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Juggling careers and personal lives is challenging – but more British companies are helping their teams to achieve a better balance
The saying goes that we should “work to live” and not the other way around. As passionate and driven as we can be when it comes to our careers, we all know what happens when we take it too far.
For example, the concept of “burnout” is now classed as an “occupational phenomenon” by the World Health Organisation. We’re all working longer hours than ever, and finding it harder to switch off when we carry our workload around with us on our smartphones. Over time, burnout makes us feel depleted and exhausted – it can creep up on us when we don’t recognise the signs (feelings of negativity relating to work, and reduced efficiency and energy). And it can make us more vulnerable to mental illness if it’s not managed.
Aside from the duty of care employers have for their staff, the cost of failing to protect employees’ mental health is major. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 12.7% of all sick days in the UK can be attributed to mental illness – something nearly one in seven of us have experienced. And it’s estimated that better mental health support could save UK businesses £8 billion per year.
Offering employees the option to work more flexibly is one way to counteract this. UK mental-health charity Mind also says flexible hours – which give employees greater control over when they work – can provide a “better work/life balance, a chance to avoid commuting crowds and costs, and the ability to attend medical appointments”.
Not only can a more flexible company culture help ease the mental strain of our fast-paced working lives – it also empowers more people to remain part of the team. For new parents, commuting to work from 9am to 6pm in a set location can seem impossible when combined with the demands of caring for their kids. If they have the option to work more flexibly – such as shifting their working hours so they fit around school drop-offs and pick-ups, or working from home on particularly logistically challenging days – they’ll feel more able to juggle their career with their parenting responsibilities.
Working from home can go a long way to helping to achieve a better work/life balance. Giving employees the option to cut out their commute, away from the distractions of the office with more autonomy over their working hours is a more flexible alternative to the 9 to 5 (or 6) lifestyle. And it’s certainly on the rise – 4.2 million people across the UK now work from home (up by more than 800,000 in a decade), accounting for 13.7% of the workforce according to the Office of National Statistics.
At the same time, it can present a different set of challenges. Freelancers who work regularly from home report feeling isolated, and often miss having an important mental boundary between work and home life. Issues such as technical difficulties can also prove more difficult to sort out remotely.
A better solution can be for business owners to lease flexible workspace (flexspace) for their employees. This way, they can access local, high-quality coworking space or private offices with other team members, where they’ll have a sense of community and on-site facilities and support. The number of flexspace locations in the UK is rocketing, with leading brands like Regus expanding into new suburban locations that are closer to employees’ homes.
In celebration of National Work Life Week, why not take some time to consider how your business could offer a more flexible way of working? It may feel like a daunting prospect to consider transitioning to a four-day work week, for example. But it’s about looking at what’s viable, and finding opportunities for more flexibility that will boost the wellbeing and satisfaction of your employees – and therefore their productivity. And, by this time next year, you could be enjoying the results…
Find the nearest Regus to you and your team