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Historically, the concept of a ‘work life balance’ encourages employees to prioritise between work and personal life. But are we being unrealistic in our own expectations to segregate, box-off or unplug from one to another? Is this a less than smart objective, a dichotomy based on two opposing forces that need to become integrated rather than divided? I believe so and here’s why…

Back in the 80’s we heard buzzwords such as ‘burnout’ and ‘stress’ in the workplace yet employees took sole responsibility to manage this. In the 90’s we saw handheld mobile phones allowing us to be contacted at any time. From the turn of the Millennium, smart(er) phones came out, laptops were commonplace and since then, we’ve been ‘hotfooting around’ with the world at our fingertips. No matter what business you’re in, technology’s made us an ‘always on’, 24-hour operation. We’ve come a long way with this smarter technology, so why aren’t we smarter in response? Today, working hours in the UK are among the longest in the Western world. This, coupled with technology feeding our desire for social recognition and instant gratification means that work life segregation’s unlikely to be achieved. As the boundaries between professional and personal lives are constantly blurring, we’re better to focus on these worlds co-existing and reduce the stress of segregation. This is increasingly important for SME business owners, where roles are less defined, dedicated HR doesn’t exist and wellbeing sounds like a type of dog training. Here’s 5 simple steps that business owners can take to see the benefit of wellbeing, whilst at the same time, maintaining agility in the workplace:

Accept the business humdrum
This is the activity that’s constant and needs to happen. It’s the housekeeping, the operational processes, the ‘way we work’ tasks that need to be accepted as they’re the backbone of the business, but often the most tedious. Encourage employees to embrace these and mould the rest of the job expectations around them.

Priority Grid each day
Using a simple priority grid, work through the areas that are key for that day and achievable within the time given. This method allows you to clearly work through the vast list of items by assigning ‘Urgent’ and ‘Important’ ‘v’ Urgent’ and ‘Non-Important’ ‘v’ Non-urgent’ and ‘Important’ ‘v’ Non-urgent’ and ‘Non-Important’. You’ll be amazed how clear your day becomes when using this method. It also galvanises the team and reduces the focus on the plethora of tasks that create high stress situations. Business owners and leaders must start thinking like athletes and start addressing high achievement within a given time, institutionally, rather than long hours being the route to recognition. Apps such as Wunderlist are free or for a small investment or try Priority Matrix.

Provide flexibility as to when and where the employee chooses to work can have simultaneous, mutual benefit as it removes the ‘clock-in’, ‘clock-out’ relationship to one that’s performance-focused. For maximum benefit, some thought should also be given to how flexible working’s managed to see bottom line benefit.

Know your team
Consider how you can support the important areas of an employee’s life such as attending their kids school play or a sporting interest or hobby? In my experience, supporting these important parts of an employee’s life pays dividends with regards to team engagement and productivity. In 2015, Hay Group reported that companies rated the highest for employee engagement achieve 4.5 times the revenue.

Promote healthy activities
The benefits of this are endless, but to mention just a few – getting your team moving, active and in tune with a healthy lifestyle reduces absence costs, recruitment and turnover costs. In 2017, Personnel Today reported that absence costs UK businesses £18b, including 1 in 4 people who suffer from mental health conditions. An active healthy workforce will increase employee engagement and productivity and thus your bottom line. Apps such as MyFitnessPal can log exercise and nutrition and Headspace supports mindfulness, tackles stress and anxiety, insomnia and more.

These 5 steps are simple and mostly come at no cost, other than the time you invest. In doing so, you create a smarter working environment that incorporates today’s technology and pays dividends. It’s not baloney, it’s a no brainer! To speak to Alexandra for information please click here.


For the Priority planning template, please click here

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About the author

Alexandra Garner

Alexandra's role is two-fold; she partners with CEOs, executives and owner-managed businesses to align their people strategy with their business strategy. With her team, she has a relentless focus on any given destination with the aim of reaching it in the smartest, most commercial and economical way. She’s also a member of the Haines Watts (SEM) Board, where she leads the development and implementation of people strategy, aimed at building and retaining high performing individuals.

Earning her stripes in the motor, retail-leisure sectors and IT managed service environment, Alexandra worked across a portfolio of owner managed businesses and international finance houses, designing solutions that enabled each business to thrive. Taking a gamble in 2010, she set up her own HR consultancy which allowed her to bring her own business ideas to life. This facilitated her joining Haines Watts in 2016, bringing her portfolio and team along with her. After 2 decades in the industry, as a qualified HR professional, she continues to prove that HR is an asset.

Alexandra’s solution-focused, often inspiring others to better themselves and is a strong influencer within the business, pushing fellow board members to make smart people decisions. Recently, having become a mother, she’s now thriving from the challenge of balancing both her career aspirations and family life.

“I love spending time with my 'partner in crime' (Peter!), whether this be trying out new restaurants, planning holidays, or just relaxing and having a laugh together. I’m passionate about being fit and strong, both physically and mentally. Regardless of what life throws at me, I ensure I take time out to plug in some music, lift some weights or go for a bike ride.”

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