Nick Court: How far should an employer’s responsibility extend in supporting employees’ work-life balance?


We are more than aware that, with changes in technology, the edges of the working day are getting blurred. We take our work with us into our home, down the pub and with us when we go to bed. And we do not stop there, we take our online social life to work with us.

In late 2016, a year arguably of divisive news, the news landed that the French government had passed a new law that employers of more than 50 employees must draw up a charter setting out when workers should and should not send emails. This sparked much debate around work-life balance and how much responsibility for this sat with the employer and with the government.

So, let’s start with why anyone has a responsibility. According to the Mental Health Foundation: “The pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture in the UK is perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population.”

I would say that based on this, employers absolutely have a responsibility in supporting employees having the right work-life balance.

If organisations do not operate a strict nine-to-five working day in their business, and want a culture of flexibility then they may need to do something that does not come easy to all employers.

First, they are going to need to empower their employees to make their own decisions, where possible, on working time.

Second, start to manage people based on outputs not on how many hours they are sat at their desk.

Third, they need to let their people know that it is okay to turn off the work phone and put down the laptop, and most importantly lead on this by example (while also demonstrating the freedoms of point one).

These are just my thoughts; when putting in any employee guidance organisations should think about whether the approach puts in boundaries that stop people working in a way that is best for them and for the organisation.

Nick Court is director at Cloud9 People