New year, new resolutions…

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It’s that time of year again and a quick glance at the most popular New Year’s Resolutions (according to the Telegraph) gives a handy general overview of our priorities for improving quality of life in 2018. Like many people, I can relate to just about all of these and that’s quite a tick list to achieve

  • 38% want to exercise more
  • 33% aim to lose weight
  • 32% want to eat more healthily
  • 15% aspire to take a more active approach to health
  • 15% want to learn a new skill or hobby
  • 12% aim to spend more time with family or friends

Unfortunately, as we approach the end of February an estimated 80% of New Year’s Resolutions have already faltered despite our best intentions. So how do we make positive changes stick when we are already juggling work, kids and family life? In my view, the issue of work / life balance is the single biggest challenge for most people and the biggest barrier to reducing stress levels and improving quality of life.

I recently read a comment on LinkedIn referring to a job advert that read “the role is a full-time position, 9.00am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday”. The poster suggested that such a statement was archaic, out of sync with current thinking and damaging to the company’s employer branding.

I found some of the comments posted afterwards quite interesting. These ranged from affirmation of the posters view that the only way forward for companies is to offer flexibility as the best way to attract and recruit the best candidates. There were also people who, only half-jokingly, suggested that they would offer their right arm for a role that was strictly 9am-5.30pm. Flexibility therefore, can also suggest a requirement to work longer hours than contractually stated.

I think almost everyone agrees that it makes a good deal of commercial sense for an organisation to invest in developing a positive company culture. Happy employees are more creative, productive and stay with their organisation longer. Maintaining a decent work / life balance is an intrinsic part of this. It’s no coincidence that the worlds happiest nations tend to have the shortest average working week and high levels of flexible working (among other things). Norway, ranked 1st in the Global Happiness Rankings for 2017, has an average working week of 33 hours, 21 days statutory holidays and generous maternity leave payments. Enlightened companies can foster a positive working culture through many initiatives aimed at improving work / life balance and achieving a happy workforce. These include:

  • flexible work options to suit individual circumstances; whether it is compressed hours, part time working, flexibility of location or flexi-time
  • encouraging staff to take a lunch break instead of grabbing a sandwich at their desk
  • encouraging employees to leave on time
  • encouraging staff to be more active, either by providing facilities to exercise on site or organising other staff initiatives

If you are struggling to maintain a work / life balance that fits your personal circumstances, then the first step should be to explore what options your existing employer can offer. In the UK, all employees working for a company for longer than 26 weeks have the legal right to request flexible working, not just parents or carers. The employer must deal with requests in a reasonable manner, assess the advantages and disadvantages of such a change and meet with the employee to discuss what arrangements may be possible. If no resolution can be found, then exploring the job market may offer better alternatives as many companies now include flexible work options as a selling point to attract candidates.

I know that I am lucky to be able to work around my family commitments. This year, my New Year’s Resolution is simply to make the most of this flexibility. You never know, I may be able to keep ticking the boxes above, well at least until March!

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