Finding balance in National Work Life Week

Pink Spaghetti


Life in today’s endlessly turbulent world of work is leaving many people feeling burnt out and like they are on an endless hamster wheel with no time to think of a way out.

Many parents are doing tag parenting, with couples only seeing each other briefly as they juggle work [often multiple jobs] and family life.

It doesn’t make for a productive or a happy workforce and the next generation coming up are already feeling stressed out by the endless target culture they face at school. Something has to give.

Work life balance – or however you define being able to do something that is not working all the time – has become today’s Holy Grail – and National Work Life Week highlights some of the associated issues. The demand for flexible working has been growing for years from all sections of society. Flexible working works best when there are mutual benefits for employees and employers, but we have seen over the last few years how flexibility has, in certain cases, been exploited by some employers, with employees having few rights.

One of the main benefits of flexible working is the ability to have greater control over when, where and/or how you work. But those who work flexibly still want to progress their careers. Too often we see flexible workers denied training and promotion and finding it hard to progress their careers because of a lack of good quality flexible jobs being advertised.’s recent annual survey shows  47% of working mums think working flexibly has affected their ability to progress their career, although almost three quarters identify flexible work as crucial to getting more women into senior roles.

We know, however, that there is great work being done to address these issues and  in our Top Employer Awards this year competition, particularly in the areas of career progression, family support and innovation, was fierce.  Career progression covered everything from student scholarships to sponsorship initiatives, leadership networks and returner programmes; family support extended across childcare, elder care and mental health; and examples of innovation were very varied, from new ways to tackle zero hours contracts to homeworking contact centres and agile hiring initiatives. For many offering managers training in managing flexible working and giving them the right tools, including positive case studies, is vital.

These employers show that it is possible to offer policies that are supportive and treat employees like adults and that this has a positive impact on productivity.  The judges look very carefully not just at their policies and practice, but the hard evidence that these work.

Nevertheless, it is still the case that many employers are far from understanding the benefits of offering good flexible working opportunities and that too many employees are not achieving their potential because of this. That is a waste of their skills and a loss to employers. It is not enough to retain staff through good policies on, for example, parental leave. The culture has to be sufficient to enable them to stay – and to flourish.

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