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Work-life Balance

Reduce stress in the workplace introduce a policy on work-life balance Definition of Work-life Balance: Working practices that acknowledge and aim to support the needs of staff in achieving a balance between their home and working lives HEBS 2002 Each year stress costs UK businesses an estimated 3.7 billion and the loss of around 80 million working days. Stress can be caused by both work related factors and home or family related factors and many employees experience difficulties juggling their work responsibilities with their home responsibilities. By implementing a work-life balance strategy employers can help to reduce stress in their employees. This can lead to a more motivated and loyal workforce, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and it is also good for PR. A work-life balance strategy should include family friendly policies but it is important to remember that work-life balance is not just for employees with dependent children. Other examples include: Employees at the end of their careers balancing their work with leisure opportunities Employees with dependent elderly relatives Employees balancing their work with further education

The introduction of work-life balance policies should be equitable for all employees and it is important that employees without young children do not feel discriminated against. Factors Influencing Work-life Balance Over the past generation there have been considerable demographic changes which have influenced our working practices, examples of this include: Increased number of women working 70% in 2000 compared to 47% in 1959 Majority of women with dependent children working 65% compared to 90% of men Majority of women return to paid employment after childbirth Increased incidence of one parent families (1 in 4) Increased life expectancy is resulting in an ageing population Elderly relative responsibilities are on the increase 6 million adults have care responsibilities for another adult Trend for starting family later will result in some employees having both childcare and eldercare responsibilities Average age for first baby is 29 and birth rate is 1.7 children per woman

Retention and recruitment issues are also relevant to work-life balance as more and more employers are recognising that their staff are their most valuable resource and the key to business success. Employers will increasingly have to make themselves attractive to current and potential employees due to the falling number of available workers. Between 1999 and 2010 it is estimated that there will be 2 million new jobs in the service industry, it is expected that women will fill two thirds of these. A survey by the CIPD in 2001 showed that two thirds of respondents had difficulty recruiting the right calibre of staff. As well as impacting on productivity these difficulties have financial costs, it has been estimated that the cost of recruiting one employee is at least 5000. A separate survey found this to be 4 times the annual salary of the post. These costs include lost productivity, recruitment, advertising and training. Another consideration for work-life balance is legislation, notably the Employment Act, the Working Time Regulations and the Part-time Workers Regulations. The Employment Act has recently been updated and from April 2003 will include more benefits for staff including increased maternity and paternity leave. Practices Supporting Work-life Balance Work-life balance policies can be made up the following policies and working practices: Policies allowing flexible and innovative working practices, for example, flexi-time, annualised hours, staggered hours, job sharing, working from home, term-time hours, compressed hours and part-time working Leave provision, for example, special leave for emergencies Employee support services, for example, employee counselling service or crche facilities Employee training and development, for example, objectives and appraisals to take into account work-life balance

How to Implement a Work-life Balance Strategy Before embarking on a work-life balance strategy it is essential to identify the core needs of the business, for example, some services like a help desk may require a staff presence between certain hours. It is important and useful to consult with staff at this stage in order to get their views. Remember that it is often the staff doing certain jobs that can come up with the most innovative ideas for improvement. From this point it will be necessary to review existing policies and develop a draft work-life balance strategy. This should be put out to consultation to staff and staff groups if appropriate and it may also be worthwhile running a pilot of the policy. After a final review the strategy can be formally launched to all staff. Remember to include a section in the strategy for review and evaluation in order that the uptake and effectiveness can be reviewed over time. Sources of information There is a vast range of information available on work-life balance. As a first port of call contact the Health at Work team who can help to review your individual workplace situation. For more information see: