Working to live, or living to work?

Jess Walmsley

The real value of a healthy work-life balance.

by Jess Walmsley

The concept of an individual’s work-life balance has had much development in recent years, and was largely affected by the pandemic. Being able to create a healthy divide between both work and personal life is something that we will all have a different perception of, but can add great value to both the individual and the business. In addition to being crucial for relationships, health, and wellbeing, maintaining a healthy work-life balance can improve employee performance and increase productivity. As businesses focus on scaling without additional employment, focusing on an employee’s wellbeing in terms of their work-life balance will aid this development of your existing in-house talent.

To explore this, a group of our employees from early twenties to mid-forties got together over Pizza to discuss the concept of work-life balance, and what a healthy work-life balance can and should look like. To kickstart this, we each took 3 post-it notes and recorded how much time on a typical 8 hour working day we spend having self-care, taking care of others and the household, and how much time we think should be spent having self-care. This is where things got interesting.

Our employees spend anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours per day having self-care, averaging out overall to 66 minutes per day. In contrast, the duration of time spent providing care for others can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 6 hours. This highlights a significant rise in time, and results in a daily average of 201 minutes. This great discrepancy of 135 minutes shows that a major percentage of our time is spent caring for others and our household, as we are “trained to be caregivers and put ourselves at the bottom of the pile”. On the other hand, our focus group recommended that 198 minutes, or between one and six hours every day, should be spent engaging in some type of self-care.


Societies dynamic shift

When discussing what the concept of a work-life balance means to an individual, a clear theme became apparent: flexibility. Post-pandemic, the mindset of society has shifted. Pre-pandemic, the concept of working from home for many was deemed an exception; but has since become the norm. Recent statistics highlight that around 14% of UK employees work exclusively from home, and 24% work hybrid. Pre-pandemic, just 5.7% worked exclusively from home. This highlights a shift in society, as working from home or hybrid working is more commonly accepted. But does the stigma surrounding this remain?

In total, 80.4% of our employees work only in the office, 7.1% work exclusively from home, and 12.5% work hybrid. For those who work exclusively from home, having a healthy work-life balance can be harder to maintain. With it being commonplace to check emails at home, we become more readily available, take meeting calls at the dinner table, and have the temptation of reaching for our laptops on our non-working days. Even those employees who are most engaged report that they “often struggle to find a balance” as it becomes easy to continue working late into the evening.


Choice… without judgement

Having this flexibility to work not only from home, but also in the office with the realisation that it is okay to have a longer lunch break and make up the hours on another day, is something that can also come with a lot of stigma and judgement, “almost making us feel guilty”. Paired with this, is the thought process that we must stay late to complete a task which has no strict deadline, when really it can wait until tomorrow. Whilst deadlines will always play a part in any profession, the realisation that we can make these choices and have that flexibility with no judgement from our employer or our peers is key.


Where the real value lies

Value, much like a work-life balance, can be interpreted in many different ways – but ultimately, encouraging employees to have what they deem to be a healthy work-life balance, and creating an environment where everyone is engaged in their tasks, is where the real value lies. This ties in with the subject of equity, which subsequently leads to higher productivity levels, employee engagement, and health and wellbeing. Managing your own time, whilst fitting in with the employer’s needs, but also having the foundations of a flexible healthy-work life balance, is where the value lies for both the employer, and the employee.

We set the health, happiness, and wellbeing of our staff as a priority, and to ensure that our actions reinforce this commitment, we need to work with our teams to define what this means in real terms. We are providing the space, the time, and the Pizza for all our staff to help us understand and take action on issues impacting their health, happiness, and wellbeing. This is the first of a series of focus groups that help the business understand more through conversation.​