In his book Managing work-life balance1 David Clutterbuck defines work-life balance as:

  • being aware of different demands on time and energy
  • having the ability to make choices in the allocation of time and energy
  • knowing what values to apply to choices
  • making choices.

The world of work has changed and in the 24-hour, 7-day society, customers expect service at times that suit them. More and more people have to juggle responsibilities at home and in the workplace. And when employees are asked about work, the two concerns that emerge most frequently from the CIPD’s surveys on employee attitudes are long hours and work intensity.

In times of economic difficulty employers who work more flexibly can be more competitive with higher productivity and lower labour costs. On the other hand, employees may be less interested in reducing their working hours during difficult market conditions.

Although much of the discussion of work-life balance has focused on families, work-life balance is not just for women. Many men stand to benefit in their roles as fathers, partners or dependants. Society also benefits since stronger and more stable families provide good adult role models, fewer broken relationships and a reduction in crime and other anti-social behaviour. So everybody stands to benefit from policies to improve employees’ work-life balance.

What is the business case?

There are benefits to business when introducing policies to underpin work-life balance issues:

  • higher productivity and competitiveness
  • increased flexibility and customer service, for example to cover for absence and holidays
  • raised morale, motivation, commitment and engagement
  • reduced absenteeism
  • improved recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce
  • wanting to become an ‘employer of choice’
  • meeting legal requirements.

Employers may incur additional costs in adopting policies to support work-life balance, including increased managerial workloads. Such costs are however generally outweighed by the gains in achieving strategic objectives. The biggest obstacle to implementing good practice is in many cases the difficulty of persuading individual line managers to accept more flexible working arrangements. This resistance is often based on assumptions about the likely problems that flexibility will cause that often turn out to be unfounded.

Encouraging ‘wellness’ to improve health

If employees are encouraged to protect their health, this will enable them to deal more effectively with unavoidable stresses at work. Organisations can help by offering:

  • individual development plans and regular appraisals to provide an opportunity to review work-life balance on a regular basis
  • information and guidance on health issues
  • health screening
  • subsidised private healthcare
  • on-site exercise facilities or subsidised access to gyms, etc.

Successful action to develop a successful work-life strategy is as much about the process of making changes as about the changes themselves. An action plan should include the following elements:

  • Identify business need – so as to demonstrate to business colleagues how having a work-life strategy will benefit both the business and the workforce as a whole.
  • Adapt policies to match operational needs – by looking at both employee and business priorities and considering for example impact on customers, back-up arrangements to cover absence and training needs. Don’t simply copy-cat what other employers are doing.
  • Include measures for performance based on outcomes and results, not just on presence in the office alone.
  • Develop clear guidelines – as a basis for fair treatment and to help promote work-life balance policies to engage with line managers to gain commitment.
  • Lead from the top – identify a senior management champion and/or senior management role models who are using work-life balance benefits.
  • Communicate plans using a wide variety of methods to involve employees.
  • Monitor progress and draw lessons from experience – even piloting the practices in a section or division if necessary.

What is occupational health? Source: CIPD

Occupational health is a specialist branch of medicine focusing on health in the workplace. It is concerned with the physical and mental well-being of employees. Occupational health specialists can support organisations through advising on work-related illnesses and accidents, carrying out medicals for new starters and existing employees and monitoring the health of employees.

Occupational health services are also used to assist organisations in managing absence situations – both short and long term. The opinion of an occupational health specialist might be crucial in determining how to manage a capability issue, and the opinion of an occupational health specialist can be key evidence in a claim to an employment tribunal.

Only large organisations are likely to employ their own occupational health specialists. Most organisations will contact an external provider of occupational health services as and when they need it. In some organisations there will be an employed full time nurse who has training in occupational health. This might be supported by a part-time doctor who comes to the organisation to carry out medicals and other assessments. Other organisations, particularly those working in hazardous areas, are more likely to employ their own doctor.

The level of provision is likely to be determined by the size of the organisation and the nature of the operation. An organisation that operates in a particularly hazardous area is clearly likely to need more occupational health support than other organisations.

The interaction of employees with occupational health will largely depend on the presence of the service. If there is a full time service on site then employees are more likely to make ad-hoc use than if the service is only available at specified times. It is important that employees are clear about the nature of the service, and see the distinction between what is offered by occupational health and what they should refer to their own GP.

Services to be provided

As well as addressing issues that occur, a lot of the work of an occupational health service should be proactive, aiming to reduce potential problems in the workplace. Hence the activities of occupational health are likely to include:

  • implementing policy
  • ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations
  • minimising and eliminating hazards
  • dealing with cases of drug and alcohol abuse, and advising on HIV/AIDS issues
  • offering pre-employment health assessment
  • maintaining relations with appropriate bodies and individuals
  • monitoring the health of employees after an accident, illness and during and after pregnancy
  • managing clinic facilities, basic health checks and first aid
  • advising on medical severance and ill-health retirement
  • advising on ergonomic issues and workplace design
  • promoting good health education programmes
  • promoting healthy eating
  • monitoring symptoms of work-related stress
  • providing advice and counselling
  • working with special needs groups.

The occupational health service will be provided by a diverse range of occupational health practitioners including physicians, hygienists, psychologists, ergonomic experts and occupational health nurses.

Within an organisation occupational health is likely to work closely with those in HR and those responsible for health and safety. However, for occupational health to have the greatest impact on the organisation it is important that line managers feel able to approach the occupational health adviser to discuss any concerns and issues.


The benefits of using occupational health

Forward-thinking organisations recognise that managing their people is just as important to success as control of financial and capital resources. Some organisations are moving towards promoting a concept of ‘wellness’ as a preventive measure to address employee health. Through an investment in people organisations can achieve excellence and maintain a leading edge.

Focusing on the health of employees and designing interventions to improve health can help to reduce absence levels. This brings the benefits of:

  • reduced costs to the organisation
  • less disruption as the result of employees being absent
  • greater engagement and motivation of employees as they feel valued by the employer.

Absence in the workplace can be reduced by:

  • identifying common hazards and reducing or eliminating them
  • monitoring absence and identifying any common trends – occupational health specialists can assist by suggesting interventions to address these trends
  • carrying out workplace surveys to identify sources of ill health and reducing these
  • educating employees about a healthier lifestyle, and supporting employees in making changes to a healthier approach.

In summary, organisations can work with occupational health to improve the current and future health and success of their enterprise by developing a healthy culture and by adopting a systematic approach to occupational health.

Making occupational health effective in the workplace

When introducing occupational health to the workplace it is important to start by establishing what is required of the service. To do this employers should follow these steps:

  • Gain senior management involvement and commitment.
  • Develop a mission statement to communicate the initiative – why, what and how.
  • Conduct an audit to establish the existing position, if possible in numerical and financial terms.
  • Benchmark against organisations in the local area, similar sector and nationally.
  • Plan the way forward – what improvements are needed, what needs to be developed, what are the priorities, how will success be measured.
  • Establish goals and targets relating to business needs.
  • Develop a strategy to achieve the goals.
  • Determine resources and assign responsibilities.
  • Communicate to employees through group briefings, email, intranet, internal newsletters etc.
  • Review and monitor progress regularly.

Employers’ health and safety obligations

Employers’ duties to provide a safe and healthy working environment arise from the core principles of negligence, contract and the numerous specific statutory duties referred to above. Employers should at least:

  • publish a health and safety policy
  • arrange for the appointment of health and safety representatives
  • establish a health and safety committee if requested by a recognised trade union
  • appoint a competent person to evaluate risks and hazards
  • arrange periodic risk assessments
  • consult with employee health and safety representatives
  • prevent risks
  • inform staff of risks
  • combat risks at source
  • arrange protection from unavoidable risks
  • provide safety training
  • comply with the updated provisions concerning health and safety posters and leaflets
  • monitor and improve safety arrangements
  • provide health-risk surveillance
  • adapt work to the individual especially with respect to the design of workplaces
  • alleviate monotonous work
  • develop a prevention policy
  • appoint one or more competent persons to assist in undertaking preventive and protective measures
  • establish procedures to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger to persons working in the organisation
  • require persons at work who are exposed to serious and imminent danger to be informed of the nature of the hazards and steps taken to protect them
  • provide comprehensible and relevant health and safety information
  • provide adequate health and safety training during working hours. 

Producing a policy

All employers with more than five employees must have a statement of their health and safety policy. Employers with fewer than five employees may still find it useful to put health and safety procedure into writing. A written health and safety policy can be concise and still effective.

This statement must:

  • be written
  • be carefully thought through and demonstrate a commitment to managing health and safety
  • be workable
  • contain a general statement of intent to provide a safe and healthy working environment
  • be easily accessible and brought to the attention of all employees
  • give details of health and safety responsibilities within the organisation
  • name key individuals
  • cover the systems and procedures in place
  • refer to other documents where appropriate
  • cover managing risk assessments
  • include arrangements for employee consultation, maintaining equipment, safe handling of substances
  • explain arrangements for training, supervision, accidents, first aid and emergencies
  • address stress, and drink and drug misuse.

Policies should be produced after consultation with employees and after conducting surveys on staff attitudes to health and safety. They should be applied uniformly and there should be a system for regularly monitoring and reviewing the policy to ensure that it complies with current legislation.
Source CIPD

Biography of Clive Bonny CMC FRSA

Clive has been designing and delivering wellbeing programmes since 1990 helping organisations develop and sustain social responsibility programmes, balance risk with reputation and maximise business continuity with practical onsite support. As a professionally certified management consultant he has supported many organisations in the public sector, education, voluntary and private sector organisations improving product and service quality, contract project management and marketing communications. Assignments have covered the Middle East, Africa, USA, Asia and across EU with high growth organisations. His clients include professional bodies and best practice award winners, adhering to Responsible Business Standards. He supports the Mindful Employer charter and is trained in mental health support. He has security clearance to Enhanced and Baseline Personnel Security Standard, and approved by National School of Government to undertake background vetting, enabling people to work with protected data and with vulnerable persons. Clive is Certified to conduct workplace Mediation and Intellectual Property reviews.

Clive’s interim management roles include: Innovation advisor for Brighton University, Green Growth Platform and Growth Accelerator; launching the low carbon Passiv Pod energy design for buildings ; designing global ethics programmes; Assessor for Business Excellence and the Certified Management Consultancy Award. He has delivered programmes for professional bodies including the British Computer Society, Institutes of Directors, Chartered Management, and Personnel and Development.  Clive previously held senior management positions in customer service operations, marketing, sales and human resource development. Current projects include enterprise innovations in alternative finance crowdfunding, due diligence risk management, and wellbeing at work. In 2014 professional advisory bodies voted Clive as one of the TOP 50 management consultants in the UK. His advice on best practice has been published internationally:

  • In Business: The Essential Fact File, endorsed by the late Sir John Harvey-Jones
  • The International Guide to Management Consultancy
  • The European Business Handbook
  • The Ivanhoe Career Guide
  • How To Be Your Own Management Consultant
  • The Corporate Communications Handbook
  • The Salespersons Pocketbook (also published in Russian, Arabic and Chinese)
  • The Business Writing Pocketbook (published internationally)
  • Fraud Advisory Panel procedures for Background Personnel Security Vetting
  • Business Ethics: Facing Up to the Issues (also in Russian)

Clive has co-authored and co-edited research and advice on global ethics and corporate social responsibility standards and trends, published by The Economist. This was named as Book of the Month by the Sunday Times Enterprise Network and endorsed by the Chairman of Inchcape, Director General of the Institute of Directors, and Chairman of Investors in People. Clive is an active member of the relevant professional standards bodies and Best Practice Forums whose members he has trained, including Federation for Small Businesses and Royal Society of Arts Manufactures and Commerce who have awarded him Life Fellowship for services supporting social enterprise. Clive’s pro-bono work includes a year Voluntary Service Overseas for a Zimbabwe Mission school, 3 years as Director for an education charity, and founding Beacon Hub Brighton Community Interest Company to educate young persons in environmental conservation.