Step 1 - Get management support and the right people on board
- Communication: This example shows a staff communication sent by one company setting up a work-life balance project.
- Working Group: This example shows how one organisation defined the role of their working group.
Involve the relevant unions
Involve the unions who represent your employees early in the process. Employers have found work-life balance projects useful in building workplace partnerships and good relations with unions.
The unions will be important for:
- communicating with, and getting the support of, their members
- identifying potential work-life balance issues in your workplace
- finding out what other employers with similar issues are doing
- assessing the best way of addressing work-life balance issues in your organisation
- helping develop solutions that will work for your organisation.
Set up a working group
Organisations that have a work-life balance strategy have found it useful to appoint a team of people to develop it. A team will:
- bring a range of skills and perspectives to the job
- bring knowledge of different parts of the organisation
- provide greater continuity for what can be a medium or long-term project.
Team members can be drawn from Human Resources staff, management and from different parts of the organisation. It is useful to make sure the group broadly reflects the people employed in your organisation. You may need to think about gender, ethnicity, age and length of experience, and include people with family responsibilities.
The teams that are most successful have:
- a strong mandate from their senior management team
- a project leader with the skills and time to do the job
- a clear brief
- people who are interested in the issue
- a good understanding of their organisation's needs and ways of working
- access to relevant information
- good communication processes.
Visit our resources section about working in partnership for more information.
Avoiding the traps
In developing a strategy, take care to avoid the following traps.
Raising unrealistic expectations
In all communications about developing a work-life balance strategy, take care in managing people's expectations. Be clear that although the organisation wants to know what people's needs are, it will not be able to do everything and, of what it can do, it will not be able to do it all at once. If the nature of the work or organisational constraints means that some things will never be an option, then do not raise them.
Organisations often fear that employees will have totally unrealistic requests. In fact, employees are generally very realistic about the constraints of their jobs. They understand the need to provide cover and maintain adequate staffing levels. Employees who mainly deal face to face with customers do not ask to work from home.
Something for everyone, not necessarily the same for everyone
In trying to make it easier for staff to achieve a satisfactory work-life balance, it will not be possible to treat everybody the same way. Different jobs, different work pressures and different personal needs mean that there will need to be different solutions. The aim is to do something for everyone, not necessarily to treat people in exactly the same way.
In doing this, take care that you are not focusing on just one or two specific groups. Depending on their job, all people - not just those with young children - need to be able to be considered for quality flexible work arrangements. The work-life balance of managers needs to be considered, as well as that of staff. If both groups have a similar level of need, be careful about focusing on operational staff at the expense of administrative staff.
It has to work for the organisation and the rest of the team, as well as for the individual
Strategies, initiatives and arrangements that do not work for all three will not be sustainable. When you consult people about solutions, when you design initiatives or when you promote strategies, ensure that you are looking at the issue from all three perspectives.