by Cormac Spencer, Consultant and Director with Link Personnel Services
I don’t think anyone will have missed the video of a BBC interview involving an expert in Korean politics, speaking from his home office, being interrupted by two experts in doing whatever they want – his kids!
Whereas this would be an embarrassing episode for anyone, people probably liked it so much because many of them can relate. Sometimes the working world has no regard for the wider world we all inhabit. While no one wants their kids bashing in on them at work, it’s a fact that people have lives outside of the workplace, a fact which should not be perceived as an inconvenience to anyone. Working hard and having time to enjoy with family and friends should not be seen as mutually exclusive. Let me be clear, I work long hours often, and I don’t think people who have families shouldn’t be committed to their work, however, as long as employees don’t abuse flexibility in the workplace, employers may find that allowing for a certain work-life balance can pay dividends in terms of productivity and staff loyalty.
Giving employees time off for appointments without fuss, not standing in the way of annual leave and, perhaps, offering staff the opportunity to occasionally work from home can provide people with welcome balance in their lives, allowing them to be less stressed and more productive at work. Many employers are cottoning on in small ways. Big companies are now making sure staff don’t feel obligated to answer e-mails on holiday by alerting clients and customers that the person in question will not be checking e-mails, and referring them to a colleague who is on duty. More employers are offering paternity leave to help new parents, and others allow time off for staff pursuing further education.
While allowing for a work-life balance can help boost individuals performance and productivity levels, there is also a strong business case for companies to recognise staff needs. Link Personnel puts together salary surveys each tear so that clients and candidates alike can gauge where the market is in relation to their chosen profession. What we are finding is that a lot of leading companies broadly compete on salary, however the businesses that offer a good benefits package are becoming much more attractive to prospective employees. The offer of flexibility as part of an incentives package really does sway candidates when they make a decision on taking a job. By providing these incentives as part of an overall package, employers are setting themselves apart from their competitors.
Rather than adversely affecting their business and their profitability, companies realise that recognising a need for some sort of work-life balance, means the ability to attract the best people, to retain a happy and productive workforce and maybe to get a leg up on their competition.