A business is only as good as its team, and the most productive teams are those whose members can find that perfect work-life balance. This balance allows individuals to spend sufficient time away from work to manage their own life admin, spend time with the people they love and pursue their interests. Finding that sweet spot as a worker offers financial stability alongside good health and well-being.
The demographic of the modern workforce means it is increasingly difficult for staff to achieve such balance. Today, many employees are working parents, some juggle more than one job, and we also have an ageing workforce thanks to the current age of retirement and the rising cost of living. To guard against an exhausted, burnout workforce, companies should not just acknowledge that the work-life balance is essential, but they should also actively promote initiatives that allow their employees to achieve it.
According to the CIPD, mental health issues continue to be the leading cause of long-term absences from work in the UK. A host of evidence suggests that a poor work-life balance can contribute to chronic stress and declining mental health. For example, data from the European Working Conditions Survey indicates that employees who fail to strike the work-life balance self-reported significantly higher levels of mental health issues.
Work-life balance initiatives within a business are the epitome of a win-win situation. Staff members see such initiatives as a way of helping them manage both their work life and their home life. Businesses see them as a means of recruiting and retaining valuable employees. When this balance is achieved, workers experience improved health and well-being. This makes them more productive at work and reduces the levels of absenteeism.
Businesses are short-sighted to believe that the traditional 9-5 work schedule and paid overtime is truly the path to optimal productivity. The recent pandemic and the forced shift to home work – and therefore, more flexible working – have encouraged reflection within companies. Many managers are now asking themselves what the best way to allow their workforce to complete their tasks each week is. Indeed, flexible working opportunities can be one of the most popular and beneficial initiatives for achieving an improved balance between work life and home life. Read on to explore five great examples of work-life balance initiatives that are sure to boost productivity thanks to happy, rested, healthy and motivated employees.
Work from home initiatives
The pandemic taught us some important lessons about where many employees prefer to work. Social creatures though we are, for a notable percentage of Britain’s workforce, the opportunity to work from home revealed a range of benefits. Workers enjoyed the flexibility of managing their own time, thereby allowing them better to meet the demands of their households and families.
For some employees, working from home allowed them to be more productive even though their time sat at a desk was lower than those spent at the office. It’s hypothesised that this happens for a number of reasons:
- There are fewer distractions at home
- They are more likely to focus on one task at a time
- They are more relaxed at home and therefore find it easier to concentrate or be creative
- They are less likely to sit in their home office for the equivalent number of hours, and this “compressed” working style encourages less procrastination and more focus
Most companies relished the return of their workers to the office as lockdown eased, actively encouraging employees to resume office-based hours. Though it may seem counterintuitive to see staff returning to home working, there is a balance to be struck. An initiative such as the opportunity to work from home for one or two days a week is likely to be popular with those workers who thrived during lockdown.
A robust plan is imperative if you want a work from home initiative to achieve the work-life balance you seek to achieve. It needs to be adequately supported in terms of the right IT equipment for participants, and there must be agreement across the company that the home workers will be as highly valued as those who are solely office-based.
We’re all pros now when it comes to video conferencing, so shifting team meetings to a mix of in-person and virtual attendees should be second nature. These meetings allow the home workers to feel included, and it reminds the office-based workers that those at home are still productive and engaged in the tasks at hand.
According to Statista, by 2021, nearly four million workers were able to access flexi-time. The CIPD has been working alongside unions, charities and professional bodies to push the government on the subject of flexible working in the UK. Research conducted by Microsoft found that over two-thirds of workers want flexible working hours. So, with the demand there and the possibility that flexible working legislation will eventually come into force, why not get ahead of the game?
For workers, having flexibility around their working hours solves many of the most pressing work-life balance problems. For those who need to drop off and pick up a child from nursery or school, who help care for a relative, or whose physical or mental health makes the traditional 9-5 schedule challenging, flexi-time can be life-changing.
For a company, creating an extended window of accessibility to the workplace allows this initiative to take place. An office could, for example, be open from 8am to 8pm, and staff are invited to complete their contracted daily hours at any point within this time frame.
Some businesses may choose to take flexible working a step further, allowing employees to meet task completion targets rather than contracted hours. So, rather than working 40 hours a week, they work as much as they need to complete their assigned tasks. Such an approach can boost productivity, motivation and morale.
Flexible leave policies
The annual leave allowance offered by a company is always of great interest to new employees. Undisturbed time away from work allows individuals to rest, holiday and spend time with their loved ones, and this undoubtedly makes a significant contribution to the work-life balance.
Some companies are embracing flexible leave policies such as unlimited paid time off for those employees who meet specific work targets and criteria. Businesses that offer their longer-term employees unlimited paid time off see improved staff retention and productivity.
Undoubtedly this helps with work-life balance, giving staff members autonomy over their work life. Parents of school children find this initiative especially helpful as it allows them to manage school holidays more efficiently and enables them to attend school events during the work week. It is also an excellent motivational tool for employees who love to travel or pursue hobbies as they can do so without having to account for their time off or worry that they’ll be judged for taking time off “again”.
Promote community spirit
Excellent people management requires a holistic view of what truly contributes to good health and well-being. Though a company can offer staff flexible working hours and sufficient paid leave, it can take more than this to promote lasting balance. Research suggests that individuals who engage with their community experience positive mental health outcomes, such as reduced stress levels.
If a company seeks out opportunities to encourage its teams to connect with their local community, this promotes team bonding and community spirit and nurtures employees’ mental health. Asking a team to participate in a local charity event or community programme may open experiences they wouldn’t otherwise have undertaken.
Staff members can feel a sense of confidence and pride when they work within the community as representatives of a company. Having team goals and targets that lie out with those of the business environment can be very beneficial for the team’s stress management. Furthermore, watching your team participate in such events may uncover skills and strengths in individuals that hadn’t yet been identified within the workplace environment.
Workplace wellness initiatives
Yes, wellness has become a bit of a buzzword in business, but there is solid evidence to back up the importance of reducing stress within the workforce. Stress makes employees sick. Physiological and psychological changes that take place within the body when the brain feels under stress result in:
- Lowered immunity
- Increased pain sensitivity
- Low mood and anxiety
And as any employer will know – these equate to long term time off.
Research highlights the need to offer inclusive wellness initiatives in the workplace. Though some employees will flourish under weekly yoga or meditation sessions at the office, others would dread the thought of partaking alongside their colleagues. For some, effective wellness interventions would include work breaks to listen to music, go for a walk or a run, or have free access to gym equipment.
For others, improved wellness in the workplace would involve addressing physical health issues. Equipping some staff members with a standing desk, ergonomic furniture, and access to massage or physiotherapy would best serve their wellness needs.
We hope you find our examples of work life balance useful and can now put some of them into practice. One of the most important ways to improve the work-life balance is to enable employees to complete work in a manner that suits their lives, alongside the company’s needs. Avansas offers high-quality office supplies that help facilitate the smooth transition between office working and home working. Avansas also has a comprehensive range of ergonomic office equipment and furniture accessories to encourage wellness in the workplace.