In week 8 of his 15 week blog Carl discusses the final pillar of Barnett Waddingham’s 6 pillars of employee wellbeing; work/life balance.
One thing that we all strive for is to find a good balance between work and life. Outside of work, some find this balance easy and others really struggle to achieve it. Some work 50 hours a week and have it; others work 30 hours a week and don’t have it. A good work/life balance is unique to each person and therefore quantifying it across a workforce can prove challenging.
In week 2 of this blog series I scored 8.5 out of 10 in work/life balance because against what I want to achieve I do on the whole have a really good work/life balance. I am an extremely ambitious person and always have been. That ambition has resulted in me having to accept that on some occasions my home life must suffer because I need to focus on work and put more hours into that. I am completely at peace with this because it is necessary to achieve what I want to achieve. It is also true that where my work doesn’t require as much time from me I am able to swing the pendulum the other way and spend more time with my family and friends. This is what a good/work life balance is to me, and effectively what I have just described is necessity-led flexible working.
I am lucky because my boss and Barnett Waddingham as a firm treats its employees like adults and we are all very aware of our roles and responsibilities. I know what I need to achieve and I also know what I want to achieve: I put in all the effort required to fulfill both and that works well for me. Where it would fall down for me would be if I had no flexibility: this would lead to a situation where I would work fixed hours and have days where I try to fit 9 hours worth of work into 7 and on some occasions 5 hours work into 7 (although this lack of work rarely happens). This would cause me some resentment that would lead to me not wanting to work extra hours, because I would not be allowed to benefit from the quieter time.
I don’t want to create a vision that every day for me alternates between a 9 hour and 5 hour day because it’s not true and for the vast majority of us the 9 hour days far outweigh the ones that are less busy; however they do occur and I believe we should (where appropriate) be able to benefit from them.
As mentioned previously what I have described is flexible working and a lot of companies offer this now. I am no legal expert but I’m sure there are more rights for the employee to request flexible working now than there has been previously - which perhaps is no surprise when we have one of the highest rates of weekly working hours across the EU.
I understand that this model doesn’t work for all and certainly for certain process-driven and manual roles the fixed hours model is one that is necessary but these roles tend to be the ones that overtime is paid where extra work is required and that in itself is enough of a motivator.
It would be unfair of me to only mention flexible working when referencing a good work/life balance. I think we also need to explore the actual workloads and expectations we place on our staff: are we realistic and are we hindering our employees work/life balances causing resentment. Is there more we can do by way of products and support? I would argue that childcare vouchers, cycle to work schemes and flexing of holiday entitlement and sabbaticals are all good work/life balance products, while there are many courses available on planning and organising which can help those that struggle to do either.
A common theme across each blog I have written has been the need to engage with our employees to understand what causes them concern, or in this specific pillar, what is a good work/life balance to you and based upon that definition do you have a good work/life balance? Only when we know whether it is an issue can we help our employees using some of the options discussed above.
I said at the beginning that work/life balance is unique to each person. One thing that is common to all is the desire to find the right balance for them: if we don’t understand what that balance looks like how can we ever hope to help our employees achieve it?
Next week I will recap on all of the six pillars and discuss the model for success in taking employee wellbeing forward.