For some time now, businesses in the UK have been encouraged to consider the work/life balance and its impact on mental health and personal resilience. I saw more individuals discussing Mental Health Week (13-19 May) this year than ever before – it’s clearly gaining traction and warrants strategic consideration.
But how should businesses approach the issue of work/life balance, and what do managers need to know?
First and foremost consider that “balance” might be misleading – it suggests allocation either side must always be equal – a zero-sum game, with trade-off and conflict at its core. With this in mind it suggests that work/life balance is either “right” or “wrong”.
In my experience, this is absolutely not the case. A good balance means different things for different people; what feels right for me personally could (and often does) feel totally imbalanced for my partner, friends, colleague and teams.
With that in mind, the challenge for businesses is to allow people the freedom to create flexible working patterns that are right for them, but that also fit into the overall business strategy.
In its 2019 research link here to download report: https://www.pricebailey.co.uk/leaders2019-report/ into 400 business leaders across East Anglia, Price Bailey revealed that understanding the above is a driving force for growth amongst successful businesses. Three quarters (74%) of leaders in East Anglia respond to talent scarcity through more flexible and attractive working conditions; only 55% pay more; and 46% offer training in response to talent shortages.
So, whilst recruiting talented individuals is a challenge across the board, managers cite better working conditions and giving staff a greater sense of autonomy as key strategies for recruitment and retention. Higher pay and training come relatively low down the list.
How to make sure a fair work/life balance is achievable
It takes some work, and a consideration of your organization values. It’s one thing to give people the right to finish their working day when their workload is clear – if everything they need to do is done by 4pm, then it’s fine for them to leave. But if workload is such that it never allows them to leave at 4pm, or their role means there will always be work for them to do, they may feel it impossible achieve a genuine work/life balance despite documented policies put in place by management.
So first you need to find out whether your current approach is working. You can do this through informal feedback -listening to your people is key – there will be some quick and easy wins that those “on the ground” suggest and that you hadn’t considered. Next, a formal and communicated well-being strategy with regular two-way communication could be a significant step towards identifying the ideal for your business.
To make that ideal achievable, it’s likely that individuals will need some freedom from the workload; and for that to be possible, there needs to be a good team in place who can share the workload, a good growth strategy which ensures the right resources are in place, and an intentional focus on work/life balance and flexible working within the overall business strategy.
Looking to the next generation of employees, work/life balance is often just as important – in some cases, more – than salary package, so it’s something that businesses will increasingly need to focus on. By setting the right example, business leaders are much more likely to have a productive, engaged team in place below them, while also reaping the benefits of improved company performance.
Mel Root MIC