More than half of employees want a better work life balance

Employees in the UK want a shift in working practices in 2005 to better reflect their changing working lives, according to  research.

Changing Demographics, published by research and management consultancy the Work Foundation, found that more than half of 1,000 people surveyed were dissatisfied with their working hours. Most would prefer to work fewer hours.

Not only do people want to work fewer hours, they want greater flexibility.

The greater desire for time outside work may arise from the increase in numbers of dual income households – often meaning someone has to care for children around the demands of work – and the growing realisation that people will have to have to work until later in life to fund their retirement.

Those working in small companies were more likely to say they could work flexibly than those working in mid-size organisations, despite smaller firms being less likely to have an HR function.

However, while small firms might be good at informal flexibility, it does mean that employees’ access to flexibility depends far more on their relationship with their managers than on policies setting out clear rules. This has the protential to result in unfairness, the report said.

More than two-thirds of respondents said that career structures need to allow for time out without damage to career prospects, and that organisations need to change the long hours culture.

The report’s author, Laura Williams, said: “As the population changes, the Government and employers need to respond to the repercussions these changes create for the labour market.

“When designing products, companies understand that at different times in their lives, different people need and want different things.

“It is not such a giant leap to apply this to the labour market: to start talking not just about working hours, but about working lives, which helps encompass the way that each person can and wants to work may change over the lifetime,” she said.

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