Work-life balance is an ever-popular topic as more individuals seek a more flexible and fulfilling lifestyle. For employers, it is not only important to understand the needs and desires of staff members, but also how supporting a flexible working arrangement can benefit your business’ productivity and profitability.
What we Think
At Workplace Central we believe in flexible work arrangements that promote positive workplaces benefiting both employers and employees, but we don’t necessarily like the term ‘work-life balance’ as it implies that work is the opposite to life rather than a part of it. We strongly believe that workplaces need people and people need workplaces because work is a facet of life, not an opposing force. We believe work should be full of joy, complement an individual’s lifestyle and contribute positively to the business goals and wider society.
Because each person’s lifestyle is unique and their personal, work, social, family and other responsibilities vary, there can’t be a one-size- fits-all solution. However being open to options and possibilities, and supporting employees with flexible working arrangements to enable them to fulfil other responsibilities is beneficial not only to the individual but the workplace and society as a whole. With less stressors, more time and greater flexibility comes more happiness and satisfaction, higher morale and commitment… which is often contagious… how can that not be better for all?
The Research Behind Work-Life Balance
The idea of work-life balance came to light in the 1970s, before smart phones, emails, the Internet almost everywhere you go, and certainly before Facebook and Instagram. It came to us in the ideal of the ‘Triple 8 day’ – 8 hours working, 8 hours sleeping and 8 hours on recreational and social pursuits. This sounds nice in theory, but in reality, for a lot of people, that’s just simply not the case. The ABS reports that of the 7.7 million full time workers in Australia, 5 million are working over 40 hours a week, of that 1.4 million are working over 50 hours a week and around 270,000 are doing over 70 hours a week! There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with any of these numbers, but it does reflect the reality for people that an 8/8/8 split of their day isn’t something that currently works for them.
Across most generations and working environments there is a great desire to work less hours and have greater flexibility according to the Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) report of 2010. This report found Generation X workers (counted as those aged 30-44) had the worst work-life balance of all groups, which it said was not surprising as they were in the peak of their income-earning years. Gen X men on average worked 45.1 hours a week, according to the report, but would prefer to work 40.4 hours. Baby Boomers work 42.5 hours a week but would prefer to work 38.4 hours, and Gen Y workers (those between 20 and 29) work 38.2 hours, just one hour a week more than they would prefer.
It added up to widespread dissatisfaction with the shifts people had to do in their jobs and the report concluded the number of hours was about 35, though this changed depending on personal circumstance.
In a 2011 report on the Randstad Australia and New Zealand World of Work survey, it was found that when it came to job satisfaction, employees reported moderate levels of happiness and affirmed the principals of meaningful work; recognition and fexicurity (job security with inbuilt flexibility), being the key to loving their work. It also showed that 26% of employees intending to stay with their current organisation for the next 12 months said good work/life balance was the main reason.
Benefits for Business
The South Australian Safe Work site clearly explains the benefits for employers in adopting work-life supportive work arrangements. “For employers the capacity to negotiate flexible work arrangements provides an antidote to loss of skills and experience and the high cost of recruitment and retention in a competitive labour market. Employers who provide flexible work options immediately gain a competitive edge in the labour market by becoming employers of choice.”
Happy and satisfied employees create many business benefits:
- Retaining employees
- Lower staff absences
- Attracting skilled and motivated employees
- Increasing employee satisfaction
- Motivated and committed staff
- Improved customer service and retention
- Being an employer of choice
“When an employee leaves, recruiting and training a new employee costs you time and money. You also lose their valuable knowledge and networks. Evidence shows that people will seek organisations where they are satisfied and generally will leave organisations where needs for work-life balance are not met.”
How to Support Work-Life Balance
If you would like to offer your staff more flexible working arrangements or your staff members approach you for options or wish to discuss their situation further, there are a number of factors you can look at adjusting to make your work environment more supportive of a balanced lifestyle.
Consider if any of these options would work in your business for your staff:
- Telecommuting (work from home)
- Part-time work
- Job share
- Compressed work
- Time off in lieu
- Leave without pay
- Flexible hours
- Staggered return to work (after an injury or maternity leave for example)
- Annualised hours
- Carer/study/community participation leave
- Extended parental leave
- Work re-design
- Leave incentives
Workplace Central can help you manage your staff requests for flexible work arrangements or help you prepare a range of options to present to your staff in order to foster a supportive and flexible work environment. As per the list above there are a number of ways you can make your workplace more lifestyle-friendly, and with Workplace Central you can ensure you are setting up working relationships that meet industrial relations requirements as well as satisfy business needs and staff requests.
Let us know your thoughts on work-life balance or job flexibility. If you’re interested in finding out how you can make your workplace more conducive to flexible work arrangements, contact your Workplace Partner or call us on 1300 766 380