Why work-life balance matters, and goes beyond working parents.

flexible working, working from homeThe desire to achieve a healthy work-life balance is broadly acknowledged these days. But all too often it’s still seen as a nice-to-have and not a crucial element of modern working practices. It’s also often talked about as being principally an issue for working mums or, if not them specifically, working parents.

Initiatives shouldn’t stop at ‘Family Friendly’ policies. Instead introducing and achieving a work-life balance for all employees needs to be the goal. Obviously, having a balance between your work and your life has positive benefits for employees, but the benefits for employers, while touched on, are rarely the focus of these conversations.

Getting that work-life balance (for all – not just parents) is a challenge but when achieved it impacts positively on performance levels, happiness rates and profitability. Whether that’s getting home to your children or just having time for non-work-related things in your life.

What does this balance look like in practice?

Nailing an organisational culture that facilitates and encourages flexible working hours is a vital starting point. Following this, developing a strong team ethos that helps create a valuable support network, offers smart working practices and supports the art of prioritisation helps create a working environment where respecting each other is key. Whether that’s respecting people’s time off, their chosen working hours, or even ensuring the wellbeing of employees is top of the company agenda.

With over 35 percent of employees regularly arriving at work early or staying late, it’s clear that sometimes we are all just pushing ourselves too far.

When you make the decision to change your lifestyle (and focus on getting the balance right), you’ll inevitably experience a change within yourself. You’ll lose ties with your local takeaway driver as you re-establish more sociable working hours and stop staying in the office ridiculously late, in turn saying goodbye to unnecessary overtime. Employers need to realise when additional resource is necessary and understand that overworking their team shouldn’t be the norm.

The benefits

The benefits are both emotional for you, and commercial for your employer – they are intrinsically linked.  We all know when we’ve struck the right balance because we feel happier, more fulfilled, worry less and are able to focus. Aside from delivering your best work and therefore contributing to a business that thrives, for an employer the benefits also lie in staff retention and reducing attrition rates.

In practice, achieving a healthy work-life balance means you are present. You’ll be more present in the moment, be it in a meeting (because you’re not worrying about missing the gym again or feeling guilty because you rushed bedtime stories last night), because you have a supportive and effective team around you at work that allows you to be your best you. Making this a reality for employees is undeniably in the best interest of employers too. A focussed, effective and committed you in your work-life helps to highlight your best assets, build positive relationships and contribute to the healthy growth of any workplace.

Making it a reality

Openness and flexibility. We hear these words all the time, but it’s time to generate a culture that embraces and actively encourages new ways of working, with input from all the team. Having said this, it must always be supported from the top – leadership teams need to lead by example.

Businesses should engage with their employees out of office interests, the activities which motivate them and give them much needed headspace. By doing this you not only create personal relationships that help people feel comfortable at work, but you also understand when someone might need to leave on time to make their weekly yoga class.

We need to overcome the concept of taking on new challenges efficiently versus being so overwhelmed you’re inefficient. Don’t simply introduce naff initiatives that you think will encourage workers. Free meals or snacks are great, but offerings like these shouldn’t be used to mask the fact you’re keeping your workers in the office more and more.

At Clarity we are taking steps to encourage a more flexible approach. As well as initiatives to support health and well-being, we’re trying to focus more on ways of working and changing mindsets so that everyone starts to feel more empowered to manage their time effectively. Many agencies are moving away from draconian approaches towards flexible working. Duvet days, first introduced in America, are becoming increasingly available across businesses in the UK, to give people that last minute down time that’s often needed.

Last year a study across the UK into these duvet days suggests that unsurprisingly employees are feeling increasingly stressed, with 61% admitting that they have taken a ‘duvet day’ from work in order to recuperate. The study also found that 75% of directors and company owners have admitted taking time off simply for some time out, proving further why maintaining a healthy work-life balance is key.

Steps for the future

The ultimate goal is to establish balance-related working practices that are affective for your particular organisation. You should be aiming to get the best out of your staff, allowing them to reach their potential, whilst also ensuring you’re not working them into the ground. It’s not about doing everything and anything, it’s making the effort to ensure your employees and colleagues feel supported in getting the balance that’s right for them, enabling them to be the best version of themselves.

About the author

Henrietta CheungHenrietta Cheung, Business Development Director at Clarity, has over 13 years’ experience working in advertising and communications planning.

She has worked with globally renowned brands such as M&S, HSBC, Unilever, ITV and Jaguar, as well as start-ups and SMEs, across a variety of sectors including retail, FMCG, automotive and finance.

Her expertise lies in omnichannel communications strategy, content planning, digital and data strategy and working with teams to develop analytics and measurement solutions to inform future planning and optimisation.

Cheung’s skills include branded content, partnerships and sponsorships and managing large cross-functional teams. She has multiple award wins to her name for cross channel planning and social planning, and has played a crucial part in relaunching a number of brands including Jaguar.

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