Workplace flexibility in the spotlight

A focus on flexible working practices and creating a good work-life balance for employees continues to rise up the agenda for UK employers.

The Flex Factor report, published by think-tank RSA and Vodafone UK in July, found that UK employers could see cost reductions and productivity gains worth up to £8.1 billion by optimising their approach to flexible working.

Dr Steven Poelmans (pictured), professor and director of the Coaching Competency Centre at the EADA Business School, said during a plenary session at the Employee Benefits Summit in Alicante, Spain on 26 June that there were many benefits to be gained from a strong work-life balance strategy.

He said employers should look beyond the flexibility that work-life balance provides to ensure that other work-related issues, such as stress, do not affect employees’ home lives.

“The best predictor of spousal conflict is [an employee] having had conflict that day with their boss,” he said. “The more stress that is brought home, the less that partners will support [the employee’s] work.”

This can then create more stress at home, which will affect an employee’s performance at work, creating a cyclical effect. “Any flexible policy focusing on creating a sense of control and managing stress in employees is going to be better,” said Poelmans.

In June, 22 employers, including BT Group, B&Q, Ford and ITV, joined forces to launch the Agile Future Forum, which aims to develop practical support to increase flexible-working practices across the UK.

One employer to take action to improve employees’ work-life balance is Tui UK and Ireland, which hosted its first wellbeing day in June, partially in response to feedback from a question in its employee survey: ‘The company supports me in achieving a reasonable balance between my work life and my personal life’.

Carolyn Parker, HR operations manager at Tui UK and Ireland,said: “We felt we could do with some improving.”