New research from Glassdoor, the worldwide leader on insights into jobs and companies, has found that there is no clear consensus among employees across the UK on what makes a good work-life balance and the current ‘one size fits all’ solution is not meeting the complex needs of the modern workforce.

Furthermore, confusion around what the term ‘work-life balance’ actually means has seen employees continue to struggle to keep home and work in harmony. Despite nearly half (48%)* of workers taking action to improve the blend of job and home during the COVID crisis, 1 in 2 (52%) admit that work regularly eats into their personal life and 35% say that a healthy balance simply isn’t possible in their current role. The findings are published alongside Glassdoor’s 2020 rankings for the UK’s best companies for work-life balance and analysis of the market.

Work-Life Balance: No Longer a Simple Equation

Employers might consider a refresh of their HR policies as 67% of people in full-time employment in the UK say that what they want from the balance between work and home has changed since the pandemic began.

Two-thirds (66%) of workers intend to make changes to improve their current work-life balance and are looking for employers to offer a more nuanced solution to help them protect their personal life. It’s not a simple case of clocking off early or not checking emails after 6pm.

The research makes it clear that in the eyes of employees there is no single definition of the term ‘work-life balance’ and workers want to take control of what it means for them as an individual. For a third (36%), a good balance between home and work life is flexible working hours. A further 32% want choice in where they work and 1 in 4 (23%) want a reduced working week. In contrast, generous paid time-off is important to another 24% and 3 in 10 (28%) want the ability to switch between work and personal life throughout the day as needed. In addition there is little consistency across gender, age or other demographic.

A new blended model of work is looking likely as over two-thirds (67%) of workers said the ability to allocate whatever time they chose to work and personal activities was, for them, the modern definition of ‘work-life balance’.

With 8 in 10 employees stating that work-life balance would be a key consideration when looking for their next role, employers should consider a range of initiatives that make a healthy balance between life and work achievable. Importantly, employees see this change as a partnership; the majority (53%) believe the responsibility for ensuring a good balance between a job and home is shared between employee and employer.

10 Highest Rated UK Companies for Work-Life Balance

Glassdoor reveals the highest ranking companies for work-life balance according to the reviews of hundreds of thousands of UK employees written between 1 January and 28 September 2021. Tech companies dominate the list but it is clear that great work-life balance can be found in every industry.

 

Rank

Employer

Work Life Balance Rating  (out of 5)

Industry

1

Office for National Statistics 

4.58

Government

2

Softcat

4.48

Tech

3

Arm

4.47

Tech

4

Sky Betting & Gaming

4.46

Tech

5

Mastercard

4.45

Finance

6

Bank of England

4.42

Finance

7

Dell Technologies

4.41

Tech

8

FirstPort

4.39

Real estate

9

Sage

4.34

Computer hardware & software

10

SAP

4.33

Tech

Source: Glassdoor Economic Research (Glassdoor.com/research)**

“Employee reviews on Glassdoor indicate that the companies that top the work-life balance rankings offer a range of options to help workers harmonize their home and professional lives” comments Lauren Thomas, Economist at Glassdoor. “Whether it is the autonomy to set one’s schedule, hybrid working policies or simply trust shown by management that work will be delivered without being tied to an office, it is clear that a healthy balance is best achieved when employees can individualise their approach to work.”

The reviews praise Sky Betting & Gaming’s long-running wellbeing programme which provides a range of support to help with work-life balance from additional days off to an in-house gym. Softcat offers flexible start/finish times and job-share opportunities and a ‘pledge to flex’ policy has been implemented at SAP, offering 100% flexible and trust-based workplace as the norm.  Sage has a number of policies including a ‘How to Thrive’ toolkit designed to support employees’ wellbeing and at Arm, employees have, amongst other things, access to the workplace mental health app which has bitesize materials and exercises from productivity to sleep stories.

Burnout on the Rise so Which Industries are Getting it Right

Looking into keywords in the Glassdoor employee reviews we can see that work-life juggle is not a new topic. “Although the COVID crisis has shone a spotlight on the delicate balance between work and home, employees have been increasingly talking about mental health since 2018,” said  Lauren Thomas, Economist at Glassdoor. “Discussions around wellbeing saw an immediate spike after the first lockdown in March 2020. However, it appears that employees are now feeling the impact of 18 months of change as mentions of burnout have increased 128% since April 2021, suggesting that employers are not fully meeting the needs of their workforce.”

According to Glassdoor data, both now and pre-COVID tech has ranked the best industry for work-life balance. Four of the 10 top companies this year are from this sector (Softcat, Sky Betting & Gambling, Dell Technologies, and SAP) and offer flat, non-hierarchical management structures and the ability to complete most work with little need for in-office equipment.

In contrast, hospitality, retail, and travel ranked the lowest work-life balance scores in 2021 and before the pandemic began. The industries tend to offer less flexibility as they have a high proportion of in-person jobs and fixed shift schedules. However, this is not to say that a good balance between work and home isn’t possible as employee reviews for the top-rated companies in this industry highlight many positive factors.

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.