Getting the work life balance right

More and more companies are coming round to the idea that their employees have a life outside work and that cultivating that can bring advantages. One which actively encourages staff to engage with their local community is the Prudential. Workingmums spoke to them.

More and more companies are coming round to the idea that their employees have a life outside work and that cultivating that can bring advantages. One which actively encourages staff to engage with their local community is the Prudential.
Not only does it encourage flexible working and offer some homeworking posts, but it also promotes staff being involved in community events and sponsored activities.
It part sponsors individuals raising money for the community and helps support and organise team events via the Corporate Responsibility Team, whether that be painting a community centre or organising a community day. Some teams have an ongoing relationship with a local charity; other employees have personal reasons for getting involved with a particular charity.
Over the past two years, the Prudential has also been been working with Citizens Advice Bureaux to sponsor financial awareness in the community. “We cannot give financial advice directly to individuals, but we can sponsor Citizens Advice Bureaux, because we believe it is very important that people plan for their future in an informed way,” says Cathy Lewis, Human Resources Director for the UK and Europe.

Staff engagement

She adds that the Prudential realises the importance of engaging with staff . The company, whose UK headquarters are based in London, has an annual staff engagement survey. Interestingly, one of the key issues to emerge is employees’ commitment to building the customer experience. “Our staff take a pride in the brand,” says Lewis. “This shows in our recent annual results which are a reflection of the stability and consistency of our performance in difficult times.”
She adds that the Prudential, which recently joined the workingmums’ Top Employers platform, encourages “a healthy, high performance culture” and says that working excessively long hours is perhaps not the best way to achieve this. The majority of jobs can be completed within office hours, and the organisation offers a degree of flexibility in how the hours are worked.
A number of staff, for instance, are on homeworking contracts. They are set up at home with remote access to all office systems and the intranet, but Lewis emphasises that in negotiations managers try to ascertain if a particular employee is suited to homeworking. “It doesn’t suit everyone. Some people get quite lonely,” she says. “However, for certain people in certain circumstances it can work well. It is important, though, that people feel part of the team and get the support they need so we do ask them to come into the office regularly so they feel part of the organisation.”

Flexibility

Other forms of flexibility offered include part time working and different working patterns. Some staff, for instance, come in late some days and leave early on other days. “It’s good for business to have this flexibility,” says Lewis. 
The Prudential employs 2,800 people in the UK and Europe business so it is not inundated with a backlog of flexible working requests, but Lewis says they are possible if they suit both employee and employer. “They have to be sustainable from a business point of view,” she says. Employees have good access to HR staff through the Ask HR service. Both staff and managers can call for advice or talk to an HR Business Partner. All the company policies on areas such as flexible working are on the intranet. 
Lewis says there is good representation of women at senior levels of the organisation, with three women on the executive committee for the UK and Europe. The company does an audit to check any gender pay differences on particular grade levels which it uses for internal purposes, but does not track promotions according to gender as Lewis says this would go against its principle of Equal Opportunities and ensuring jobs go to the best qualified candidate.





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