Going to the Dogs – The Continued Importance of Well-Being

Hello PPMA members and friends

This week is Work-Life week. It is promoted by the charity “Working Families” to highlight the importance of people achieving an appropriate balance in their lives between work and their interests outside of work. In my organisation we are using the week to stimulate a debate about the potential challenge to work-life balance caused by the financial squeeze and to re-emphasise the importance we continue to place on staff well-being.

The economic downturn is increasing the demands on the services provided by my Council, whilst at the same time the resources available and the number of people we have to meet those demands are reducing. Those staff we have retained are being asked to do more and there is no doubt that people feel under increasing pressure whilst at work. There is scope for some people to worker harder and deliver more. However the answer cannot lie in simply asking our staff to do more and more, to the detriment of their well-being and their work-life balance.

The charity promoting Work-Life week is particularly focused on encouraging people to spend more time with their families. This is important of course, but it is fundamentally about ensuring that people feel able to get an appropriate balance in their lives and achieve what they wish outside of work. What that balance is will vary between individuals, as much as how they wish to spend their non-work time. It does not mean that people will not work late on occasions, or write blogs after midnight. However this not be a pattern which prevents people getting the downtime they need to re-charge batteries, sustain their health and thereby remain productive.

In my Council we wish to have a debate about what work-life balance means as the pressure on resources grow. We want to know where people feel it is coming under threat and we want to respond by working through with staff and their managers what can be done to work smarter, to reduce demand, to cope with more pressure and avoid burn-out. We are also using the week to raise a wariness of the range of things in place to support the well-being of our staff – advice lines, support for healthy living, financial advice and stress management training.

Our “Supporting Staff Through Tough Times” programme reflects the tradition of our Borough as a caring employer and recognises that a high proportion of our staff are Borough residents. But we also know that there is a financial business case for investing in staff well-being, both directly in terms of reduced cost of sickness, but also through sustained levels of engagement and therefore productivity.

Wednesday the 26th is “Go Home on Time Day”. We are encouraging our senior managers to set an example and choose to leave at an hour earlier than they would normally do. We will be reporting back to our staff how they have spent the extra time they have had away from the office. As one of their number is leaving, I think many are planning to spend it at Romford Greyhound Stadium and so that will be a nice headline for the staff magazine.

Many have responded to our focus on Work-Life balance with scepticism. However I think it is part of the honest debate we need to have about the employment deal of the future. I am encouraging an on-line debate on the topic via our intranet and e-learning system and have committed to respond to all comments left there. I may be here all night!

I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts, ideas and experiences on how we go about ensuring that staff well-being and work-life balance remain priorities? Share your views with us by clicking the ‘comment’ button underneath this post’s headline.

Martin

 

By | 2017-07-30T12:23:22+00:00 September 24th, 2012|Categories: Martin Rayson|8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Anne Dokov 25th September 2012 at 9:42 am

    Hi Martin
    I absolutely support your comments. I think that in a lot of organisations fewer people are being expected to deliver more results and this really puts a lot of them under pressure. I think it is absolutely vital for staff to know that employers value their commitment but equally recognise that they have lives outside the organisation. Senior managers’ ways of working are watched much more closely than many realise and they do set the tone for everyone else. I think your go home early initiative is great – try not to make it only a once a year occurrence and have a great night at the dogs!
    I have just left my organisation for a life of (hopefully) better balance and control as an interim manager. As soon as the pressure lifted I have predictably gone down with a lousy cold! Be warned folks, over-working has its ways of catching up with you…
    Anne Dokov

  2. Tim Normanton 26th September 2012 at 10:08 am

    I think this is a very timely activity – particularly given the recent publication of the New Employment Deal For Local Government. Many current employees were atracted to the public sector by the (perceived) better work life balence, and as the current demands on public service erode the differential between private and public sector working practices we need to re-evaluate how we demonstrate we are a caring employer. There are some great examples from the private sector which we could learn from -I know of one finacial institution which turns off it’s email sevrers (with exceptiosn for a very select few) at 7pm, and turns them back on at 7am. Simple, cost saving and a demonstrable commitment to work life balence.

  3. Martin Rayson 26th September 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Thanks for your comments

    Encouraging an appropriate work-life balance makes business sense in the longer term. It is something that we can offer as part of a new employment deal. We do have to help managers protect the balance though by stopping some things and working differently

  4. Richard Crouch 26th September 2012 at 9:10 pm

    I think all of us involved in people management will resonate with Martin’s points here. I’ve always been keen on the sentiment but have also peddled something Penna worked on a few years ago which was the philosophy of ‘Meaning at Work’. To me, I can’t help but feel that work life balance conjures up the perhaps artificial notion of separating out work from life, when most of us spend so much of our life at work! I don’t quite see such a separation but would rather see real meaning at work and thus engagement, undertaken in a balanced way that suites both the individual and the employer. So for me, I’m not that keen on everyone taking an hour off on the same day, unless that’s what they all as individuals really want and the employer also. My preference is a more individualised and flexible approach to balancing work and non work activities linked to meaning at work. Many arable farmers for instance work long hours in the summer but take time out in the winter and for them their job is a vocation in life in which they get real meaning. Perhaps that is what we should strive for?
    Richard

  5. Martin Rayson 29th September 2012 at 7:41 am

    I think that is a fantastic aspiration and I do think many public sector workers do have that sense of vocation. There is a risk though that because of that sense of vocation people may not know when to stop and feel a sense of letting people down if they do. Without telling people what they should and should not do, the purpose of the week and day is to remind people of the need for balance.

  6. Raffaela Goodby 3rd October 2012 at 7:46 pm

    I prefer to bring my whole self to work and don’t have a ‘work me’ and a ‘home me’. Sometimes I have to dash off from the office because Alice has thrown up at nursery or Annabel twisted her ankle playing tennis, and other times I miss concerts or playground stuff because I have evening meetings or appointments with members. Balance is the key word here.

    For me, the well being part comes by having flexibility and understanding – to be boss, mother, leader, wife, project manager and daughter – and know you have the positive support of your line manager and team when things invariably don’t go to plan. That’s a huge engager…and can’t be underestimated.

    The well being and work life balance (and our HR strategy that supports this) are a HUGE plus for the Public Sector and we shouldn’t underestimate that as a key part of our value proposition and a differentiator for attracting and retaining talent now and in the coming years.

    Raffaela (about to read Mr Messy to a toddler)

  7. Martin Rayson 4th October 2012 at 5:42 pm

    It is certainly about what suits the individual, their particular lifestyle and the way they like to live their works. Enabling people to work flexibly is one of the most valued benefits and a big contributor to engagement I believe.

    Martin

  8. Richard Crouch 4th October 2012 at 8:49 pm

    Here here to all that’s been said. And it all links to the product, service, output etc.It is this that provides our ‘meaning’ and makes us ‘engaged’ . What though we need to do by all accounts is make sure we get such meaning and engagement outside of work to achieve the ‘balance’ being talked of in this thread.
    Right, I’m off to feed the cows!

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