Managers should increase focus on employee wellbeing

Performance appraisals of managers should include questions about their effectiveness in helping employees to achieve a good work-life balance and better manage their stress levels, a report by an influential business school has recommended.

Research published by the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Department of Management has argued that even if options such as flexible working hours and help with childcare are available to employees, this does little to reduce stress unless there is positive endorsement from managers.

Dr Alexandra Beauregard of the Department of Management said: “I found a strong link between work-home interference and stress, despite controlling for the use of options such as flexible hours, home working and the provision of childcare. This stress results in increased absenteeism and reduced productivity, so it is clearly in management’s interest to address this.”

The study looked at 224 local government employees in the South of England, of whom more than 60% were women and the average age was 41. Most had children or caring responsibilities for adult relatives.

The paper recommended the development of an organisational culture that better supported the work-home balance, had a better approach to tackling long hours and “presenteeism”, and encouraged managers to lead by example.

“Assessment of managers’ work-home awareness and effectiveness in rendering assistance to affected employees could be incorporated into the performance appraisal process, as a means of strengthening management incentive to work with employees towards a solution to the problem of interference,” said Beauregard.

“Increased managerial support for work-home issues may then have a ‘top-down’ effect on improving staff attitudes towards employees taking time off for personal or family reasons.

“Measures to ensure that absent employees’ workloads are not routinely reallocated to remaining employees without some form of compensation or recognition – for example, extra vacation days – may also help to eradicate co-worker resentment toward those struggling to balance competing work and home demands,” she added.

The research has been backed by Kevin Friery, clinical director at provider Right Corecare, who has argued that it is more effective for employers to try to prevent stress in the workplace than it is for them to attempt to cure it.

“What you need to do is to develop skills in people to help them cope – and they are life skills,” said Friery.

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