unforeseen; we had absolutely no warning. For someone with a self-professed, unapologetic Type A personality, not only did this cause me inexplicable emotional paralysis, it left me panicked for the void I would leave at work -- the unfinished projects, the unmet deadlines, the unattended meetings. I had no time to put together an out of office plan. I had no time to outline current projects or pass them off appropriately to someone who could keep them on track in my absence. I was just plucked right out of work and into a dark hole.

I've worked at previous companies where this kind of tragedy would have been handled cordially and professionally; I would have been given the legally-required allotment of leave. However, at the end of that term, I would have been required to hit the reset button and get right back into the swing of things without missing a beat, assuming that my position hadn't been filled by someone else.

But at SAS, my team stepped in and filled in with no questions or hesitations. My work was not left undone. My internal and external clients were patient when there was a learning curve with those picking up the pieces of projects unrelated to them. My management checked on me daily. My immediate colleagues, and even those with whom I only work tangentially, checked on my family constantly -- and supplied us with daily meals that lasted for more than three straight months (and we still have food in the freezer!) -- much of which was prepared right here in our SAS campus cafes. Beyond that, our Work/Life department provided library books, online resources and on-going counseling services (all free!) to help us cope.

My manager, my entire team and Human Resources worked with me on a transition plan to help me acclimate back into my work environment -- at my own pace. Facilities even altered my workspace over a weekend to better suit my personal needs before I even came back to work. The transition back to work was comfortable and comforting. My family felt the benefits of this comfort, as well.

You see, SAS creates family. The emphasis on employee well-being and work/life balance makes family possible. No matter where you are on your career path, SAS makes family possible. The flexible work environment enables most employees to create a schedule that best suits their personal needs -- whether it's attending a school play or taking an aging parent to the doctor. The counselors in the work/life department are a wealth of knowledge and resources for college planning, depression, anger management, eldercare and grief. But, as you can see, it doesn't stop there. Most employees can attest that SAS is family. We rely on each other. We help each other succeed. We celebrate team successes. We hang out after work. Our kids play together. We feed each other. We grieve together.

Sure, we have a lot of convenience benefits at SAS. I don't want to spell all of those out -- you've probably heard all about them before. And I do appreciate a variety of those offerings every day. But, what really makes a difference to me are the elements of SAS culture that the outside world doesn't always see: The balance. The camaraderie. The management support. The family it allows me to have -- off campus and on.

This impacts me greatly; and, subsequently it impacts my work. Life happens -- and in some cases, it's impossible to bring your best self to work, no matter how hard you try. Your mind, your heart are somewhere else -- and at SAS, that's where they should be in those situations. And once you've taken care of whatever that situation is, you're more focused and able to fully function at your desk. Our executives have often said that employees are the driving force behind SAS' consistent revenue growth, profitability and expanding technology.

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When you can love what you do, love who you do it with and still maintain a balance in your personal life, you have work utopia. And when employees feel that way about where they work, it shows in their work. Happy employees = happy customers. It's a virtuous cycle.

It sounds simple, right? Yet, so many employers just don't get it.

At SAS, our executives and management genuinely understand that culture directly impacts our customers, and our business; but, they also genuinely understand that culture impacts people. And our people are awesome.

I'm so excited for others to see the side of SAS that I see every day.