The March Towards Work-Life Balance
The HR profession has always been at the forefront of the flexible working agenda and is best placed to advise businesses on the inexorable march towards work-life balance – and the fluid workforce that will inevitably dominate organisations in years to come.
Work-life balance is a frequent topic of conversation. In response to this, many UK businesses are consulting their HR teams to assess how to structure their work forces in the future, and how to balance inevitable technological evolution and the desire for their staff to blend the demands of their private lives with the need to work.
PwC recently launched a headline grabbing scheme to allow some staff to work the hours they choose, claiming that this attracts skilled people who do not want to be tied to traditional working hours. PwC’s view is that flexible working patterns can include anything from shorter weekly working hours to only working for a few months a year. This flexible scheme was borne out of a recent study which showed that 46% of those surveyed prioritised flexible working hours and a good work-life balance when choosing a job. PwC is also recruiting for its six month paid internship programme which is designed to help senior professionals to restart their careers after an extended break. They recognise that more people want to transition in and out of work during their careers and that organisations who responsibly support this agenda will ultimately gain a competitive advantage.
The study showed that 46% of those surveyed prioritised flexible working hours and a good work-life balance when choosing a job.
Recently the TUC (Trades Union Congress) used its 150th annual conference to call on the government to take action to help people work less hours, but receive the same pay. Their view is that artificial intelligence, robotics and automation could provide a £200bn UK economic boost in the next decade which will help people work more effectively and therefore reduce the number of hours worked, whilst providing enhanced skills. The TUC is fully aware that as many as 3.5 million UK jobs could be replaced by technological advances by 2030, but are doing their best to promote the view that technology will make lives better and be a force for the good, particularly in relation to the creation of more satisfying work.
Artificial intelligence, robotics and automation could provide a £200bn UK economic boost in the next decade which will help people work more effectively and therefore reduce the number of hours worked, whilst providing enhanced skills.
Of course the reality is that 1.4 million people in this country work a full seven days every week. Substantial organisations such as PwC have the scope and scale to accommodate their suggested initiatives without effecting the overall performance of a highly successful operation. The salient question is, can this be adopted across smaller businesses where every head counts and there is a need for staff to be physically present, operating at full capacity? There is no easy answer to this but there certainly seems to be an unstoppable march towards a situation where flexibility to working hours and the balance between home and work life are the first things that an employer must consider, even if they are inclined to resist the concept. The challenge for the employer is how to remain competitive and successful in the face of this prevailing flexible working trend.
The reality is that 1.4 million people in this country work a full seven days every week.
In respect of the TUC’s ideas about reducing the working week to four days, customer focused businesses will find this equally challenging unless they have sufficient cover in terms of calibre and quality of service in their workforce. The question will be: can we provide what we need to do economically and in keeping with modern working practices?
The HR profession has proved to be well ahead of its time in relation to gender equality, flexible working, job share and many other aspects of work. HR will continue to be at the heart of the changing face of employment and will inevitably show its importance to the way the UK’s working patterns develop. It will be a fascinating decade ahead and no one quite knows what will happen. At the beginning of the century, it was predicted that all employees would be working from home and that communication amongst workforce’s would be seamless. In fact nothing of the sort occurred, as people still liked the idea of working together in an office and communicating in person.
Whilst organisations like PwC can experiment, the reality is that most organisations do not have the flexibility, capability and willpower to introduce radical working practices. However, workplace dynamics will inevitably continue to change and therefore to attract and retain the best talent, motivate employees and increase productivity, organisations should be seeking to embed flexible working wherever possible.
psd’s long established HR practice has given us access to many organisations and insight into how they change their approach to day to day work. If you would like to talk more about our experiences and how that might affect your recruitment processes, please do get in touch.
Peter leads psd‘s work in the Property & Construction sector. He recruits senior and board level positions in development, construction, fund management, private equity, property services, PRS and affordable housing.
He is also Head of psd‘s global HR practice, recruiting senior and board level positions across all sectors.