Work Life Balance And Flexible Working|Creating A Happy Workplace

From flexible working arrangements to encouraging employees to find a healthy work life balance, our tips can help you keep your employees happy and motivated at work.

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What is work life balance and how can we achieve it?

For many people, achieving perfect harmony and a rewarding balance between your work and personal life is far from easy. Splitting your time and energy between the two can be a daily challenge, made even more difficult when battling obstacles such as a long commute, family commitments, or working different hours to your partner.

Work life balance is a hot topic in the UK right now, with research showing that up to 98% of Brits consider work life balance as important, but over one third admit they don’t experience it. In fact, over half of employees said they've resigned from a job that failed to offer work life balance.

As an employer, handling the issue of work life balance can be difficult, because it is different for every employee –a busy working parent’s idea of work life balance might look very different to that of a recent graduate settling into a new city and taking the first steps in their career. Goals for work life balance tend to differ between single and married workers, and between those new in their careers and those looking ahead to retirement.

5 ways to improve work life balance 

There are many ways companies can help employees achieve better work life balance. Here’s our top tips to improve work life balance in your business:

  1. Set boundaries for overtime
    Working 60-70 hour weeks shouldn’t be confused with commitment or dedication. Working beyond the daily standard working hours should be limited to time-sensitive activities or projects. Otherwise, employees will check out and burn out.

  2. Introduce flexible paid time off
    A handful of US companies have introduced“unlimited paid time off" (PTO). Sounds daunting (and costly) right? Interestingly,not all employees took advantage of the benefit when it was introduced in their companies because some of them felt guilty about taking time off. For something less radical, a "flexible" paid time off plan might be worth considering.

    Flexible paid time off gives employees more say in choosing the type of time off they need, and allows companies to cater for the needs of increasingly diverse work forces-not everyone celebrates the same religious holidays for example. This might not work for seasonal businesses though, if you need to limit the times of year your employees can take time off in order to meet demand.

  3. Set work life balance models
    Encourage your managers and leadership team to lead by example. Their actions during time off –such as responding to emails or calling for meetings –will affect their employees’choices about work life balance,and what they feel is expected of them. Employees that limit calls and email replies or completely switch off while they’re on leave or at weekends (depending on the working hours agreed for their role) shouldn’t be faulted. Instead,ask them to create thorough handovers for while they’re away. The process of writing a handover and going through it with the team can also give peace of mind that everything’s taken care of and highlight any urgent issues that need to be dealt with before they go on leave–allowing them to relax and enjoy a well-earned break.

  4. Create a family-friendly workplace
    As a parent, childcare responsibilities don’t neatly stop when you get to the office, so creating a family-friendly work environment can be a huge help for working parents. Consider offering an on-site childcare facility to take the stress, frustrations and travel time involved in other professional childminding services. If this isn’t a practical option, there are other ways you can offer flexibility to working parents, such as allowing them to take time off to pick up their children from school when they are unwell, or flexible start/finish times for parents doing the school run.

  5. Offer health and wellbeing benefits
    Besides health insurance, offering onsite wellness programmes such as discounted gym memberships and employee assistance programmes that provide counselling for mental or emotional health issues sends the message that the company is looking after the right balance for their staff. Investing in your employees ’wellness doesn’t need to cost the earth, and can include organising sports events, or providing free fruit and healthy drinks.

So from free fruit Fridays to encouraging employees to switch off when they’re away from the office, there are plenty of ways to create a workplace environment that values work life balance among employees. Next, we take a look at flexible working. 

Flexible working in your business

Flexible working is granting employees freedom over where and when they work. More and more employees value and even expect flexible working from their employers, and it’s become a hugely popular workplace benefit and a hot topic in HR. 

Flexible working can include:
  • Working part-time or reduced working hours.
  • Flexi-time: employees choose their working hours within agreed limits.
  • Job sharing: one full-time role is shared between two or more employees.
  • Working from home (all or some of the time).
  • Mobile working or teleworking: employees work at premises other than the office or home (at clients’offices, working while travelling etc.)
  • Shift swapping.
  • Condensed hours: working time is reallocated over a week or a fortnight. For example, employees may ask to work additional hours from Monday to Thursday to get Fridays off.
  • Annualised hours: employees’working hours are expressed as a total number of hours for the year and can be varied from week to week and month to month.

Flexible working conditions are now one of the top contributors to workplace happiness among UK employees. Almost half of UK employees (47%) who took part in a new Worksome survey said that the option to spread their work across the whole week would boost their work life balance. Additionally, over three-quarters (77%)of respondents in Opinium's 2018 survey said that workplace flexibility was very important to them, with younger workers more likely to expect such benefits.


Introducing flexible working can benefit your business in several ways:

  1. Competitive edge
    Smaller businesses may not be able to match the benefits of larger, more established employers, but they can have an edge over their rivals when it comes to hiring talent if they offer flexible work arrangements. One in two small businesses with less than 50 employees offers flexible working, according to research by Smarter Working Initiative. Small British enterprises like London-based pet food brand Lily's Kitchen and Huntingdon-based water supplier and recycler Anglian Water have flexi-time policies.

  2. Staff retention and morale
    Flexible working arrangements can boost employee morale and motivation through higher job satisfaction and an improved sense of work life balance. Flexible working can reduce fatigue and stress,factors which may cause employees to lose focus and under perform as a result. Happier employees can mean improved retention levels, productivity and quality of work.
     
  3. Financial benefits
    In addition to flexible working arrangements helping to increase productivity,they can reduce hiring and training costs due to improved retention, along with the costs associated with sick leave, absenteeism and lateness. Flexible working is also relatively quick and inexpensive to introduce compared to other benefits.


Flexible working arrangements: what are the rules? 

Since the Flexible Working Law was passed in June 2014, all UK employees –not just parents and carers –who have been working 26 continuous weeks and haven’t made another application for flexible working within the previous 12 months are eligible to apply for flexible work conditions. 

Here are the guidelines from the ACAS Code of Practice for companies where flexible working isn’t the norm:
  1. Employees should know that they must make a written request for flexible work.
  2. Employers must discuss the request with their employees. Whenever possible, they should talk in a private place where they won’t be overheard.
  3. The employer should consider the request carefully. Assess the employee and company benefits of the request against any potentially negative business impact of implementing the request.
  4. Inform the employee about your decision within three months. Do this in writing to avoid confusion in the future on what was decided.


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