The issue of work/life balance has become increasingly topical for some time now, and with the millennial generation currently progressing through the workforce at every level, it’s likely that the issue will become even more so.
A recent global survey of young professionals found that work/life balance was their top career priority. Yet the more the issue becomes topical, the more it appears to confuse and challenge people.
So how should businesses approach the issue of work/life balance, and what do business leaders and decision-makers need to know? A key point is that work/life balance is different for each individual, and is personal to you. If you’ve created a balance that suits you – whether it’s more in favour of work than personal life, or vice versa – then that is likely to be the ‘ideal’ balance for you.
With that in mind, the challenge for businesses is to allow people the freedom to create the flexible working and balance that’s right for them, and which also fits into the overall business strategy.
Do business leaders have the ‘right’ balance?
One difficulty is that the balance which may at times work well for a business decision-maker might not be the balance sought by the wider workforce.
Price Bailey’s recent Inside the Minds of Business Leaders 2017 report, based on research carried out by Ipsos MORI with 200 business decision-makers across London and East Anglia, revealed that more than two thirds (67%) of those surveyed felt their work/life balance was adequate. Yet 44% saw no effective separation between their work and personal lives, and 41% had not taken a two-week holiday in the previous year.
There may be specific reasons for those slightly contradictory findings. For example, business leaders and decision-makers may justify sacrificing their personal lives during the start-up stages of a businesses, or at times when they need to put more hours in – such as securing a new contract or client, or launching a new product or service.
Such sacrifices are often for defined, short periods of time, in the hope that the long-term benefits will justify their actions, underlining the idea of the ‘no pain, no gain’ approach. But if as a business leader you’re experiencing a relentless attrition of your private life by your business life, with little or no likelihood of a balance between the two, it’s not good news for you, your family or your business.
Business leaders need to be setting an example. Taking into account those periods where working life may dominate, a business leader needs to be able to spend a good period (ie a two-week holiday) away from the office to relax and recharge their batteries. Any suggestion that the company can’t cope without them for that length of time serves only to highlight the failure to have a good management team in place (or a potentially damaging inability to ‘relinquish the reins’ for any period of time).
How to make sure a work/life balance is achievable
And having set an example, business leaders also have to ensure that their approach to adopting a work/life balance filters through to the workforce. It also has to be achievable, and put into practice too.
For example, it’s one thing to give people the right to finish their working day when their workload is clear – if everything they need to do is done by 4pm, then it’s fine for them to leave. But if their workload is such that it never allows them to leave at 4pm, or their role means there will always be work for them to do, then they will still be no closer to achieving a genuine work/life balance.
To make that balance achievable, an individual needs some freedom from the workload; and for that to be possible, there needs to be a good team in place who can share the workload, a good growth strategy which ensures the right resources are in place, and an intentional focus on work/life balance and flexible working within the overall business strategy.
Well-being benefits the individual and the business
We’ve looked at workplace well-being within Price Bailey, which includes a focus on flexible working, work/life balance and contentment within the workplace. The ultimate position is to achieve a combination of employee well-being – so that staff feel content in a positive, supportive environment – and organisational well-being, so that you don’t lose sight of business growth and the wider business strategy. Too much focus on either side of the combination can have damaging consequences, but get the balance right and you can have a successful business with contented and fulfilled staff.
In our work with clients, we often ask them if they have a well-being strategy, and whether they have well-being identified in their overall business strategy. Looking to the next generation of employees, work/life balance is often as important – and in some cases, more important – than salary package, so it’s something that businesses will increasingly need to focus on. By setting the right example, business leaders are much more likely to have a productive, engaged team in place below them, while also reaping the benefits of improved company performance.
To find out more about achieving a better work-life balance for you and your business, contact Anna Harvey, Price Bailey Legal Services Partner, using the form below. You can find out more about Inside the Minds of Business Leaders 2017 through our interactive digital report or download the full pdf here.
We always recommend that you seek advice from a suitably qualified adviser before taking any action. The information in this article only serves as a guide and no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of this material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.