Work-life balance is often misunderstood. It’s about more than just being with loved ones. It’s about wellbeing and good mental and physical health. It’s about having a life outside of your work that is fulfilling and enjoyable, as well as a career you’re passionate about and work you love.
It may sound like an impossible dream to have both of those things, but I can tell you now that while it’s difficult it is by no means uncacheable. The answer is simple. The answer is flexible working.
Flexible working is the single biggest contributor to wellbeing and good mental health. A study carried out by Wildgoose discovered through an anonymous survey of 115 companies, 39% of those who worked flexibly had benefited from better mental health.
Flexible working allows people the freedom of choice to balance their home and working lives in a way that suits them best. Flexible working helps to reduce stress, increase job satisfaction and can even greatly improve productivity at work.
So, what is flexible working?
Flexible working is often used synonymously with the phrases ‘working from home’ or ‘remote working’ but there is far more to it than that. Yes, remote working and working from home are great options but here are some others to consider.
Job sharing – multiple people share a job and split the work and hours between them.
Part-time – Likely to be the option you’re most familiar with, there is the option to work less than full time hours.
Compressed Hours – This is when you work full-time hours but spread out over fewer days.
Flexitime – You choose when to start and end your workday within the agreed timings of your employer.
Staggered hours – You will have different start, finish and break times from other colleagues.
These are just some of the options that can be available to you when it comes to flexible working. Flexible working is all about finding what works for you and your employer. All employees that have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers. This is known as ‘making a statutory application’.
Why it also benefits employers
It’s not just you as an employee than can benefit. Your ability to achieve a better work-life balance also greatly benefits your employers. Flexible working means the team is more motivated and less stressed. It leads to better staff retention as people are far happier with their job situation, plays a huge role in attracting new recruits and allows better customer service as your team can be more flexible with the time they give clients and customers.
Covid-19 has given us some practice
Due to the shift to remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic we’ve had an opportunity to live test an aspect of flexible working. It should now be easier for both employees and employers to adapt as we have learnt to do so in the most extreme circumstances already.
According to research from the Office of National Statistics, 50% of the UK workforce was able to work from home during the lockdown and a poll from global research firm Gartner showed 48% of employees expect to work from home post-pandemic.
The pandemic has changed our expectations when it comes to flexible working. It’s brought to light the pros and cons and many people are seeing the benefits.
It’s important to remember however that the pandemic is not a good example of what flexible working is. Working from home and working through the mental stress and anxiety of lockdown are separate entities. If we’ve succeeded in productivity and adaptation during one of the most stressful global situations in many of our lifetimes, imagine what we can achieve when our environments are optimised for success.
What must businesses do?
It’s vital for businesses to understand and communicate with their team. It’s about hearing their thoughts and considering their experiences. It comes down to building a real relationship.
It’s been proven time and time again that a happy team equals better output and aiding your team members in having a balanced and fulfilled life both outside and inside the office is a sure-fire way to improve their outlook on work as a whole.
Other ways businesses can help is to put things in place to help promote flexibility in the workplace. For example, setting no meeting times, blocking out time for exercise, arranging drop-in sessions for chats and ensuring people feel comfortable having non-work-related conversation to build strong relationships and connections between team members.