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Improving your work-life balance – it’s Revise Your Work Schedule Month!

going global

May is ‘Revise your Work Schedule Month’ – so we thought it was time to take a look at, well, how you can revise your work schedule.

We’ve written about flexible working before and its benefits to your business but it isn’t just about increasing productivity in case of disasters; sick kids, bad weather, we’ve all been there. It can also ensure a happy work-life balance across the entire company.

Long Hours

It turns out that long hours aren’t just detrimental when it’s you having to do them! The Swedes, ever more progressive and advanced than us in the UK, have recently been in the news for experimenting with a 6 hour day for Gothenburg’s public sector (no, that’s not where Batman lives). Whilst keeping some employees on an eight hour day as a control group, the hope is that those working six hours (for the same pay) will find themselves happier, healthier and more productive. There are even studies (such as this one from OECD) that say reducing hours but keeping staff on the same wage can actually save your business money in the long run!

On the other side of the Atlantic, the New Yorkers have been making the most of their glorious sunny season with ‘Summer Hours’ – kind of like Daylight Savings time but for fun. Workers can come in earlier and leave earlier, and many are even given half days on Fridays to prolong the weekend. Not only is it great for morale – gone are the days of staring out the window wistfully at the summer sun – but it actually encourages workers not to abuse their benefits and, in fact, work harder as a result.

Taking your work home

But, as we know, the problems don’t necessarily stop when you leave the office. New legislation in France has ordered employees to avoid checking work emails and taking phone calls outside of office hours, but elsewhere the debate over the effectiveness of remote working rages on.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer recently came under fire for ordering all staff to return to their desks by June or face the axe in a bid to bring Yahoo back into the internet market. Thousands of rather disgruntled Yahoo-ers forwarded the confidential memo to internet news site AllThingsD, but Meyer defended her actions saying; “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings”. As much as we love working from home, she has a point.

But this point applies only to companies like Yahoo in which many employees work from home. For many people, working from home can mean a rise in productivity, allowing them to utilise time that might otherwise be lost to holiday or illness – either side of a doctor’s appointment, for example, or between nursing a sick child/husband/pet – and the increase in cloud technologies in the workplace are making this easier and easier. It’s estimated that over 40 per cent of UK jobs are now home-working compatible!

Going Green

It’s not just your business that benefits – it’s the whole world. The Carbon Trust has recently released a report that claims that working from home could not only save you £3billion a year, but cut carbon emissions by over 3 million tonnes – that’s the same as 580,000 households per year! BT gave it a go and, lo and behold, saved 14,000 tonnes of CO2 over the year, saving £60,000,000 in office overheads. Pretty ace, right?

And you thought pensions were good…

Forget unionisation, the latest trend to come out of Silicon Valley is revolutionising the work benefits system – unlimited holidays! Paid!

Yes, you still have to request it to make sure it fits with the wider business plan, but the system is intended to foster trust and goodwill between employees and the company, encouraging people to do their very best. Let’s face it – who’d want to throw a job with perks like that away? It’s based on the opposite of ‘presenteeism’ (staff staying in the office longer than required, even if they’re just on Facebook, in order to look like they’re putting in the hours). In these tech companies, it’s not about the hours you log – it’s about the work you do, encouraging people to work swiftly, but at a high quality. It’s the ultimate efficiency-booster.

As per usual, Google is also way ahead on workplace perks with their 80-20 system. Technically, Google employees are hired to do their specified job 80% of the time, and the other 20% can be spent experimenting with fun new ways to advance Google’s power over the rest of us mere mortals. And it’s worked out great for them! Gmail and AdSense are both 20%-time projects – in fact, almost half of all Google products began life as part of this scheme.

The work-life balance checksheet

While the term “work-life balance” might get bandied around a lot at the moment, it’s because people are finally starting to realise just how important it is. Finding a balance, both for yourself and for your employees, can have far-reaching positive repercussions for your business.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that employees who are overworked, underappreciated, and who feel that their job is taking over their life – complete with that Sunday night back-to-school sinking stomach, or finding themselves answering work emails at 11pm – aren’t going to be giving their all to the job at hand. Work-life balance also tends to dwindle during times of recession, or if there’s instability in your workplace; employees might worry that if they don’t work as hard as humanly possible they’ll be included in the next round of lay-offs, exhausting themselves in the process of trying to impress you.

However, employees who have the time to pursue their own interests, look after their health and spend time with their families see massive gains in productivity and reliability, improved relationships and working environment, and a much better quality of work. Here are a few ways you can get started.

Allow flexible working.

You might have to set boundaries – for example, just 1-2 days a week, or within certain time constraints such as 7am-4pm, or 10am-6pm – but giving your employees the option can really pay dividends, and usually won’t cost you much at all, unless you need to invest in new equipment.

Ask your employees what they want.

What’s important to your employees? Would they prefer to work an extra hour for the first four days of the week in summer, then get the afternoon off on a Friday?

Re-evaluate how you measure success.

Do you want your employees to put in a certain amount of hours every week? Or would you rather measure it on deliverables such as a certain number of accounts or reports done, sales made, or blogs written?

Ban checking work emails at home.

Yes, that’s right – and you might want to apply this if you’re an employer, too. If something’s an absolute emergency that can’t wait, call or email your employee instead.

Outside interests.

Remember how in school you were told again and again that to be a well-rounded individual you should have outside interests – extra-curricular activities? This still holds. Encourage your employees to do things they like with ‘wellbeing bonuses’ to put towards hobbies, subsidised training (in subjects they choose) – you could even consider a sabbatical policy.