Opinion

Work-life balance tips for employers and employees

This week (21st September to 25th September) is National Work Life Week, which aims to highlight the benefits of a work-life balance to ensure employees remain engaged, motivated and productive at work.

Now in its sixth year, National Work Life Week was started by the charity Working Families with the aim of shining a light on the importance of balancing work and home for everyone. A poor work-life balance can lead to stressed employees, causing high absence levels and low productivity, which has significant impact on a businesses’ bottom line.

But employers who help employees to balance their work and home life are rewarded by increased loyalty, employee engagement and commitment. It is also a key factor in both attracting and retaining the best talent within an organisation.

Achieving a healthy work-life balance requires effort on both sides, so we’ve compiled the following tips for both employers and employees.

Three top tips for employers

1. Presence doesn’t equate to contribution

Employers should take the time to review their culture and check that there isn’t any mish-held perception amongst employees that working extra hours will help to demonstrate how committed and valuable they are. The focus should be on the contribution employees make while they are present, not how long they are present.

2. Practice what you preach

Employers often unknowingly set expectations through their own behaviour. If they work late, or over the weekends, there may be an unspoken assumption amongst the team that they should do the same. Clear expectations need to be set, with clarity around working hours, and what is considered reasonable overtime when needed.

3. Consider flexible working requests

This Work Life Week falls a year on from the extension of the right to request flexible working for all. While employers still have the right to say no to requests, make sure you don’t dismiss them without consideration. A CIPD report found that 72% of employers surveyed believed that implementing flexible working practices had a positive impact on staff engagement and 73% felt that it had a positive impact on employee motivation.

Three top tips for employees

1. Cut back your hours gradually

A recent poll of SME employees by AXA PPP healthcare found that almost half (46%) regularly worked four or more hours of overtime a week, while 29% put in seven or more. If you regularly put in extra hours and are not sure how to step back, try cutting down gradually and work towards a sensible pattern over a period of weeks or months. And remember, Wednesday 23rd September is National Go Home on Time Day!

2. Employ time management techniques

Sometimes the stress and panic which causes people to work extra hours can be helped by better time management skills. The secret of managing time effectively is understanding what’s important and what can wait. Start each day with two or three priority tasks and plan to work on them during your 'peak performance time' - for some this might be first thing in the morning, others may work better and concentrate more in the afternoon.

3. Ask for help

However, if your workload is totally unmanageable however much you plan your time, then ask for help. Trying to carry on under such pressure is not healthy, especially over long periods of time, and it won’t help to enhance your career or help the organisation in the long run. Be realistic, there comes a point where you can’t do everything. Understand your limits and ask for help if your workload goes beyond them.