Employment Law Update: The Importance of a Healthy Work Life Balance

Employment Law Update: The Importance of a Healthy Work Life Balance

The growing movement of Mental Health awareness has captivated the UK with many employers and HR professionals championing the importance of having a good work life balance. Extra working hours, combined with low wages and a need to increase earning capacity means that for many the balance of work and life is out of sync. As a result, the mental health of those employees is put in jeopardy.

What signs can HR look out for in employees who may need help?

People with unhealthy work life balances may feel unhappy about being at work and the time they devote to work. If your employees or colleagues are showing signs of lack of motivation at work, distracted behaviour or seem unhappy to be at work, these may be signs that they need some help. Similarly, those who seem to worry about work whilst at home, those who are not developing personally outside of work or seem to be neglecting other aspects of their lives in favour of work, could be struggling with an unhealthy work life balance.

What can be done to help those with unhealthy work life balances?

Head of Employment Law Nicola Strefford explains "Nurturing employees is the best way to ensure you are getting the best out of your workforce. Incorrect work life balance can affect productivity, absence figures and turnover for businesses so it's extremely important that employees are encouraged to have a correct work life balance and feel taken care of. We always advise clients to deal with issues sensitively as heavy intervention from employers can negatively impact on an employee's mental health, causing problems to often get worse, not better."

Ways in which employers can help promote healthy work life balances, according to the Mental Health Foundation are:

  • Have set policies in place which deal with stress at work and have procedures which nurture all employees especially those who may have mental health issues;
  • Promote an open-door policy across your business. It is important employees feel able to speak to managers or supervisors about time constraints and work load issues, without fear of being criticised or disciplined;
  • Assisting employees to utilise the time they are working, to ensure they aren't working longer hours in order to meet targets or work demands;
  • Provide training on work life balance to all staff;
  • Encourage activities which promote good mental health and good work life balance. Encouraging all staff to get fresh air on breaks; lunchtime exercise or relaxation classes.

(The list above has been extracted from the Mental Health Foundation website)

One of the main goals of promoting a work life balance for employers is assisting employees to utilise their time at work effectively. In promoting this, employers should provide training on prioritising work tasks; structuring time at work and planning the working day; taking adequate breaks during the work day; making use of annual leave entitlements and using time at home to have a break from work. There are ways in which technology can assist with this, by not allowing employees access to emails at home or not promoting weekend or home working as a way to increase work utilisation.

Employment Trainee Solicitor Natalie Smith comments "Broaching this subject with employees can be a sensitive issue so getting advice from the outset is the best way to approach any problem. We encourage all clients to contact us as soon as a potential issue arises, so we can offer support and training whilst also avoiding a situation spiralling unnecessarily."

HR Manager Claire Edon explains "It is clear that a healthy work life balance has a positive effect on our mental health, which in turn affects our productivity, motivation and attitude in the workplace. Helping our people strike that balance in order to shine bright throughout their careers is firmly embedded in our company culture.''

Our specialist employment law team provide expert advice to both employers and employees on a full range of employment matters. If you need any help or guidance on offering training to employees or you feel there is an unhealthy culture of work life balance in your business, contact our specialist employment team on 01603 693500 or email us using the 'Make an Enquiry' online form on our website.