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UK Employers Are Ringing the Changes with Work-Life Balance

Employers are more understanding of the importance of helping their staff achieve work-life balance, according to new research from The Work Foundation, in association with Employers for Work-Life Balance (EfWLB).

For the last three years EfWLB – an alliance of 22 UK companies – has promoted the business benefits of work-life balance within the business community. It disbands on Wednesday 5 June and passes its awareness-raising brief to The Work Foundation. The Work Foundation report – About Time for Change – was specially commissioned to mark the handover. It is based on a survey of 500 respondents and investigates their feelings about work-life balance.

It finds that employers are responsive to the case for better work-life balance – three out of five people say that their employer would support all employees, with or without children, being able to work flexibly. Half of all respondents thought work-life balance was just not for parents and nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) expressed a desire to spend more time with their families whether they had children or not.

But there were still over a third of employees who felt that work-life balance was only relevant to employed parents.

Peter Ellwood, chairman of Employers for Work-Life Balance, says: ‘It is clear that many UK organisations have taken on board the messages that work-life balance can be good for business. However, there stubbornly remains a perception that work-life balance is limited to parents. This ignores the external drivers behind it. Demographic and societal changes, globalisation and advances in technology are forcing business to transform the way they operate.

‘Work-life balance strategies are a valuable tool in this transformation. They offer a win-win situation, engaging employees on the basis that there is ‘something in it for them’ too, and humanising the process of change.’

Two out of five (41%) of full-time workers say that they would be more productive if they were given more control over their time. One in five part-time workers gave a similar response, which indicates that working shorter hours doesn’t necessarily mean they feel in control of their time.

Alexandra Jones, author of the report by The Work Foundation, says: ‘The survey suggests that people really value being able to determine their own hours. True work-life balance is about giving employees the flexibility to make choices about how and when they work. It is not simply shorter hours.’

According to the research people are exhausted by their lifestyles. Over a third of full-time and part-time workers are so worn out by their work that they fall asleep on the sofa. And skills, development and education suffer too. Worryingly for employers, more than 50% of full-time workers say they lack the time to do an evening class because of the hours they work.

Will Hutton, chief executive of The Work Foundation says: ‘Employers can’t disregard the fact that employees want to spend more time with their families. Human beings need more than work in their lives if they are to stay sane. But its not just about civil society, individual sanity or allowing women to juggle their lives better. It is increasingly relevant to workplace performance and productivity. Without progress in this area, UK employees will continue to fare badly compared to workers in other European countries.’

Notes to editors:

  • The Work Foundation continues the tradition set by The Industrial Society to improve the productivity and quality of working life in the UK, with a unique fusion of research, consultancy and advocacy. The Work Foundation is wholly independent and holds not-for-dividend and Royal Charter status.
  • EfWLB was set up by 2000 by a group of 22 employers to promote the business benefits of work-life balance and provide advice on best practice in work-life balance procedures.
  • Will Hutton, chief executive of The Work Foundation and Peter Ellwood, chairman of EfWLB are available for interview.
  • 500 men and women were interviewed by telephone between April and May 2003


For further information please contact:

Saskia Walcott or Hayley Booth at Colman Getty PR, tel 020 7631 2666
email [email protected]

Memuna Forna, at The Work Foundation, tel: 020 7004 7224
Email: [email protected]

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