Five things your company can do to create the perfect work/life balance
According to the Trades Union Congress, UK staff work some of the longest hours in Europe, take the shortest lunch breaks and enjoy fewer public holidays.
The number of employees putting in more than 48 hours per week – an EU threshold for ‘safe’ levels of work – has increased over the last five years to more than 3.4 million. Meanwhile, workers contributed some £32 billion worth of unpaid overtime in 2014 – and all this while many families still have trouble finding the time to spend caring for children and elderly relatives.
In short, we’re one of the most overworked nations in Europe. And this fact has led to a lot of conversation about work/life balance – but what is this?
Work/life balance is about achieving the right balance of work and life outside of work. It’s not about achieving a uniform balance of work and leisure time, but the right amount of each depending on the person. It’s about putting an end to unpaid overtime, caring for shift workers (especially those that work through the night) and ensuring staff get the time off work they need – to care for a child or relative, for their own health, and for public holidays.
It may be time for you too to assess your own work/life balance, and how your company manages it. If your time is heavily stacked towards the job, consider making some changes – either to your own life, or around the office itself.
Here are some of the things your company could do:
Join the TUC’s Work Your Proper Hours Day
The Trades Union Congress’ Work Your Proper Hours Day initiative encourages staff to focus on their contracted schedule for just one day a year, in February or March. It highlights to overworked staff what life could taste like if they simply stuck to their schedule – and shows managers what a difference a full evening’s rest and relaxation could make to their employees.
Offer company sick pay in place of statutory sick pay
Statutory sick pay begins after an employee has been absent for four continuous days, and is paid up to the value of £88.45 per week. This token amount is part of the reason that fewer employees are taking a record low number of sick days – at the expense of their own health. But your company has the option to offer a more generous sick pay package, so long as it does not fall below the legal minimum. You may be reimbursed for a single day’s absence, or you may receive better sick pay for longer periods of absence. With this commitment supporting you, you’ll find it less of a financial risk to take sick days.
Offer flexible working hours
Many workplaces already do this, and it’s easy to see why. Businesses that have switched to flexible working hours have reported higher employee commitment, reduced staff turnover and lower levels of stress. With flexible working hours, employees can also escape the burden of unpaid overtime. For some workplaces, implementing flexible hours is as easy as extending the starting and finishing times each day, allowing staff to start later, finish earlier or take longer lunch breaks. Others might let staff work remotely a certain number of days per week.
Adopt a shorter working week
Some offices – and even entire countries, such as Sweden – have introduced a working week of just four days. Researchers have noted that, by setting a seemingly more restrictive working week, employees become more productive, getting just as much done in less time. Like the sound of it? It could be coming to Britain, too: the four-day week is already backed by some of Britain’s top minds, including Professor John Ashton, who believes it could help combat stress-related illnesses.
Work/life balance offenders are regular martyrs – the type of people that are first to put their hands in the air for overtime, will often take their work home, and even go as far as to cancel annual leave. Some just love their jobs, which is great. Others want to prove a point, which isn’t so good. Either way, these people should be gently discouraged from frequently sacrificing themselves. Recognise the common martyrs and ensure they understand the benefits of finishing on time.
Whatever your plans are, our #makeaswitch campaign aims to both inspire and help you make those changes come to fruition. If you're looking to switch any of your finances, M&S Bank offer a range of products that may suit your needs, find out more here: current accounts, credit cards, loans, insurance, savings & investments.