The facts behind work-life balance

The search for work-life balance is a constant one. Especially as we struggle to find a balance between earning a living and living fulfilled lives.

The OECD reports that the amount of time a person spends at work directly impacts work-life balance. It adds: “Evidence suggests that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardise safety and increase stress”.

Increased workloads, longer working hours and technology makes us more accessible outside of working hours. And they’re all taking their toll. In fact, almost one in two (48.4 per cent) adults in Britain report low satisfaction with their work-life balance.

A YouGov report found that 21% of 25 to 34 year olds were unhappy with their work-life balance. What’s more, over a quarter (26%) felt pressure to work outside their regular working hours. Understandably, this has a great impact on their ability to attain a suitable work-life balance.

The report found that around 40% of respondents read or sent work-related emails and took phone calls outside of working hours. Including whilst on holiday.

According to the OECD Better Life Index, the Dutch enjoy the highest level of work-life balance. They have an impressive rating of 9.4 (out of 10).

The report showed that 61% of Dutch mothers work part time. This allows greater flexibility in terms of childcare responsibilities and means that mothers don’t end up working long hours which threaten work-life balance.

Denmark ranked second in the work-life balance rankings (9.1) among OECD countries. For the Danes, work life balance is about prioritising between work and personal life. In addition to family time, the importance of employees’ health, pleasure, leisure and spirituality is recognised.

You might think that working fewer hours leads to less productivity. But this is not the case. The World Economic Forum found that working longer hours actually resulted in a reduction of labour output. The Germans, well known for their productivity and efficiency, worked the least hours of other OECD countries. This demonstrates that working longer hours doesn’t equate to greater productivity.

While the UK scores just 6.6 in the Better Life Index, there are companies in Britain who recognise the importance of work-life balance. In fact, they have implemented work-life balance initiatives to keep their staff happy and well balanced. Recruitment and employee review site Glassdoor, revealed its list of the top 20 companies in Britain in terms of work-life balance.

Companies such as BP, Unilever, Screwfix and American Express topped the list, followed by Waitrose, Lloyds Banking Group, John Lewis and Apple.

The kinds of work-life balance initiatives these companies have in place range from flexible working to perks such as subsidised childcare, gym membership, free meals and holidays.

London based financial recruitment business Goodman Masson topped Glassdoor’s work-life balance list. Goodman Masson’s website states its strategic ambition is “To treat our people better than any other business in the UK” and have even trademarked ‘The Experience’ to acknowledge the uniqueness of their employee programme.

Aside from offering flexible work arrangements, Goodman Masson employees enjoy a range of perks. This includes free daily breakfast, weekly masseuse visits, gym membership and access to a chillout room. Employees can also look forward to an annual subsidised ski trip, a day off on their birthday and a 3.30pm finish time on Fridays.

It’s clear that more companies need to follow in the footsteps of those who do work-life balance well.

The battle to successfully combine our work, family and personal lives is a constant one that needs widespread awareness along with proactive, practical solutions.

ACAS, an organisation which provides help and advice for employers and employees, offers some practical, flexible working solutions to encourage work-life balance, ranging from flexitime to homeworking.

A combination of employee benefits along with work-life balance initiatives is clearly the way forward. Especially if we are to have a happy, healthy and productive workforce.

About the author: Lisa LaRue is a registered Career Coach at CareerWorx with more than 18 years’ experience helping people plan, manage and find happiness in their careers.

Image: Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash