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How to create a culture that enables colleagues to develop a healthy work life balance

(I should add here, I don't personally subscribe to the notion of work life balance. We work with colleagues to identify the essential ingredients of their life (one of which is work) and how to use those in balance(

One of the key findings from our Wellbeing Research was that life-balance is not something generally being enjoyed by those in our sector

One of the best ways to improve the general work/life balance for you and your colleagues is to create a more flexible working environment which works for the flexible needs of different people.

This could be anything from offering remote working outside of any lockdown restrictions, to more flexible hours, to monitoring workload, and importantly, to leading by example on wellbeing issues!

If you want a happier and healthier workforce, consider the following:

  • Offer true 2-way flexible working – Flexible working can help reduce stress, as employees have more control over their working day. And flexible working is not achieved by offering flexible hours and then setting crucial meetings outside of these hours. Consider setting core hours for meetings and allowing employees to do their other work at flexible times outside of these. Make sure no-one is overworked – Some employees find it almost impossible to say no, and it’s up to you as their boss to spot when you’re piling too much work on them. Help your employees control over workload with regular prioritisation meetings and reviews

  • Focus on productivity, not time – If your workplace has a culture whereby employees think they need to be seen to be starting early and staying late, it’s time to make a change. So instead of getting hung up on the amount of time people spend at their desk, focus on results and goal completion, focus on a culture of success by results not by number of meetings or number of hours worked. And encourage colleagues to define their own success measures as well as any you as the organisation have created

  • Make sure breaks are taken – Although it can be tempting to work through lunch breaks, particularly during busy periods, it’s important to make sure employees take time away from their desk. It is really important that, as well as encouraging your colleagues to do so, that they see you leading by example in this area - no-one is going to take a break and watch the boss still sit working at their desk

  • Create the space and the culture to take holiday – It may sound counterproductive, but you will actually get more from your employees if you give them the space and the freedom to take time off. Most people in our sector, don't take all of their annual leave and time back in lieu entitlements. And those that do, often take phones or laptops with them and don't ever really switch off. This means they never get proper recuperative rest and this is counterproductive

  • Ensure workloads are genuinely manageable - too many colleagues in our survey were working considerably more hours than they were contracted for because their workloads were

  • Stop talking about going 'back' to work - your colleagues who were not furloughed have been working since March. And those who were furloughed and are back, are 'back' at work. And they've reacted very quickly and effectively to sudden change that was not anticipated or prepared for. You may well wish to see a time when they can come 'back' to the office, but the term 'back to work' is denigrating to the work they have been doing under far-from-ideal circumstances, for the last 6 months

The very best thing you can do to create a healthy life balance for your colleagues? Ask them!

Don't assume - Ask. And actively listen to their answers and suggestions - what matters to others might be very different than what matters to you. Where you can, implement their suggestions

And where you can't, work towards being where you can! You've got this Claire x


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