Square Circle: Alison Welsh

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Work or Family – does it have to be a stark choice?

A recent survey carried out by Relate, the relationship counselling service, showed that a third of employees said their bosses believe the most productive workers put their job before their family. It also revealed the difficulties many staff have balancing work and family life with more than 20% thinking their employers would prefer them to be available 24 hours a day.

However, almost 25% of people who believed their bosses thought the most productive employees were those who put work before family life rarely or never felt good about themselves. In a time where wellbeing and resilience are considered important, this information may be concerning OR perhaps it gives an opportunity for organisations to look at their working practices and see which camp they follow.

  • Do you encourage employees to leave work at their finishing time or do you expect them to consistently ‘go that extra mile’ for the business?
  • Do you believe that it is right always to put the demands of the job before the time available to spend with family or on leisure activities?
  • Could it be that if an employee had a better balance in their life, they might be more productive and effective when at work? Might it even be that they would get through more work if they were not exhausted by the long hours of work that they put in?

Interesting questions with no right or wrong answers – unless you feel a moral twinge about it or perhaps a personal preference? The thing about the questions is that what works for one employee will not work for all. Some will want to spend time at work because they find it fulfilling where others may find it draining. Responses will vary considerably and might even be different depending on who is asking the question! What is important for everyone is that they take the time they need to top up their energy levels or organisations won’t be getting the best out of them.

In the research Professor Sir Gary Cooper also commented that it was good that over 50% of respondents considered that they had a good relationship with their boss. He then went on to say “However, it is very concerning that so many people believe that work has to come before family to be well regarded by our bosses. This is not the message employers should be sending out, and it could lead to strain on family relationships, especially at a time when money worries are still a reality for many people.”

No-one ever was heard on their deathbed to say ‘I wish I had spent more time in the office’!

So is it time to take stock and consider how to promote wellbeing in the workplace so that you get the best out of your teams? Don’t wait until someone says that they are over-worked or stressed.

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