This week is National Work-Life Week – an opportunity for both employers and employees to focus on wellbeing and achieving a good work-life balance. But with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus crisis rumbling on, achieving a healthy work-life balance has presented new challenges this year.
Research conducted last month found that 61% of workers believed homeworking was better for work-life balance. But this wasn’t the case for everyone. The ONS found that for working parents, there was a struggle to balance the needs of their children with their professional obligations, with many having to change their working patterns to fit around their childcare obligations, catching up with hours missed in the evening.
Sodexo Engage, the employee benefits specialist, is bringing the issue to the forefront with some practical steps all employers can take to drastically improve the work- life balance for their people and maintain productivity levels.
1. Get talking
Working from home has put an end to the daily social interactions everyone has in the office, but these are incredibly important. No longer can we chat in the kitchen, or pop by someone’s desk and without that physical presence, it’s harder for colleagues and managers to see when someone is struggling.
Employers can help by organising regular check-ins with their people on the phone. Rather than only focussing on to-do lists, these should provide an opportunity for employees, especially those with caring responsibilities, to discuss their capacity and ask for help. These communications should touch on non-work-related topics and will go a long way to strengthening social wellbeing, especially for those stuck at home alone.
2. Encourage time away
One of the downsides to working from home is that employees are bringing their work to their home environment. This erosion of time and space between professional and personal lives means many employees may be letting their work dominate home life. It’s all too easy to answer work emails and handle concerns outside of office hours, which is a recipe for burnout.
Burned out employees are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times more likely to leave their current employer, according to Gallup. As such businesses need to push for employees to close their laptops at certain hours and can even go as far as banning sending emails outside of certain hours. Alongside this, employees need to be reminded to use their annual leave, even if it’s for a long weekend at home. Getting away from the screen and switching off properly has never been more important.
3. Get flexible
Flexitime is a benefit that allows employees to fit their working hours around their individual needs. This can include starting and ending the day earlier, shifting the position into a part-time role, or working compressed hours, where the same number of hours are worked per week but within fewer days. This is a benefit that could greatly improve employees’ work-life balances. It can also empower staff to work at times where they are at their most productive and engaged, whilst allowing them time to pursue passions outside of work.
4. Provide professional support
From worries about pay cuts to the anxiety of living and working during a pandemic, there’s plenty of pressures being placed on employees right now. For an organisation to support healthy wellbeing and a strong work-life balance, it’s vital that proper mental health support is in place f. For some, more professional support may be needed during these challenging times. That’s why offering benefits like an employee assistance programme can give staff confidential access to professional mental health counsellors when they need it most.
5. Re-evaluate working from home
When offices fully reopen, many employers may want to get everyone back, but a lot of employees want to continue working from home after the pandemic. Research from Cardiff University and the University of Southampton found that 47% of employees said they want to work from home often or all the time. Alongside this, Working Families, a work-life balance charity, found that 48% of parents and carers surveyed said they planned to make changes to their working patterns to work more flexibly after COVID-19.
For better work-life balance, employers should listen to individual employees and help find a solution that works best for both parties. Introducing a more permanent work from home policy means the team can continue to reap the benefits they enjoyed during the pandemic, such as no commuting, and find the balance they need and continue working at their best.
Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage, comments:
“During these challenging times, the line between work and home has been blurred considerably, with some only moving from the kitchen table to the sofa to mark the end of the day. Others have enjoyed not having to spend hours commuting and being with the family more. Now, more than ever, employers need to do what they can to help employees find a healthier balance. We don’t know what the future of working looks like, but we know that for now at least, we’re all going through periods of significant change and long-term periods of uncertainty. If left unaided, employees’ wellbeing could take a hit, which will only add to the struggles caused by the pandemic. There are plenty of ways for employers to help and foster greater happiness and productivity in the workplace, be it virtual or in person. This National Work-Life Week gives them the opportunity to put those solutions in motion.”