Work-Life Balance

How flexible working can increase staff morale

Flexible working practices have become a key element in attracting and retaining talent. In a globalised economy, geographical boundaries are no longer an obstacle to bringing together professionals of all disciplines to form competitive and world-beating teams. In practical terms alone, giving workers greater freedom to manage their own timetables overcomes the hurdles formerly imposed on hiring remote staff by international time differences and datelines.

But beyond this, a degree of flexibility in the working environment has physical, operational, and emotional benefits which can go a long way in promoting loyalty to the organisation and increasing staff morale. We’ll look at some of those benefits, now.

Optimising Time Spent in Various Locations

Empowering your staff to perform to their strengths involves enabling them to nurture and inhabit an environment that’s most conducive to producing their best work.

For some, this might mean sitting in an office cubicle. But for others, peak performance and focus on the task at hand might be achieved in any number of alternate settings: on a train, at home, or seated on a bench in a public park.

Knowing that management is willing to allow flexible working and provide freedom from traditional office or workshop confines gives employees the confidence to structure their time in an optimal environment of their choice – and they’ll be much more likely to enjoy their work, and produce better output as a result.

Having access to corporate resources from any location is a must, for working arrangements like this. Mobile apps, virtual phone systems and access to a network like Swytch (which allows clients to assign UK-registered business numbers to personal phones and mobile devices) are the kinds of options that can make this possible.

Giving Autonomy to the Flexible

Just as different workers have unique preferences as to the kind of environment they feel most comfortable and productive in, so too do different personality types cope with a structured timetable and job roster in different ways.

An assessment and knowledge of the skills and personality traits of your employees will assist you in identifying which of your staff are best able to cope with a greater or lesser degree of autonomy, and which ones benefit from a more directed, “hands-on management” approach.

Wherever possible, it’s a good idea to give all of your workers some degree of freedom in determining how they structure their time and how they approach the jobs they’re assigned. A feeling of autonomy lends workers a sense of empowerment – secure in the knowledge that they’re trusted with some responsibility for their own career path, and able to take ownership of their work, rather than having the job ruling them.

Teams & Substitute Players

Flexible working need not be an individual affair. In fact, many businesses gain by introducing a group dynamic into their flexible working practices.

For example, in a development project that’s being conducted by a team, it makes sense to rotate duties and responsibilities among the team members, so that work on the project may continue if someone requires a break, has a commitment to honour, or simply has skills that can be duplicated or added to by someone else in the group.

And with the dominance of international business and the 24/7 consumer culture, allowing workers living in different time zones to take over job responsibilities at certain hours of the day is a great way of simultaneously ensuring business availability, and relieving the psychological and physical burden on staff members who would otherwise be required to put in extra hours.

Mentors & Protégés

Setting up two-person teams consisting of a senior or more experienced staff member and someone newer to the organisation can reap benefits both for the enterprise and the individuals concerned.

The younger staff member gains the mentorship and guidance of someone further along the career path – in addition to a sense of empowerment and responsibility, on those occasions when they’re called upon to stand in for the senior staff member.

Employees in the mentor’s role are able to create more time for themselves by delegating tasks and responsibilities to their junior. They’ll also be playing a part in the nurturing of new talent for the enterprise.

Technology as an Additional Resource

The management of human resources is just one part of a flexible working environment. Resources, infrastructure, and technology available to the enterprise may also be called upon to free up time for your workers, and to enable them to do their jobs more effectively. In workplaces where numerous repetitive tasks are the norm, using machinery and software for automation is one way of achieving this.

Information Technology and telecommunications resources are another. Tools for video conferencing, instant messaging, document sharing and collaboration – especially those with mobile app versions – can keep remote and home-based workers in touch with each other, and able to trade ideas, tasks and (if necessary) working hours.

Platforms like the Swytch network can give businesses and their workers a continuous presence in regional and international markets – while simultaneously empowering workers to devote more time to their lives away from the office.

Making Sound Economic Sense

Finally, there’s a solid economic foundation for the adoption of more flexible working practices. Reasons underlying this include:

  • By having fewer workers based on your business premises, you’ll reduce the need for expensive office space and equipment
  • With a staff including workers in various localities and time zones, you’ll actually increase the number of hours that you’re available each day – without having to impose long hours on your employees
  • Reduced working hours have been proven to have a beneficial effect on physical and emotional health – which reflects in a happier, more productive and loyal workforce
  • Being known as an organisation with flexibility written into its DNA makes your business an attractor for high-quality talent from across the globe

That’s why flexi-time, job sharing, condensed weeks and other flexible working practices are reaping dividends for enterprises which engage in them – both in monetary terms, and in their capacity to promote job satisfaction and increase staff morale.

To prepare your staff for flexible working, give them greater control and the ability to stay connected with a Swytch business account. Get in touch with Swytch today to find out more.

8 top tips for improving work-life balance

Does the term “work-life balance” even exist in your vocabulary? When was the last time you had an actual holiday? Not the calendar-defined ones like Christmas, but an honest-to-idleness break where you deliberately chose to abstain or absent yourself from work for a few days – or even, hours?

If you genuinely can’t recall, then you’ll probably benefit (a lot) from these tips on how to improve the balance between your working and personal lives.

1. Ignore Those Alerts

Technology blogs spend a lot of time raving about how lucky we are to live in an age of “always on, always connected” hardware and services. But in terms of quality of life, this perpetual connectivity can be as much of a curse as it is a blessing.

Case in point: all those customisable email alerts, SMS and social media notifications that seem to pipe up every few seconds of every working day – and night – on your tablet or mobile phone. Convenient, but distracting. Very. Especially if you’re trying to concentrate on something else.

Seriously, having to continuously divert your attention to a sporadic and external stream of information which may or may not be relevant to anything in particular is a great way to prevent yourself from completing the vital work you have at hand – even if that work is just taking a few hours off, from your busy timetable.

“Do Not Disturb” functions and power off buttons were created for a reason. Use them.

2. Learn To Say “No”

A great way to tip your work-life balance heavily (and stress-inducingly) in favour of “work” is to create a reputation for yourself as the “11th Hour” or “Go To” person in your organisation – the one prepared to take on rush jobs or emergency deadlines at the drop of a hat.

It may be very good for your standing and your company’s bottom line in the short term, but over time, subjecting yourself to so much pressure can have devastating consequences on your physical and mental health.

And, let’s face it: the fact that there are so many rush jobs and last-minute requests being made speaks less to your willingness to take them on and more to a lack of co-ordination in the running of your business.

So do yourself and your health a favour and graciously decline these opportunities to over-work yourself, from time to time. Not only will it give you more time to concentrate on things that are important to you, knowing that you’re not always available will give your colleagues and supervisors something to think about, in respect to why they keep having to ask you to step in so often, in the first place.

3. Prioritise Your Activities

Creating more time for your personal life can be a natural consequence of creating more time for everything you do, in general. And having a prioritised “To Do” list for each day is one way to achieve this.

To help in achieving a better work-life balance, try to create a mix of “work” and “life” related activities for each day. Then work diligently through your list until each task (including Item 7: Lunch at Spago’s) is done.

4. Include Physical Exercise in Your Mix

Health and fitness experts have been going on about the virtues of daily exercise for decades, now – and they’re not wrong. Maintaining a healthy body is an integral part of maintaining a healthy mind. And a healthy mind and body are essential to being able to perform effectively at work.

So be sure to include some kind of physical activity in your prioritised list of daily tasks – even if it’s something as mundane as “Walk/Jog through park on way to collect samples from Warehouse.”

5. Establish Work Times & Work Spaces

To create a distinction between “work time” and “personal/life time”, go ahead and actually do it. Set a formal timetable for work and work-related activities during the day – and stick to it (allowing a little leeway for the inevitable hiccups and crises).

And to push that distinction further, designate certain spaces as work spaces. If you work in an office or other facility, you’ll already have those laid out. But if you work from home, this may mean setting up a separate room or den as your studio/work space. As with your work schedule, any time you spend outside this space should be considered as personal.

This attitude should extend to your phone. The cloud-hosted Swytch network allows your company to assign UK business numbers to workers’ personal phones so they can receive vital communications at all times. And crucially for your work-life balance, Swytch enables you to maintain a clear demarcation between personal and business contacts and data.

6. “Good Enough” May Be Good Enough

We all want to be acknowledged for doing our jobs well, and striving for excellence in all things is no bad thing. But, we’re only human – and perfection is something that isn’t built into our DNA.

So spending hours and hours on each task, striving to get it just right isn’t a winning plan. It’s an inefficient use of your time and resources – not to mention a great way to induce high blood pressure.

Admitting – and accepting – that sometimes “good enough” is an acceptable standard will enable you to get more individual jobs done – especially if your work requires you to move quickly from one assignment or project to another.

7. Cultivate Outside Interests

Having laser-like focus on only one aspect of your existence (like your work) limits free thinking, induces stress, and ultimately reduces your capacity to work effectively, rather than increasing it.

Taking some time to foster outside interests (sports, social activities, community service, hobbies, etc.) expands your range of experience, refreshes your body and mind, and opens up a wider world of new ideas and influences that may be of value to you in all sorts of ways.

8. Nurture Your Family & Support Networks

They’ll be there for you, through thick and thin (whether you like it, or not…), so devoting the time and effort to nurture your relationships with family and friends is another part of the work-life balancing process.

The time you spend with them may be invaluable in maintaining your physical and emotional health – not to mention the pool of ideas and experiences that you’ll share.

Keep these recommendations in mind, and you’ll be well on the way to improving your work-life balance.