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Levelling the scales of the work/life balance

Business leader and mentor Amanda Coulson shares her views on the changing face of the workplace and the expectations of employees looking to balance responsibilities at home and at work…

We are all challenged to make the decision of whether we want to make the life choices that mean we either live to work or work to live.

Once a family comes along, it’s quite common for priorities to change and for our attitude towards work to take a shift in emphasis too.

When Helen Skelton revealed live on air that she was leaving her BBC Radio 5 Live Sunday mid-morning show, she was clear about her motivations. While she confessed she didn’t want to leave, she went on to explain how, “an eight-year-old will be happy about it”.

She went on to explain: “I’m not all right about it but you know, needs must. The juggle is real. An eight-year-old with a sideline needs me.”

The experienced presenter, who first made her name on Blue Peter has been seen on BBC One’s Morning Live, Channel 5’s On the Farm and rugby league coverage on Channel 4, as well as making it to the final of the 2022 season of Strictly Come Dancing.

But at the age of 40 and with three children, aged eight, six and one, it is clear that Skelton has felt the need for a change of tack in order to slow the pace of life down.

This changing lifestyle trend is not something that is just confined to high profile presenters. More and more employers who are searching for their next role in the jobs market will have flexible working arrangements and the right adjustment to the needs of their work/life balance very high up on their agenda as essential job criteria.

Naturally the pandemic had a huge impact on our approach to working and balancing those requirements with our responsibilities to our families. A more flexible approach has now become much more established as the norm and it’s something that is here to stay.

In this new future there is a greater necessity for employees and employers to be understanding of the responsibilities in the workplace as well as at home. While more members of staff are expecting their bosses to be understanding around the challenges of life at home, good employees should recognise that it is important to remember the needs of the business too and that a flexible approach needs to work both ways.

To get the right outcome for your business, I would recommend business owners keep a number of things in mind.

Communication is essential, so talk to your employees about their home situation and their requirements. It can be easy to make assumptions about what these needs might be and for your intention to help to be misplaced, so have meaningful conversations to understand the true scenario.

As a business owner or team manager, always try to lead by example in the way you clearly demonstrate your commitment to the core activities of the business. There are times where an early exit from the office is perfectly acceptable, and there are other times when work goes on over time. Providing a good demonstration of the distinction of these is really important for your team to see.

Finally, everyone should be mindful that flexibility around working arrangements isn’t always just about childcare. While looking after children is perhaps the most common reason for time out of the office, there are other circumstances that require similar consideration. Issues around health or the health of family members, caring for elderly parents or tackling situations of anxiety can all be legitimate reasons to provide a flexible approach to work, and they should be dealt with the same level of understanding.

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