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For the Good of the Nation’s Mental Health, Organisations and Employees Need To Find a Work Life Balance that Works

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The autumn equinox is here signalling the glorious balance of day and night all over the planet. So, how can we achieve a perfect equilibrium in our own lives?

According to a research published in the Lancet in 2015, those clocking 55 hours a week have a 33% greater risk of a stroke and are 13% more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease than people working 40 hour a week or less. Other investigations have likened 55 hours of weekly work to depression, insomnia and event Type 2 diabetes. It seems the advances in technology over the last few years have meant that for many of us, we are never ‘off’ work.

I know many working parents who claim they work flexibly. In reality, this means leaving the office to pick the children up from school/nursery/after school club, preparing meals, helping with homework, getting kids to bed – and then going back to the laptop to catch up on work. 

It’s no surprise then that mental health issues have become topical – if we never switch off from work how can we perform to our optimum?  Berkeley Haas introduced the notion of ‘work life integration’ as an approach that ‘creates more synergies between all areas that define life.’

Work, home, family, community, personal wellbeing and health are all part of an integrated life. And work life integration starts with analysing how you work best. 

In a radical move this year, PWChave allowed their new graduate intake to decide how and when they want to work and have a range of flexible working options which go beyond the norm. These include year-round flex days, developing a ‘teaming culture’ where the team decides how and when they need to work to best serve the clients, and unprescribed sick leave. 

CIC Partner’s Leading the Way

At EY, they have developed new names for how employees work – Hummingbirds, Balance Seekers, Side Hustlers – all are legitimate ways of working at EY. Bright Horizonshave introduced their Bright Start programme, matching the needs of their employees to the needs of clients to ensure that there is a good supply of staff when the business is at its busiest.

For every organisation like those mentioned above there will be ten if not twenty others who are stuck in the old ways of working - those who deem working at home to be code for having a day off, those managers who deem working flexibly indicates a lack of ambition and those employers who find it strange when a man asks for parental leave.

For the good of the nation’s mental health and wellbeing perhaps conversations need to start in all organisations about matching skill with client need with employee need for a balanced life. 

The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year. For more information go to: www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/world-mental-health-day.