Many Companies are implementing work-life balance policies. Lloyds Bank TSB are just one example. Their website states: “We recognize that work is part of life and life is part of work.”
This trend has taken off widely in accountancy firms across America. Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute says “The nation’s accounting firms excel at this for a boring, accounting reason — they’ve looked at the numbers, and they see it helps,”
In a study by the Corporate Executive Board looking at over 50,000 global workers, Work-life balance is one of the top most important work attributes, it’s the second most important driver of employee attraction and commitment. Employees who feel they have a better work-life balance, work 21% harder than those that don’t.
The most appreciated work-life practice employers could provide was found to be ‘the gift of time’ with over 60% identifying flexible working schedules as the most important.
At Ernst and Young accountancy firm in America, workplace flexibility has been built into the culture. For one team, monday mornings begin with a meeting where employees lay out their personal commitments for the week; be it going to a football game, a wedding, a pilates class or a parent teacher evening for their kids at school. The team then arrange to cover for each other.
Research by Friedman (professor of Management and founding director of the Wharton School’s Leadership Program and of its Work/Life Integration Project ) found that we need a holistic approach, incorporating the components of work, home, community and self into one system. He uses the term “four way wins” as he suggests this leads to improved performance across all parts of life.
Such an approach is nothing new and reflects many of the ancient practices of spirituality characteristic of the monastic traditions. Benedictine monks practiced rhythms of life that balanced work, rest, prayer and play.
The Benedictine sister Joan Chittister suggests the modern world actually works against this balance. “With the invention of the light bulb, balance became a myth. Now human beings could extend the day and deny the night. Now human beings could break the natural rhythm of work and rest and sleep. Now human beings could begin to destroy the framework of life and turn it into one eternal day with, ironically, no time for family, no time for reading, no time for prayer, no time for privacy, no time for silence, no time for time.
So perhaps it’s time to find a new respect for these ancient spiritual principles. It may seem surprising that a “gift of time” where people are working less and with more flexibility and balance in their lives, actually leads to an increase in productivity and is a benefit to businesses. As Rev. Canon Renee Miller said “We find ourselves unable to step off the never-ending task treadmill because we are trying to apply a work/business model to an issue of the soul.”