Should employers care about work-life balance?

We’ve all faced the challenge of trying to find the balance between committing to a career and enjoying a fulfilling home life - it’s a tricky task. At first, it may seem that the responsibility of finding harmony between life and work lies with the individual; the employee, rather than the employer.

1 June 2018

However, while employees are of course in charge of their own lives and choices, it’s also important to remember the role company culture and expectations play. Working overtime is accepted as a given in many workplaces, with staff expected to commit a large proportion of their time and energy to their jobs. A recent YouGov poll found that 41% of 25-34 year-olds believe there is sometimes an expectation from their boss or employer to work outside their normal hours. What’s more, just over a quarter (26%) say that there is pressure to work outside their regular work day. Technology means they are now able to check emails around the clock, blurring the distinction between work and home life.

Those who are lucky enough to love their work may not mind this level of commitment. But even the most dedicated employee is likely to find the consistent stream of long working hours exhausting and stressful at times.

So, why should employers care? Here are three compelling business reasons that go beyond “it’s a nice thing to do”.

Stress costs money

Left unaddressed, workplace stress takes a large toll on the UK’s businesses. In fact, 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016 and 2017. The economy relies on supporting UK employees in times of stress - as an employer, it’s important to take these statistics seriously and find ways to protect your team from burnout. Otherwise, your bottom line is likely to suffer.

One option could be to make flexible working part of your employment package. This can take various forms depending on the needs of your staff. For example: you might consider helping employees to achieve a better work-life balance by allowing them to start late, so they can drop their children off at school or avoid a stressful commute. Other workers might benefit from the option to work remotely, in order to take care of family members.

It’s important to listen to your staff. What are they telling you in terms of the level of stress and amount of overtime they do? What working pattern would they ideally like? Surveys are a great way to source this feedback. We’ve shared some other tools you could use below.

Employers have a duty of care

As an employer, it’s part of your duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to identify staff that are struggling and give them the support they need. That said, it can be difficult to know if a member of your team is in need of stress relief; after all, conversations about mental health are hard to strike up on a regular basis in the workplace.

That’s where charities like Mind come in - they offer a range of great resources for educating yourself and your team on how to establish and maintain a mentally healthy workplace. Among their many useful tips, Mind suggest that you get started by distributing an anonymous questionnaire among employees. This will give you an honest reflection of how supported they feel right now. Consider including questions such as:

  • Do you think that work has an impact on your mental wellbeing?
  • Are you aware of any support your organisation offers to staff?
  • Do you feel supported by your manager and colleagues?

Questions like these should quickly give you a clear picture of how you’re doing as a business, in terms of mental health support.

Business in the Community and Bristol City Council also have great advice and free toolkits for employers, including case studies.

Happy employees are more productive

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that health and wellbeing programmes “increase employee satisfaction, lead to a higher company profile, higher productivity, reduced sickness absence and reduced staff turnover.”

The best way to find out what would benefit your team is to keep channels of communication open and make it as easy as possible for staff to share their views and concerns with you. Not only is this beneficial from a business perspective, but it’s also a key part of running a company that employees love to be a part of - and will produce great work for.

If you’d like to learn more about how flexible working could benefit you in terms of improving employee satisfaction and reducing workplace stress, get in touch with us today,