Flexible ways of working

A sharp increase in the number of people working long hours and taking time off for work-related stress has led to a call for employers to take steps to help employees develop a work-life balance.

According to a survey by the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) and Management Today magazine, three-quarters of employees work longer hours than they are contracted to. However, only a third are paid extra or given time off in lieu for this.

These statistics, combined with figures from the Health & Safety Executive showing that £370 million is lost every year through “work-related stress”, have prompted the DTI to urge employers to take action.

A booklet and information on ways in which employers can help create a work-life balance for employees are available from the DTI’s website. It also contains case studies of small businesses that have cut costs and increased profits through family-friendly policies.

The key word appears to be “communication” – the DTI advises taking the time to talk to your staff to find out what method of working is best for them and for the company. Keeping up-to-date with developments in employees’ lives – such as changes in family situations – and offering flexible working practices accordingly can help keep them happier and therefore more productive.

This survey comes soon after another one, by the Alliance & Leicester, revealing SME owner-managers may also be over-working themselves. Almost a third are taking no holiday this year while over half the rest are only having a short break, suggesting that managers themselves need to strike a work-life balance.

See also: Managing People.

Ben Lobel

Delphine Hintz

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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