When businesses are focused on upping their game in uncertain economic times, they ignore the work-life balance of their employees at their peril, says the Mental Health Foundation – they estimate that work-related stress costs the UK 10.4 million working days per year.
Tipping the work life balance
It may be tempting to stick with inflexible working hours but the cost-benefit analyses often show that it could be a turn off for retaining staff and, ultimately, damaging to productivity. Many firms are finding work life balance policies an attractive factor in hanging on to good staff – such policies include flexible working opportunities (i.e. offering job share, reduced hours and flexi-time) and ‘family-friendly’ provision such as term-time working, parental leave and so on.
A 2014 government appraisal found that “surveys and case studies point to flexible working as having helped with staff retention, leading in some cases to very significant savings in turnover costs.” While there are some evidence gaps to be explored further, it’s already clear that businesses are changing their traditional working arrangements in response to the changing expectations of a highly diverse workforce and in order to capitalise on the benefits of a more balanced approach.
Some benefits of work life balance for retaining staff:
- Produces more contented employees – flexible arrangements allow staff to enjoy home life, hobbies and personal development. Flexible working keeps things in perspective for workers so that they return to work refreshed without feeling they’re neglecting other parts of their life – they are also more likely to value working for the firm and want to stay.
- Maintains good mental health – the importance of good mental health is being increasingly recognised in society. The effect of stress and greater working hours on mental well-being could mean low work performance. Good work life balance can help mitigate against stress and mental health issues.
- Reduced absenteeism and sickness rates – when employers are more mindful of factors causing ill-health and unhappiness at work, not only will staff turnover rates reduce, but staff are less likely to be unfit for work.
- Improved productivity – while a difficult one to pin down empirically, it stands to reason that contented and engaged workers who choose to stay with the business will be more productive. Research from the British Chambers of Commerce (2007), based on an online survey of 408 businesses, found that 58 per cent of employers perceived flexible working arrangements to be associated with an improvement in productivity.
Clued-up readers may have spotted a key theme here – how improving overall work life balance is another way of increasing employee engagement which leads to many benefits for worker and company.
Case study: ‘people driven but also business focused’
Top civil engineering firm Balfour Beatty took a positive approach to the work-life balance of people working on their construction projects after it found that work-life balance was a problem for 62% of its workers. It set out to offer different ways of working and concluded that the business case for one work-life balance strategy, flexible working, had been successfully proven in “operational improvements in efficiency.”
All work and no play make Jack, and Jill, pretty dull. Workers who exhaust themselves are stacking up problems which, in addition to the damaging personal consequences, could ultimately end up costing the company too.
Use the Chronologic Workforce Management System to keep an eye on work-life balance in your workplace. You can track your employees’ hours, including overtime, and any sickness or lateness absence to keep track of any problems brewing. Flexible working needn’t be a headache when you have a good time and attendance system keeping track for you.