October half term: How to help your employees find a good work-life balance

It doesn’t matter whether you have a workforce of five or fifty, there’s a risk of being left with staff shortages and increased pressure on employees trying to balance work with looking after the kids.

In addition, these challenges have been compounded by the right to request Flexible Working legislation, which came into force just over a year ago, in June 2014, giving those with caring responsibilities the right to apply to work flexibly as long as they’ve been working for their employer for at least 26 weeks.

However, while business owners might have expected to see a flood of applications coming their way, we found that just over half (54 per cent) are actually aware of the right to request the legislation, and only a fifth (23 per cent) have taken advantage of the option.

Reasons vary, but significantly almost four in ten workers said their employers don’t offer any tools or technology to facilitate working outside of the office. Not ideal for times such as this October half term. So, it’s worth thinking about how you and your employees can implement flexible or smarter working practices.

But what do I mean by smarter working? Simply put, it means making the best use of technology and connectivity to be productive, no matter where you are.

A few years ago, research conducted by IBM found that 67 percent of employees who had the option of working flexibly felt they had an improved work/life balance. Businesses offering remote working also benefitted from a 20 per cent jump in workplace productivity and a 20 per cent decrease in costs.

These results reflect our own experience at O2. Shortly before the London Olympics in 2012 we conducted the UK’s largest flexible working pilot, shutting our head office and asking the entire workforce based there (around 2,500 people) to work somewhere else for the day. O2 employees saved 2, 000 hours of travel time, with the majority spending this extra time with their loved ones.

The pilot was a really rewarding experience for us, as it showed that flexible working can not only improve staff morale but also make a genuine impact on our bottom line by improving workplace productivity. Over a third of staff said that they were more productive than usual, while 88 percent said their productivity was just as good.

Technology

Affordable technology already exists to allow businesses of all sizes to become companies that work smarter. Changes as simple as choosing laptops or tablets instead of desktops for your employees are a good place to start.

Similarly, installing cloud-based software such as Microsoft Office 365 or Box onto these devices mean staff can work wherever they are.

Continue reading on page two for top tips on offering a good work-life balance to your staff…

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