Last week David Cameron confidently announced clocking off early for date nights with Mrs C and the odd game of tennis. While designed to aid good judgement, this potentially laid-back attitude fell short of public expectations. Regardless of your views on Cameron, his wife or in fact his tennis ability; shouldn’t his strive for work-life balance be supported rather than criticised?

Work-life balance is defined as being aware of different demands on time and energy, the ability to make choices in its allocation and knowing which values to apply when making such choices.

We all have personal ambitions- getting fit, socialising and taking up new hobbies. Yet why for some do these desires get pushed aside? Personal ambition, sector, job and cultural norms can tip the scales in either direction, as do personal reaction to workplace pressures. Employees are working longer, commuting further and taking on more responsibility. It appears it isn’t just Cameron fighting tough expectations.

Higher productivity, stronger engagement, improved retention and reduced absenteeism – the business case for employee wellbeing is well documented.Yet the latest ONS report on personal happiness indicates 48% of individuals have relatively low satisfaction with their work-life balance. So how do we achieve the balance employees and organisations need and whose responsibility is it?

The majority of the burden lies with individuals themselves – no surprises there! You are after all your own body, mind and spirit. However according to a CIPD survey just over a third of employees agree their manger supports their work-life balance and 35% agree or strongly agree that their organisation does. Colleagues, managers and organisations have an opportunity if not a responsibility to overturn work-life imbalance – employees can’t be solely responsible.

This week my allocation of personal time and energy has been focused on filling favour boxes with heart shaped jellies (bridesmaid to my sister on Saturday), supporting a colleague improve her gym attendance and celebrating a friends new job in a small advertising agency – which includes the perk of a free fortnightly massage! Another friend involved in the celebrations receives every other Friday off as time in lieu as her department in a large oil and gas company recognises that its employees will have achieved the required output and hours during the week.  

Opportunities for small, medium and large organisations to support work-life balance without negatively impacting their revenues quickly became apparent in discussions. So what can and should colleagues, managers and organisations do?

Regardless of organisational size, employee wellness can be embedded in the employee value proposition. Organisations could:

  • Encourage and support managers to have open, honest and regular dialogues with their employees
  • Promote positive links between health and work through employee benefits
  • Design policies and processes to support work-life balance
  • Embed appropriate values and culture

It doesn’t matter how big or small, formal policy or subtle commentary, colleagues, managers and organisations can all play a part in ensuring more individuals are home in time for date nights and the odd game of tennis!