How to reap the rewards of work-life balance all year long

Encouraging your employees to lead fulfilling personal lives will benefit both them and the organisation, argues Danni Rush

This month saw national Work Life Week, an initiative designed to encourage both employers and employees to focus on wellbeing in the workplace. Striking a good work-life balance is an important – but often disregarded – element of every successful business: it promotes a positive office culture, improves employee health and boosts productivity. Encouraging a positive work-life balance will empower individuals across all levels of an organisation to ensure they and their colleagues are leading happy, healthy lives. But it’s not something to only be recognised during Work Life Week. Here are a selection of tips that will help you achieve that precious work-life balance.

All work and no play makes Jack an unhealthy boy

Establishing an office culture that promotes work-life balance benefits individual employees and the business as a whole. A recent survey by ADP found that two-thirds of UK employees are overworked, averaging at least six extra unpaid hours per week. Overworking and failing to take enough time off can have a hugely detrimental effect on mental and physical health. This lifestyle is unsustainable and can ultimately lead to burnout, which is neither good for the individual or for the business. As an employer, it’s important to recognise the need for work-life balance by creating an environment in which employees feel comfortable disconnecting from their job – something that is important at all levels, regardless of job, position or industry. 

Encouraging your employees to take enough time off every day to recharge means they will come into work each morning feeling fresh and ready to tackle the day. In turn, this will create a positive workplace atmosphere and drive business productivity; a study by Warwick University found that employee happiness increases productivity by 12 per cent. A break from the office also means more time for social activities and physical exercise – important components of any healthy lifestyle. Encouraging distinction between personal and professional time is vital, and giving your staff the chance to switch off from their emails every evening and over the weekends will make the hours they do spend at work count a lot more. 

How can employee engagement schemes help?

Data has proven that comprehensive employee engagement schemes are beneficial for businesses, with a massive 68 per cent of organisations reporting an increase in employee retention. But these schemes don’t just have to focus on what takes place during work hours – they can also be used to promote work-life balance. 

While perks are important, you can go one step further by establishing an employee engagement scheme that encourages life outside the four walls of the office. Incentives such as discounted gym membership, tickets to events or restaurant vouchers are a great way to achieve work-life balance.

Reward schemes, set up to recognise individual or team successes, are another opportunity to promote life outside of work. Offering vouchers or an experience allows people to pick a treat that means something to them. This proves that employers value their employees’ free time and encourage them to make the most of it. Personalised gifts are also a great way for businesses to recognise an employee’s individuality, and show them they care about their interests and that they are a valued member of the team.

The advantages of flexible working

Presenteeism has long plagued the UK workforce, and is a growing problem. According to a CIPD survey published in 2018, presenteeism has more than tripled since 2010. Eighty-six per cent of those surveyed observed presenteeism within a 12-month period. 

But being chained to a desk for 14 hours every day doesn’t necessarily equate to greater productivity and professional success. Flexible working is becoming an ever-more popular initiative, with 87 per cent of all full-time employees either working flexibly already, or saying they want to. It enables staff to balance work around other commitments such as childcare and medical appointments. Offering flexible working proves that you trust your staff to get their work done, and will make for a much happier workforce.

Encouraging work-life balance as an employer is also key to supporting family life at home. More than one in 10 parents have refused a new job and one in 10 have said no to a promotion because of a lack of good work-life opportunities. These shocking figures highlight just how limiting our traditional working model can be. Ensuring that you have good benefits in place to support parental leave, encouraging flexible working to support childcare needs or just giving an employee a couple of hours to themselves, will prove that you truly value your staff and the contributions they make to your business.  

Work-life balance should be encouraged by all employers and shouldn’t be difficult to achieve if you build your office culture around the values of trust and empowerment. By allowing your employees to be themselves, and giving them the space and time to lead fulfilling personal lives, you’ll reap rewards down the line with high employee retention levels and increased productivity. National Work Life Week offers a great starting point to discuss employee health and wellness, but it’s important to remember that employee wellbeing can’t be solved through a token gesture – to really thrive, businesses need to focus on this balance 52 weeks of the year.

Danni Rush is chief customer officer at Virgin Incentives