Katie Hawkins reports on the debates at the fourth employers' law briefing in London
Senior managers should embrace work-life balance practices to convince staff of the benefits, the HR director of Shell Gas and Power told delegates.
At the employers' Law/Rowe & Maw Briefing, Liz Rayner said introducing work-life balance practices is not enough. She said, "You need to demonstrate in practice that taking advantage of them won't unduly affect an individual's career progression."
She said managers often feel under pressure to be constantly available and be seen to be enjoying working long hours to pre-empt criticism from colleagues. Teamwork is essential for flexible working practices to be successful.
She said, "Probably the most important issue is whether you have a good support system around you, so that you don't feel that the only person capable of dealing with emergency - or even day-to-day matters - is you.
"Trusting others to make decisions in your absence is vital and, in the long-term, also helps them to grow and learn."
Shell has introduced work-life balance strategies in the UK, including career breaks, job-sharing, term-time working and home working. Rayner said after the briefing, "There has always been a wish that we can attract, motivate and retain talent."
Delegates heard her attribute the rise of work-life balance practices to increased business pressures. "Organisations now have to face increased customer demand, global competition and a workforce with much higher expectations," she said.
"In today's marketplace, we are all expected to know more, react faster and stay infinitely flexible - at any time of the day."
Shell has joined the Employers for Work-Life Balance group, which includes KPMG, the BBC and HSBC, to share information and best practice on the issue.