Forest Software

Web, SEO and IT & Business Advice for the Smaller Business

Getting the Balance right

Work-life balance : ??  Photographer: Mr_funkenstien | Agency: Dreamstime.comSmall businesses through out the UK are becoming increasingly aware of the need for a good work-life balance. Business owners are looking for a flexible work/life policy that reflects staff, customer and business needs while at the same time enhancing the quality of life for everyone.

If you are a small business owner you have probably found that the heavy workload you have to deal with an cause problems when it clashes with family commitments and social life. What you may not have realised that this imbalance between the work and personal life can have a detrimental effect on your business as well.

The benefits of a better work-life balance

Having good work-live balance policies in place in your business is proven to be good for business and staff morale. Introducing a flexible working policy can, in many cases, benefit everyone. Many employers who have introduced such a policy believe that it has made good business sense and has brought some, or all, of the following improvements - some of which have a direct effect on the profits made by the business :-

  • Greater cost-effectiveness and efficiency - such as savings on overheads when employees are working from home or increased use of machinery when multiple shifts have been introduced.
  • Ability to attract a better skilled workforce - flexible working can mean that your business is able to attract staff with higher skills.
  • Reduced staff turnover - staff are offered hours that they can manage rather than being forced into working hours that are unsuitable. This in turn leads to a reduction in recruitment costs.
  • Lower rates of absenteeism - flexible working can make staff happier and healthier, so they are less likely to take time off work.
  • Increased customer satisfaction - You may find that you are able to offer longer opening hours, more experienced staff and a better overall service. These are all things that your customers may appreciate.


The main gain for your employees will get from flexible working is the increased opportunity to mix work with other commitments such as family. This is typically "sold" as being helpful for people who are caring for children or other dependents, but can be just as useful for other members of staff who will feel more in control of their life (for example being able to finish early one day a fortnight to get some shopping so their week-end is free for hobbies).

Introducing flexible working in your business

The process of introducing flexible working shouldn't be difficult as long as the introduction is planned, implemented and monitored across the business.

You should consult and inform staff before you introduce the policy and consider the effect on other systems and personnel procedures. For example, you may need a new way of recording working patterns, absence and holidays.

You should remember that existing contracts may have to be changed to reflect the new policy and rules - make sure that you get the written agreement of your staff before this happens. You should make sure that you are up to date with your employees rights in regard to flexible working, information about this can be found on the Department of Trade and Industry web site.

Types of flexible working and some common terms.
Part-time workingStaff are contracted to work less than the standard, basic, full-time hours (for example 20 hours per week instead of a normal 35 hours).
Flexi-timeWorkers are free to fit their hours in over the course of a week (or sometimes over a longer period such as a month). Flexi-time often includes core-time when the worker must be working, for example 10-12 and 2-4).
Staggered hoursWorkers have different start, break and finish times, allowing a business to open for longer.
Compressed working hoursWorkers can fit their total number of hours into fewer days.
Job sharingOne full-time job is split between two workers
Shift swappingWorkers arrange shifts amongst themselves - ensuring that all shifts are covered.
Time if in lieu (TOIL)Workers are not paid overtime but may take time off to compensate for any extra hours worked.
Term-time workingA worker is on a permanent contract but can take a mix of paid/unpaid leave during school holidays.
Annual hoursThe total number of hours to be working in a year is calculated. Although many shifts are allocated some hours are kept in reserve to allow workers to be called into work at short notice.
Home workingWorkers spend all or part of their working hours working from home or somewhere else away from from the normal working premises. See our article about managing remote workers.

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