We all want to get a life outside the office

Flexible working is about meeting the needs of business as well as older or younger staff, men and women with or without children

The Government has breathed new life into the debate on work-life balance – an issue which looks set to dominate the political and policy agenda in the party conference season and the run up to the general election.

By luck rather than design, two government departments – the DTI and the DfEE – launched reports on the topic on the same day last week. It was also on the TUC Congress agenda in Glasgow this week as unions complained that UK employees are still unable to have a satisfactory balance between work and home life.

The DfEE study findings – part of an ongoing study of 7,500 employee attitudes in 2,500 workplaces in Great Britain – are nothing new: everyone, not just parents, want to get a life. Employees, regardless of whether or not they have children, want flexible working practices so they can better balance the competing demands in their busy lives.

The figures speak for themselves – 34 per cent want flexitime compared with 37 per cent of people with caring responsibilities; 19 per cent want to work part-time – again a similar figure for staff with families.

This is not just an issue for women in the workplace. Flexible working is about meeting the needs of business as well as meeting the needs of older or younger staff, men and women with and without children. There are hundreds of reasons why people want a more flexible approach – to study, to travel or to spend more time on a hobby. Or maybe they are a talented athlete who wants to work three days a week so they have time to train for the Olympics.

In a buoyant recruitment market, one way to retain high calibre staff for longer or to attract the right people is to offer a better work-life balance. The DfEE guidance on Creating a Work-Life Balance lists nine organisation from Motorola to Bristol City Council which have offered a flexible working environment and so increased productivity and gained a competitive edge.

Their telephone numbers are printed on the DfEE press release, so why don’t you download it from www.dfee.gov.uk and ring them up to find out how they have used a flexible approach to win a loyal and motivated workforce?

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