Work/Life balance tips to incentivise employees

Working from home
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It goes without saying that those running a partnership or company will expect their workers to hit certain performance targets. However, the way that this is achieved can often be far more flexible than the traditional business model would suggest.

In particular, many employees including some who are highly ambitious, now regard work as being an important but not necessarily the most significant aspect of their lives.

This means that in many cases employees will be keen to try to craft a package that suits them, to the extent that this is possible in the light of the obligations that are expected to achieve.

There are many ways in which an employment contract can be varied to achieve this goal. Each of these factors might be something that valued employees can negotiate with employers, particularly given the job market at present where workers often have the upper hand.

Working Hours

While completing a requisite number of hours will be compulsory, the structure through which this is achieved can often be altered to make life more palatable for you as an employee. What seemed impossible not too many years ago has been facilitated by legislation around parenthood and changing attitudes to bringing up children.

At one end of the scale this could be as simple requesting to work three days a week rather than five. However, there are numerous other alternatives, one or two of which may be scuppered as a result of legal requirements.

Giving individuals the option to change their working day might be a good starting point. HMRC has always been a good proponent of this model.

Some individuals were always happy to start work at 7 am, while others preferred to get the kids to school and roll up at 10 or even later. The more vexed questions lies in whether it is possible to cut the lunch hour to shorten the day. This is where you might need the legal team to get involved, although a half-hour break should be fine.

Flexitime, as practised by the Revenue, seems to have gone out of fashion but could make perfect sense. You will clearly need to complete the requisite number of hours in a specific day/week/month as appropriate. However, if you can negotiate some freedom in how this is achieved, then like so many in other professions you are likely to be a great deal happier as a result of working at convenient times for doing the school run.

Depending upon family commitments, you might also manage to free up the odd morning to play golf or an afternoon watching the kids’ swimming gala or nativity play.

The difficulty here will come with your employer’s need to monitor the hours worked and resulting achievements. That will very much depend on the nature of the work that each individual is required to complete.

Clearly, if you are out on site auditing there is likely to be limited flexibility, whereas somebody if your commitment is to complete a set number of personal tax returns by 31 January then why not think about starting at four in the morning and ending at 11 or even do midnight to 7 am, if that is more to your taste.

Working from Home

If all of that is a step too far, then ask about working from home, which might be a more practical solution as this can often increase productivity, provided the necessary infrastructure is in place. You might even end up with a better laptop or mobile phone as part of the deal.

Holidays

Many employers might have no objection if you request for increased holidays in return for a pro rata cut in pay. I have a cousin who has cut a deal in the past that enabled her to take all school holidays off. At first sight, this may sound impractical if not impossible but it could lead to a significant cut in employment costs for your employer without any great downside.

Bearing in mind that in many cases clients are also going to be away, this might be a win-win situation for employer/employee. Once again, you may need to accept an obligation to check e-mails and answer urgent queries every now and then.

On a simpler level, buying and selling an additional week or two of holiday, subject to statutory obligations, is also an option that might appeal.

Job Sharing

A variation on this theme is to consider whether two (or more) individuals might share the job. While this seems to be common in administrative roles, in principle there is no reason why it could not apply to professionals, allowing for a degree of give-and-take.

The message to take away from this article is consider your dream scenario, work out whether it could be practical for your employer and then bear in mind the good old maxim “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”.

About Philip Fisher

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