Line managers have a key role to play in implementing flexible working
arrangements if firms are serious about promoting work-life balance for their
Research by Roffey Park finds it is the attitudes, skills and behaviours of
line managers, which ultimately determine the success of flexible working
polices regardless of whether formal policies are in place.
It recommends that to achieve more flexible working arrangements managers must
have a good understanding of employees’ capacities, skills, workloads and their
Research authors Ingrid Steinberg, Claire McCartney and Caroline Glynn, say
managers must be on top of their own workloads and be able to plan and delegate
effectively if they are to facilitate work-life balance for their staff.
"Organisations should recognise they have a moral responsibility to
ensure their staff have a reasonable quality of life. For many employees the
organisational culture is embodied in the attributes and behaviours of their
immediate line manager.
"The problem is that many line managers are caught between pressure
from above to improve productivity and pressure from below for greater
flexibility and understanding," said Steinberg.
The study highlights the need for organisations to support managers by
ensuring staffing levels are adequate and by providing appropriate training
Excessive workloads, under-staffed departments and last minute, unpredicted
tasks are the main factors that impinge on work-life balance. Companies with
inadequate staffing levels place greater pressure on existing staff leading to
"It’s about giving people the freedom to choose what is best for them
within the constraints of the business," added Steinberg.
Roffey Park’s Work-life balance: The Role of Manager was based on in-depth
interviews with 76 managers from five large employers including Asda, Allied
Domecq, Penna Consulting and an unnamed further education college.
By Ben Willmott