Government urges work-life balance improvements

Research shows that UK employees spend more time managing their email than playing with their children

Work-life balance (WLB) issues are beginning to be one of the key items on the agenda of many large organisations -- and a concern for workers everywhere. This means flexible working for most people and benefits for both staff and employers. Statistics reveal that while the UK's employees spend nearly 49 minutes a day managing their email (based on Gartner figures), UK adults only manage to spend 25 minutes a day playing with their children, according to Office of National Statistics research. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Work-Life Balance Campaign has shown that businesses could do more to tackle the long-hours culture. The DTI has relaunched its Work-Life balance site with new features including:

  • Details on how to apply for government funding to implement work-life balance policies and practices;
  • Advice on the various policies and practices that can help business achieve a healthier work-life balance;
  • Access to research and statistics illustrating the benefits of work-life balance;
  • A search engine that enables organisations to search for case studies, by sector, size or region.
The DTI site gives some examples of the a wide range of work-life balance options employers are developing, covering flexible working arrangements and flexible benefit packages. These include:
  • flexi-time

  • staggered hours

  • time off in lieu

  • compressed working hours

  • shift-swapping

  • self-rostering

  • annualised hours

  • job-sharing

  • term-time working

  • working from home

  • tele-working

  • breaks from work
The cost of stress-related sick leave and absenteeism in the UK is enough to pay for another two Millennium Domes -- sick days as a result of stress cost the British Industry £370m per year (equivalent to £7.11m per week) according to the Health and Safety Executive. The average worker skips 24 minutes of his or her lunch break every day, the equivalent of approximately two weeks more holiday per year (figures from Data Monitor). More than half the UK workforce is suffering from stress and one in four takes time off as a result (Research carried out by International Stress Management Association UK). A DTI spokesman said: "Everybody can benefit from a better work-life balance. More flexible working boosts staff morale, improves employees commitment to their work, and benefits business through higher productivity." According to the Health and Safety Executive, 6.5 million sick days are taken every year as a result of stress -- costing £7m per week and £1.4m per working day. It also states that on average it take 11 weeks to replace a worker. Xerox (UK) estimates that it has saved over £1m over the last five years through enhanced retention due to better work-life balance policies, including flexible working and leave schemes. Earlier this year Microsoft won an award for being the company with the best work-life balance in the UK. The software giant is recognised for encouraging its employees to limit the time they spend at work and keep their evenings free. There is a 9-5.30 club that gives 10p to the NSPCC as a reward every time they work these hours.
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