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The work/life balancing act – time to think more flexibly?

As we come to the end of ‘National Work Life Balance Week’, it is an ideal moment for employers to take stock and reflect on whether they are striking the right balance in their workplaces.

Supported by Working Families, the Week’s focus has been on ‘increasing access to flexible working and finding the flex in every role’, which the charity argues is more important than ever given the spiralling cost-of-living crisis.

Flexible working has become almost synonymous with working from home, thanks chiefly to the number of office-based businesses that have embraced remote or hybrid roles over the past three years.

However, this is not an option for the many ‘place-based’ workers (those who can only perform their roles in specific locations) and the current homeworking focus may have led to a belief that flexible working is something only office workers can access.

This Work Life Balance Week is challenging this perception, encouraging employers to take a broader view of what it means to work flexibly and move beyond the focus on location. It suggests employers could look instead to options such as job-sharing, introducing variable hours or staggering start and finish times.

Of course, such changes are easy enough to talk about, and more difficult to implement. Employers have a range of competing interests to manage, from maintaining sufficient staffing levels, to ensuring their workers can still communicate and collaborate effectively, to establishing clear lines of management to provide support and feedback.

It suggests employers could look instead to options such as job-sharing, introducing variable hours or staggering start and finish times.

Employers should also note what is included in their workers’ contracts and consider what impact a new flexible way of working could have on their terms and conditions. In addition, employers must be careful to treat all workers fairly when assessing flexible working options, in order to avoid potential discrimination issues.

If a business can strike the right balance, however, then it may well pay dividends in both recruitment and retention.

Parents are a group Working Families have a particular focus on, and their recent YouGov poll found that 82% of parents would apply for a role if it advertised flexible working, compared to just 31% who would apply for a role that did not advertise flexible working.

A willingness to discuss what flexible options can be offered could open opportunities to groups that may otherwise have been found it difficult to access the workplace (those who have caring responsibilities or health concerns for example) and give employers access to a greater talent pool in a difficult job market.

Flexible working could also provide the antidote to the ‘Great Resignation’ and the new trend of “quiet-quitting”. Flexible working options, whether location or hours, can give employees the chance to improve their own work-life balance; it could give parents more time with their children, allow time for interests outside of work, or simply ease the stress of balancing their competing obligations to both home and work. In turn, this can lead to improved employee engagement and therefore happier, more productive staff.

If you need advice on how to introduce flexible working to your workplace, our experienced Employment Team are on hand to help.

 

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This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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