Across all social media platforms, the quest for an effective work/life balance is never far from the top of my newsfeed. Articles titled ‘Which companies have the best culture?’, ‘What do great managers do to engage their teams effectively?’ and ‘Which country has the best work/life balance?’ are common. Millennials have driven this debate thus far, and long gone are the days when working a typical 9-5 Monday to Friday shift was the norm. So what changed?
The question is probably better phrased as ‘who’ changed… As we’ve seen from studies and of course my colleagues’ musings on the topic, millennials joined the workforce and had different expectations from those of their employers. This included a more flexible and demand-driven working pattern. Previous blogs such as Unleash a Millennial in your Business… It May Just Be the Best Thing You Ever Do and Motivating Millennials will support the perception that millennials do not respond well to traditional management techniques. By embracing new flexible working patterns you will help your business to successfully attract, manage, develop and retain this new generation of employees in your workforce.
A strong correlation has been found between poor time management, long hours and stress. Studies show that individuals with a good work/life balance make for happier and more engaged employees. In whichever way you approach flexibility; whether it be allowing an early finish to attend the kid’s school play, or splashing out on team drinks; as a manager you need to ensure everybody is treated the same regardless of their circumstances.
So which country does work/life balance best?
According to The Independent, Denmark takes the lead for the European nations with the highest Better Life Index. The Better Life Index was launched in May 2011 by the organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development. It was the first attempt to merge internationally comparable measures of wellbeing across areas such as work, environment and housing. Those lucky Danes enjoy a shorter working week than the average and a family-friendly working environment, meaning the majority can strike a work/life balance many of us merely dream of.
The digital revolution has played a major part in blurring the lines between work and play for many of us, but it also allows employees greater flexibility than ever before. Whether you see it as a good thing or not, we are always connected to our devices; phone, tablet or laptop; and more often than not this inadvertently means we are connected to our work. In December 2011, Volkswagen launched an initiative whereby their server would stop sending emails thirty minutes after an employee’s shift ended, and would only start again an hour before they returned to work. Recognising the potential stress of an overflowing inbox, VW were consciously trying to raise their profile as the employer of choice, promoting an effective work/life balance and culture for anyone choosing to pursue a career with them. While initiatives such as this do crop up from time to time, it is notoriously difficult to gain buy in from all parties. Leaders can sometimes be the worst culprits, reluctant to switch off and lead by example. It is the leadership team’s responsibility to promote a healthy balance thus setting the trend for the rest of the organisation.
Research shows that only 2% of the Danish workforce consider themselves as having to work ‘very long hours’ (the Better Life Index denotes this as exceeding 50hrs per week). Unsurprisingly, 13% of Briton’s felt they worked more than 50hrs per week. As the skills shortage continues, pressure to find the very best talent for your organisation mounts. Creating a desirable working culture for your employees can really help with your attraction and retention strategy.
If a happier team with higher levels of engagement doesn’t tick enough boxes, initiatives such as Glass Door put the power in the hands of the employee, allowing staff and alumni to tell the world what it is (or was) really like to work for your organisation. Attracting and retaining the best talent in the marketplace ought to be at the top of every hiring manager’s agenda, while always being mindful of what motivates your employee’s. Allow your team to have the confidence to switch off out of hours and spend time doing the other things in life which they truly value, and they’ll continue to value their employer too.
Glass Door recently named Nottingham as the 3rd best town to work in in the UK, taking job vacancies, house prices and average salaries into consideration. And would you have it, Coriolis are based in Nottingham…!
Written by Georgie Duffield, Coriolis Ltd