Louise Aston: How can employee benefits help staff switch off from work?

Louise Aston BITC

We live in a globalised culture where technology connects us to work 24/7. Although this has positives such as enabling flexible working, it also risks causing employee stress. In extreme circumstances, this can lead to over working and fatigue, resulting in burnout. So how can employers support staff in switching off from work?

At Business in the Community (BITC), supporting colleagues to maintain a positive work-life balance is at the heart of the organisation.

First, a no eating at desks policy; we are encouraged to take a break and socialise by eating together in our communal kitchen. BITC also runs regular lunch-and-learn events, which gives us the opportunity to learn something new.

Second, a flexible-working policy; BITC’s flexible-working policy is an exemplar because it offers flexibility to everyone, not just parents of young children, enabling us to manage outside responsibilities with work. A well-designed flexible-working policy should also take the nature of employees’ work into account and be based on trust, giving employees autonomy over their work.

Third, sports clubs and other social activities; BITC has a softball team, offers yoga classes and runs an annual sports day through our Social Network, which organises a range of social events throughout the year. Other approaches could include subsidised gym membership or organising regular walks at lunchtime.

Fourth, senior leaders ‘walking the talk’, whether that’s joining the softball team (as BITC’s chief executive officer has) or working from home one day a week. If senior leaders and managers are seen as taking breaks, this can have a trickle-down effect and encourage other employees to do the same.

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As boundaries between work and home life become increasingly blurred, organisations that support their employees’ work-life balance and physical and mental wellbeing will increasingly become employers of choice.

Louise Aston is wellbeing director at Business in the Community (BITC)