Except to the extent that it affects them personally, many employers (partners in firms of all sizes or company directors), will struggle to understand why work/life balance is relevant to their practice.
In fact, as this series should have demonstrated, it is a vital element that can help ensure your practice maximises its profitability. The fact that it will also be a nice place to work is a welcome by-product.
Looked at from a different perspective, this is now a vital part of any reward package for senior employees and can also be just as relevant for support staff, while those millennials that you are desperate to recruit might well be discussing the structure of their working week before they even get around to salary, let alone any duties they might be expected to carry out.
Getting down to basics, in order to reach an optimum position, a practice needs to maximise its net income in the long term. Most firms manage to work out that a major factor in doing this is reaching the highest level of fee income humanly possible. This can be achieved by having more hours worked, providing better service to clients and achieving continuity.
At the other end of the profit and loss account, is also necessary to control employment and recruitment costs.
If it is not already obvious, keeping staff happy by providing the best possible perfect work/life balance and environment should be a big part of this accounting exercise.
As explained in the series on staffing, losing a valued colleague and having to replace them is an expensive business. First, you will be obliged to pay a whopping recruitment fee and quite possibly a premium over the old salary, next it will take time for the new person to bed in and finally, the odds against them being the right fit are pretty substantial, meaning that you are back to first base and have to repeat the cycle.
The following example will show how a little good sense can save all of these costs. A former colleague now works in a high-powered position for a sizeable practice. She lives 90 minutes (on a good day) from the office and regularly works long hours flat out. This has been taking a toll on her health and she had been wondering whether a change of environment might be advisable.
Her forward-thinking employers agreed with the proposal that she could start working at home every Friday. They also increased her holiday entitlement in return for a pro rata pay reduction. At the moment, she is much happier and healthier, achieving at least as much and has stopped thinking about changing jobs.
The other economic factor is employment cost. It is a fact of life that many people will appreciate the opportunity to take days off during the week (or reduced hours) for a number of reasons. Many will accept a cut in pay in return for this but, given the need to complete all of the tasks for which they are responsible, will probably hit the same chargeable hours’ targets as they did when working 100% of the time. This goes straight through to the bottom line.
Twice in my career, I have struck deals with employers who did not wish to pay the going rate for my services. On each occasion, the solution was to cut my contractual hours by 5% to 10%. Regrettably, this also reduced my pay, although arguably the output that I generated did not diminish on either occasion.
Finally, it may be less clear but the general principle that if people are happier and more relaxed they will take fewer days off sick and be more productive has almost certainly been proven by numerous scientific studies that I have not had time to research.