Back to Reality: Striking the Right Balance
As employees return to work after the summer break, it is important for managers to understand and appreciate the significance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The pandemic has reshaped our approach to work, making the need for a balanced and supportive work environment more critical than ever. This article explores the reasons why managers should prioritise recognising work-life balance and provides practical tips to foster a positive work culture.
Acknowledging the Changing Landscape
The post-pandemic work environment has brought about significant changes in the way we work. Employees may have experienced the flexibility of remote work during the summer months, and as they return to the office, it becomes crucial for managers to acknowledge this shift. Understanding the evolving needs and preferences of employees regarding work-life balance is the first step towards building a more empathetic and inclusive workplace.
Understanding Caring Responsibilities and Flexible Working
Caring responsibilities can encompass a wide range of duties, from raising children and caring for elderly or disabled family members to supporting friends during difficult times. These responsibilities often extend beyond regular working hours and can put significant emotional, physical, and financial strains on those fulfilling them.
Managing caring responsibilities alongside a full-time job can lead to time constraints, making it challenging to devote adequate time to both roles. Juggling work and caregiving can lead to emotional stress and burnout, as individuals may feel torn between fulfilling their responsibilities at home and excelling in their careers. Fostering a supportive and understanding work culture is essential. Encouraging open communication and empathy among team members can create a sense of belonging and reduce feelings of isolation. Working with the employee to consider flexible work arrangements such as remote work or flexible hours either temporarily to alleviate the pressures of short-term circumstances or, a more permanent change to the employee’s Terms and Conditions. It should be noted that many welcomed the changes to The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 which passed Royal Assent on 20th July 2023 and key changes including the right to make two flexible working requests within a 12-month period are expected to come into force in 2024.
It is also imperative to recognise that it isn’t just those with caring responsibilities who would benefit from a more flexible approach, in May 2023, the CIPD reported an increase in requests for flexible and hybrid working, and that three-fifths of employers already offer this, the CIPD also found that there’s unmet demand for varying types of flexible working. Considering that 6% of employees changed jobs in 2022 due to a lack of options and 12% left their profession/sector altogether, it is essential for employers to modernise their approach to flexible working possibilities to improve staff retention and customising work schedules according to individual needs demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to the well-being of its employees.
Promote Work-Life Balance
Recognising work-life balance can significantly impact employee morale and productivity. Managers play a pivotal role in setting the tone of the workplace culture so when employees feel supported in their personal lives, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. By creating an atmosphere where individuals can balance their professional responsibilities with personal interests, managers can enhance motivation and reduce burnout, ultimately leading to a more productive workforce.
The summer break may have provided employees with an opportunity to recharge and reconnect with their loved ones. As they return to work, managers must ensure that the positive effects of the break are sustained. Encouraging employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance can lead to reduced stress, better mental health, and increased job satisfaction.
Practical Tips for Managers:
- Open Communication: Encourage open dialogues with employees to understand their unique work-life needs and concerns. Create a safe space where employees can voice their challenges and seek support.
- Lead by Example: As a manager, led by example and demonstrate a healthy work-life balance. Avoid sending work-related messages during non-working hours and make use of your own flexible work options when needed.
- Set Clear Expectations: Establish clear expectations regarding work deliverables and deadlines, allowing employees to plan their time effectively and prevent a last-minute work crisis.
- Provide Resources: Offer resources that promote work-life balance, such as access to counselling services, well-being workshops, and educational programs on stress management.
As employees return to work after the summer break, managers have a unique opportunity to create a positive and supportive work environment that recognizes the importance of work-life balance. By acknowledging the changing needs of their teams and implementing practical strategies to foster balance, managers can pave the way for a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce. Investing in work-life balance is not only a win for employees but also a strategic move that contributes to the long-term success of the organisation.
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