Work-life balance is the act of dividing time and energy between roles and responsibilities at work and at home. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates the cost of mental health to the UK economy at £70 billion per year. So, as an employer contributing to the improvement of your employees work-life balance will benefit your business in the long run.
We got in touch with leading mental health charity Anxiety UK for advice on how you as an employer can support the work-life balance of your staff.
Why is work-life balance important for employers?
Stress is the most common cause of sick leave in the UK with, a reported two out of every three days off are claimed to be stress-related. Whilst employees should take some personal responsibility for their work-life balance, it’s in your best interest to support them where possible.
Encouraging employees to look after themselves in and out of work can boost morale in the work place. This boost can increase productivity and improve their quality of work - as well as encourage company loyalty and trust so that employees to stay with your company for longer.
How can employers nurture work-life balance in the work place?
There are a number of ways that you can help encourage your employees to look after themselves, to help not only avoid lots of staff taking sick leave, but to also help maintain productivity and positive attitudes towards their work. Some of these ways include:
- Making sure that staff are encouraged to speak openly about what might be causing them to feel stressed out or anxious
- Resolving any issues that are contributing to stress/anxiety in the workplace
- Ensuring, where you can, that staff are making enough time for themselves to eat properly, exercise, sleep well and enjoy leisure activities
What should employers look out for?
There are a number of signs and symptoms associated with stress and anxiety, which may be useful for you to bear in mind as an employer. Employees suffering from high levels of stress or anxiety may:
- Be unable to concentrate
- Lack energy or motivation
- Express low moods, feelings of hopelessness
- Seem on edge, and be visibly sweating or trembling
- Complain of persistent headaches/ general bodily aches
- In more extreme cases they may have panic episodes, or a panic attack
How can employers help people suffering with anxiety/stress at work?
Think about how difficult it may be for your employees to speak openly about any anxiety/stress that they feel at work. It’s important you’re mindful of employees who are experiencing this kind of mental distress, may fear being criticised, or fear losing their job should they explain how they feel. This in itself can often create a barrier for communication between employers and employees and breed a work place culture which is not healthy for the mental wellbeing of staff.
The probability of developing a ‘disabling mental disorder’ in a lifetime is 1 in 10 in the UK. This means that prioritising wellbeing at work is more important than ever. Employers should encourage conversations about stress and anxiety both in and out of the office and try to support employees where possible.
How can employers manage the challenges of an aging workforce?
Companies are facing more and more challenges, due to the UK’s growing and aging population. Our recent Real Retirement Report1 revealed a trend in people over 50 delaying their retirement and staying in work longer; 48% expect to work past the age of 65, yet 55% are concerned health will impact their extended working lives.
For employers, it’s vital they look after their older employees to help maintain productivity, however only 14% feel their workplace provides a positive working environment. Lindsey Rix, Managing Director for Savings and Retirement at Aviva highlights “older workers should have the opportunity to support both their financial and personal wellbeing through work,” so that their needs are met as they age. Employers can approach this by providing access to wellbeing advice and workplace initiatives that could prevent health issues arising in the future. A third (33%) of survey respondents felt reduced working hours, part –time working or job sharing is one way that would allow them the flexibility and help needed to support their work-life balance later on.