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Recession wrecks work-life balance

Ten million people see work-life balance suffer with recession, one-in-five work longer hours as they fear for their jobs, 86 percent of workforce supports business case for a good work-life balance

Over 10 million people in the UK have seen their work-life balance deteriorate as a consequence of the recession.  A report out today concludes that one-in-three (35%) of the UK’s 30 million workers are spending more time at work and less time at home since the start of the downturn. One-in-ten people (Nine perc ent) are feeling the change acutely.

The Balancing Act report, commissioned by the Cornwall Development Company, examines the views of 3,000 workers from across the UK. It reveals that the tough decisions many businesses were forced to make during the downturn lie at the root of the deterioration in the nation’s work-life balance.  A third of people (29 percent) questioned in the study blame additional responsibilities; while around a fifth of people (21 percent) cite understaffing; and a similar number (18 percent) hold the rising cost of living responsible for longer hours. One-in-five (19 percent) go as far as to say they fear for their job.

With inflation over four per cent and the government cuts starting to bite, the nation’s work-life balance could continue to be neglected, having an adverse impact on the well-being of more and more of the UK’s workforce.

Dr Alexandra Beauregard, a lecturer in Employment Relations and Organisational Behaviour at the London School of Economics, comments: “During tough economic times, organisations may think of work-life balance as a luxury they can do without. This is a short-sighted perspective; maintaining a motivated and productive workforce is more important than ever in an economic downturn. Individuals working for a supportive organisation reciprocate with increased effort, initiative, and loyalty – they go the extra mile. Those who feel overworked and undervalued will do the work necessary to keep their jobs, but will jump ship as soon as a better option presents itself.”

Suzanne Bond, Chief Executive of the Cornwall Development Company, adds: “The value of work-life balance has been thrown into the spotlight by economists and politicians with the Government’s plans to measure the nation’s happiness. This report firmly underlines the business case for a good work-life balance.  “Working in Cornwall is about exciting and challenging jobs as well as fantastic opportunities for business growth. Cornwall is increasingly challenging traditional working patterns and perceptions and this has become an intrinsic part of the success of modern Cornish businesses. It’s responsible for driving productivity, creativity and innovation in the county for industries as diverse as food and drink and renewable energy.”

The business case for work-life balance Over eighty per cent of UK workers from the shop floor to the boardroom believe a good work-life balance has a positive impact on productivity and a business’s ability to attract and retain talent – underlining the business case for a good work-life balance.

Suzanne Bond continued: “As the economy recovers and bosses seek to drive growth, top talent and a motivated workforce will be crucial to success. Providing employees with a good work-life balance may be the vital ingredient for many businesses.” Those working in larger businesses, with over 250 employees, are the most likely to support the effects of a good work-life balance on their firm’s bottom line, with almost nine-out-of-ten (86%) believing it has a positive effect on productivity. As business size decreases, the level of positivity drops slightly to 78 percent of self-employed workers. However, the report shows that self-employed workers are more likely to enjoy a good work-life balance in reality than their corporate counterparts.

Crucially, the report also highlights the steps bosses can take to improve the work-life balance of their employees. A third of people (28 percent) believe flexible working hours would most improve their work-life balance. More support from colleagues and an improved working environment were also cited as steps bosses could take. External factors also have a role to play though with 40 per cent of people looking towards a lower cost of living for a better work-life balance and more than one-in-ten (13 percent) of us see a reduced commute as the ticket to a better work-life balance. Two-thirds of people (63 percent) would change their job to achieve a better work-life balance, and a similar number (59 percent) would even move somewhere else – reinforcing just how highly prized a good work-life balance is.


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