Colleen Black honored for promoting work/life balance

Colleen Black, of Billings, MT-based Colleen Black & Company P.C., recently received the Local Balance award by the American Society of Women Accountants (ASWA) for her firm’s support of staff balancing life and work.

Black strongly believes in the importance of a healthy lifestyle for herself and her firm. Lack of a formal wellness plan allows flexibility for the staff to find the wellness program that works for each of them.
Accounting work is stressful and, according to Black, exercise and health-conscious choices can help mitigate the effects of that stress. The firm supports all different types of wellness activities.
“We have a kitchen in the office building that the employees are encouraged to use. We try to keep healthy snacks in the cupboards for everyone to share," Black told AccountingWEB. "We make regular trips to the grocery store to stock up on fruit, protein bars, string cheese, graham crackers and the all-important peanut butter.”
Colleen Black & Co. began sponsoring gym memberships in 2006. It originally began when an employee needed to take her kids to the YMCA for summer camps during work. When the firm ran the daycare and camp through its employee benefit program, it was discovered that a gym membership came with it. Now all of the employees are offered memberships.
Finding new ways to promote healthy lifestyles keeps things interesting.
“We participated in Shape Up Montana in the spring of 2010," Black said. "It is a team event where each participant posts their goals and minutes worked out during each month for three months. I like to encourage teamwork around here. And it’s kind of fun.”
Black also expands her healthy thoughts to include her employees’ family members. She feels it is important for the whole household to be healthy. She provides flu shots for the employees and their families and regularly schedules family events.
Where wellness is concerned, mental health is as important as physical health. “Part of keeping the office a healthy work environment is to eliminate problem clients [who can be stressors],” said Black. 
“On occasion we have to deal with clients who are less than tolerable. We review our client list for problem clients on a regular basis and fire them," Black said. "There have been occasions where clients have treated my employees poorly and even swore at them. There is a no-tolerance rule in this office. There is no excuse for bad behavior. They have to go. It keeps me healthy as well as empowers my employees.” 
Giving back to the community also is a valued activity at Colleen Black & Co. This year, the firm provided 70 new backpacks filled with supplies for homeless and needy kids, as well as providing 19 of them with a new outfit for school. This isn’t just a monetary donation, the staff goes out and does the shopping and fills the backpacks.
“I have been very fortunate in business with great clients and great employees,” said Black. “I feel that it is my responsibility as an employer to provide for my employees and give back to the community that has provided me with so much.”
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