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1-5 October is National Work Life Week, an initiative by Working Families to encourage more businesses to adopt policies that protect or boost the work-life balance.

Businesses have been having conversations about work-life balance for the best part of two decades. Back in 2007, the Institute for Employment Studies surveyed businesses about what benefits they had seen from implementing work-life balance-based initiatives.  The top answers were:

  • Reduce casual sickness absence
  • Improve the organisation’s ability to recruit
  • Improve employee productivity
  • Improve staff morale
  • Improve employee commitment

There’s little reason to suggest those benefits have changed, but what has definitely changed is the pace of work. The ‘always on’ nature of many people’s jobs, with constant availability via email, has meant that whilst the benefits of work-life balance may be just as powerful as they always were, achieving them has never been harder.

Improving work-life balance isn’t solely a matter for HR and payroll – although it’s often the first port of call for businesses wanting to make improvements. There are plenty of ways ops, IT departments and others can help, but if National Work Life Week has left you wondering what more your business could do, here are some initiatives your HR and payroll departments could introduce:

Hours vs productivity

There’s a vast difference between hours worked and productivity. Someone who logs 37 hours per week may get far more done than someone who is present for far longer. Asking payroll and HR to monitor hours logged can help identify those people who are getting more done with less, spot the people who are simply spending too long at work, and identify those for whom more efficient working could benefit their work and personal lives.

Introduce home working

Yes, we realise that if your job is to operate a piece of heavy machinery, chances are you’ll struggle to do that from the kitchen table. But home working, even if only an occasional thing, can take the pressure off – with no commute and no mad scramble to pick up the kids.

Often, even the most unlikely jobs for home working can have elements that can be treated more flexibly, from legal work, to banking, to giving medical staff the occasional half day to write up records at home or consolidate training.

Don’t run overtime every day/week

If you ran overtime 24/7, you know there are some people within your organisation who would work all of it. Every business sometimes needs to ask more of its staff to cover peak periods. Often, overtime can become the only way of balancing a bulging order book with too few skilled workers. But it’s important to offer enforced breaks and give your people chance to recharge.

Limit the carryovers

I was speaking this week with a worker who will be carrying approximately 30 days’ leave over to his next year, when he will collect another 30 days’ leave. Things have just been too busy for him to take more than the odd flexi-day.

Inevitably, that means he’s feeling burnt out now, which increases the risk he’ll go sick, and when he returns he’ll still have 60 days of leave to use. Many businesses see unlimited or generous carryover limits as a good thing, but they can cause major operational problems, as well as damaging staff health and welfare. Agree a limited carryover to prevent storing up problems for the future.

Ask your employees

One of the most common features of any workplace is the imposition of benefits on the assumption they’ll improve work-life balance, when often they just don’t. So before you ask HR and payroll to introduce an improvement, talk to your staff first about the improvements that would make a real difference.

Want to explore ways payroll can help improve the work-life balance in your business? Talk to our experts now.