Keeping their people happy should be the top of a company’s priorities, for very solid and measurable reasons. The workplace and culture of the past is not something which will allow businesses today to thrive. Millennials have had a huge impact on the workplace – a generation unafraid to voice their opinions now form an increasing part of our companies today, and maintaining a good work-life balance is one of their top priorities.

If employers do not address these concerns then they could face serious issues. Recent studies have found 27% of employees plan to leave their current employer within two years if their organisation doesn’t take steps to actively support work-life balance. That is a massive loss of investment, in time, training and knowledge. But this can be avoided.

Flexible working has risen high on the business agenda, as its impact on driving employee engagement and satisfaction becomes clear. Not only millennials, with their socially driven lives, are demanding more focus on it, but studies have found that optimum work hours for workers over 40 could sit somewhere between 25 and 30 hours, revealing a need for all businesses to reassess how they approach time.

Some employers may not believe that giving employees adequate time to “switch-off” will increase engagement and productivity, but there is strong evidence showing the danger of an imbalance here.

Scientists at University College London found that those working more than 55 hours a week have a 33% increased risk of stroke, compared to those working 35-40 hours a week, and also have a 13% increased risk of coronary heart disease.

The Corporate Executive Board, which represents 80% of Fortune 500 companies, found that employees happy with their work-life balance were, on average, 21% more productive than those who were not. Not only this, but research by UC EXPO found that 82% of employees preferred to choose a job that offered flexible working benefits to those that didn’t.

So how do we achieve the perfect balance for our workforce? Our recent eBook on work-life balance, highlights four important options to consider when designing a work-life balance policy that can drive engagement, retention and wellbeing whilst maintaining productivity and revenue growth.
The first thing to consider is your policy on flexible working. With 94% of UK organisations now offering their staff some form of flexibility, this area of work-life balance is obviously something well implemented, but why is it so important?

One in three families in the UK now have parents who are both in full-time work, which highlights the importance of implementing policies, such as flexitime to in your employment offering. Not only this, but giving employees the opportunity to telecommute has become much easier, with collaborative technologies that allow them to keep in touch and access vital tools, now readily available.

If a percentage of your employees actively telecommute, it’s a win-win situation; 66% of workers prefer working at home to escape interruptions and with less people in the office, countless savings can be made on office space, storage and expenses for travel – not to mention the positive environmental impact.

Another aspect to consider is how we fit in employee hours – is it really essential for everyone to work 9 till 5, five days a week? Not according to research – which continually supports the benefits of working less hours. Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed a direct relation between those working fewer hours, and higher productivity in some of the world’s richest countries. For example, Sweden have been pioneering the six hour working day in their healthcare and care sectors, with some private sector companies joining in too. Most famously Toyota, who made the switch 13 years ago and report happy employees and lower staff turnover.

To effectively implement these policies, however, the right tools and training need to be available to employees at all times. If working fewer hours or from a different location, making best use of employee time is essential to maximise productivity in the time they have. Collaborative technologies, such as an intelligent intranet and communications platform, can not only keep employees in touch with each other, but also provide them with time-saving tools they can access from any device, at any time. Similarly, as more emphasis is put on productivity hinging on an integrated digital workplace, the modern day intranet is proving to be the pivotal hub connecting employees with all the necessary applications to get their jobs done in the most efficient manner.

The final thing to bear in mind is that one size doesn’t fit all – it’s vital that companies truly understand their people. Different generations and groups of employees will have different priorities; it may be worth offering a personalised approach for those with different goals at work. However, if this isn’t financially viable, there are a number of ways to package a selection of key benefits.

Whilst there are numerous companies championing work-life balance policies, with productivity 30% lower than Germany, France and the US, it’s clear that the UK still has a long way to go. If businesses are to truly implement an effective work-life balance policy, the answer is simple – assess your options, understand your people’s needs, and deliver.

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