Groups unite to promote work-life balance in UK

The government, employers and trade unions have joined forces for the first time to try and agree on the best way to promote work-life balance in the UK workplace.

The Department of Trade and Industry, together with the CBI and the TUC, is to launch a new report in London today.

Managing Change: Practical ways to reduce long hours and reform working practices is the result of discussions between the three parties, as well as nine masterclasses held between July 2004 and June 2005, in which top-performing companies shared their experiences of creating and running flexible working practices.

The report lists nine top tips for employers considering implementing flexible working practices.

There is no mention of contentious issues such as the UK’s opt-out from the EU Working Time Directive, which allows staff to work more than 48 hours a week. However, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the report showed a clear business case for reorganising working patterns away from over-reliance on extra hours at work.

“Long hours reduce labour productivity and lower the quality of work due to the onset of fatigue,” he said. “Businesses are also hampered by the ill-health associated with working excessive hours, increased labour turnover, and a constrained recruitment pool.”

Gerry Sutcliffe, minister for employment relations, said the report showed that reforming working patterns could improve work-life balance and have a positive impact on the bottom line.

“One of the key lessons to emerge from the report is that businesses need to make sure they have the trust of their workforce and their active input when considering and introducing changes,” he said. “A management style that empowers people rather than controls them will facilitate change and make it work in the longer term.”

John Cridland, deputy director general of the CBI, said maximising company performance by modernising working patterns was a key issue for UK firms.

“These case studies demonstrate the valuable lessons learned from involving employees in developing new patterns of work – and the considerable benefits to be gained,” he said.

Nine tips for reforming working practices

  1. A strong business rationale based on improving business performance and employee satisfaction is essential
  2. Effective employee involvement will deliver appreciation of the need for change and the willingness to embrace it
  3. Vision and leadership from senior leaders and line managers will drive the change agenda throughout the organisation
  4. Improve employee relations – productivity will improve if employee relations are based on mutual trust and respect
  5. Empowerment – maximising employee input is vital to driving continuous improvements in productivity at team level
  6. Training is often a major factor in successful change initiatives. Improved business performance usually pays back any investment in new skills
  7. Reward – using criteria which reward staff for innovation, quality and quantity, rather than for the hours they put in, reinforces the business case for implementing change
  8. Measuring, monitoring and evaluating enables the reviewing and testing of new practices to ensure they meet the needs of the business and the staff
  9. There is no one-size-fits-all model – changing working practices involves realigning culture and people management practices to boost business performance and enhance the quality of workers’ lives.

Source – Managing Change report

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