Five things an employer can do to improve work-life balance for their employees…

… and five reasons why they should.

There are several things you can be doing to help your employees achieve a healthy balance in their lives:

  1. The first thing you should do is to talk to your employees about how to achieve balance in their workplace and home lives. If you collaborate on a solution then it is more likely to work for everyone.
  2. Try to avoid a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Everyone has a different idea of what they consider to be a balance. What is great for one person could be a nightmare for someone else.
  3. Don’t expect your employees to work long hours for no extra reward. If you need people to work longer hours, then employ more people – or at least pay overtime.
  4. Lead by example. If you are in the office for long hours, then your staff will think that is what you expect of them as well.
  5. Don’t just pay lip service – actually be that flexible employer who expects your employees to have a balanced life.

What is the benefit of offering a healthy work-life balance?

  1. You can start to reap the rewards of increased productivity.
  2. You are likely to find your employees have reduced sickness absence.
  3. Your staff turnover may reduce and you will find it easier to recruit when people do leave.
  4. You will have an enhanced reputation as a good employer. Your clients will like that too.
  5. You are likely to find it is easier to cover a longer working day. Some people like to work early and others to work late. So you can be there more for your clients.

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Who Cares For The Carers? Their Employer Should

If you employ even only a few people, it is likely that one or more of them is a carer. This means they spend several hours a week giving care to a family member or friend on a voluntary basis. Many of these may be struggling to balance work with their caring responsibilities.   It is likely that most of them will have to take time off work or work irregular hours because they care for someone else. Some of them may need to choose whether or not to continue at work.

And these figures are rising.

It is not just about the demands on their time or the need for flexibility at work.  Caring for someone can be physically exhausting and an emotional drain.  As a result, the carer may feel isolated and unsupported.

Caring For The Carers is Good For Business

Your employees do not have to tell you if they are carers, but if they feel supported at work they are more likely to do so.  And this means you can provide the support they need.  This helps you to plan for unexpected eventualities or the need for emergency leave or a sudden need for some time off.

If they don’t feel supported, then they may make the decision to leave work and concentrate on being a carer.   That is a potential headache for you as their employer.  Especially if they are a key member of the team and good at their job.  Not to mention the extra cost involved in recruiting and training new staff.

On the other hand, if you are supportive to the carers in your workplace, then you will find that employees are more keen to remain in your employment.  Even those who aren’t carers (yet!).  They are also more likely to be willing to put in extra effort.  They want to stay with a good employer as much as you want to keep a good team.   Then, when you do have to recruit new staff, that may be easier too if you have a reputation as a good and supportive employer.

Additionally, If you are looking after your employee, then they are less likely to go off sick themselves.

And all of this increased productivity comes at little cost to you as an employer.  The measures we suggest are all easy to implement and at little or no cost.

So how can we support them in their caring responsibilities?

  1. You could put something in your employment policies about the rights of carers, or  you could even have a dedicated carer policy.  And then you should regularly tell your staff about it.  This raises awareness of your support for carers.  This helps those who are carers, of course, but it will also have a positive effect on others in the workplace, as a demonstration that you are a caring and inclusive employer.
  2. You might want to train your line managers – and yourself – on how to support carers and being an understanding employer. This will enable you to help any carers to balance the demands of work and their caring responsibilities.
  3. Offer flexible working. This could be through formal policies, but also informal arrangements where there is an emergency or sudden need. This does not just mean flexible start and/or finish times, but also home working or part-time working.
  4. It would also be helpful to provide somewhere private for employees to make a personal phone call and give them the time to do so.
  5. Allowing leave at short notice for carers could make all the difference if they need to manage a crisis. All employees have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off work for dependants on an unpaid basis, but you may want to offer more.  For example, you could allow carers the chance to take extended leave.
  6. Provide information about support available (both internally and externally) and how to access it.

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Work-Life Balance – What Is It And How Do We Find It?

We all strive for greater work-life balance.  Employers even use  “good work-life balance” as an incentive in their recruitment advertising.    But what does it mean?  And how do we achieve it?

What is a balanced approach?

The difficulty is that the phrase “work-life balance” means different things to different people.  To many, it means that they want the flexibility to take their children to school before starting work.  Or they want to leave early to collect them.  Many are willing to “make up the hours” in the evening, once the kids have gone to bed.

For others, it means only working for four days in the week.  Some take this to the extent of working “compressed hours”, where five days’ worth of work are squashed into four days.  Sadly this often means that 10 hour days or more are worked for each of those four days.  This can mean a longer weekend – but how much balance is there  during the four long working days?

Others again want the flexibility to work from any location they choose. This takes out travel time and, ostensibly, leaves more time for home and leisure activities, to balance against work time.  In reality, though, most homeworkers are hard at work for much longer hours than their work-based colleagues.  So the balance may be lost.

Balancing the cost

If balance can be achieved by reducing working hours – then who should pay for it?  When people are less stressed, healthier, happier and more refreshed, they are likely to have a raised level of productivity.  This makes a good case for employers to continue to pay their employees for a full week, even when they have reduced their hours.  If we are still getting the same work for less hours, then why wouldn’t we be prepared to pay the same for it?

Of course, the difficulty is that many employers need to provide their service for full working hours, or even 24/7.  In those cases, they would need to employ extra people to cover the hours. So any benefit the employer may get from improved productivity and better quality work will be negated by the cost of additional staff.

So would people be prepared to take a reduction in their take-home pay, if this meant that they worked fewer hours and had more time with their families?  It is not that easy.  Many people live on a knife-edge where their salary is only just enough to pay for all of their expenses.  More leisure time is likely to equate to larger expenses and so a pay cut is often not really practicable.

A reduction in working hours does not necessarily bring balance

A large proportion of the workforce is already working part-time.  Others are balancing caring duties with work.  Many work in the gig economy and so are employed on an ad-hoc basis.  Others work for themselves, or as contractors.

Technology doesn’t help.  It is too easy to be “always available” to answer that one email, or take that one call from the other side of the world.  Even when we are on holiday, many of us find it impossible to leave work behind and so take our laptops and smart phones with us.

If reduced hours don’t work, how can an employer help?

There are several things you can be doing to help your employees achieve a healthy work-life balance:

  1. The first action you can take is to talk to your employees about how to achieve work-life balance. If you collaborate on a solution then it is more likely to work for everyone.
  2. You should try to avoid a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Everyone has a different idea of what they consider to be a balance. What is great for one person could be a nightmare for someone else.
  3. Don’t expect your employees to work long hours for no extra reward. It is fairly normal for people to work unpaid overtime – especially if they have reached supervisory positions.  Many employers don’t expect this, but most of them accept it and do not take steps to discourage it.  If you need people to work longer hours, then employ more people – or at least pay overtime.
  4. Lead by example. If you are in the office for long hours, then your staff will think that is what you expect of them as well.
  5. Don’t just pay lip service – actually be that flexible employer who expects your employees to have a balanced life.
  6. You can start to reap the rewards of increased productivity, reduced sickness, reduced turnover and happier staff.

If you think this article is useful and you would like to know more,  please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.