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Work-life balance is key to staff morale

Managers’ performance appraisals should include their effectiveness in helping employees achieve a good work-life balance, according to new research from the London School of Economics.

The study, by Alexandra Beauregard of LSE’s department of management, found that even if options such a flexible working hours and help with childcare are available to employees, this does little to reduce stress unless these options are endorsed by managers.

Dr Beauregard, whose research features in the British Journal of Management, explained: “I found a strong link between work-home interference and stress despite controlling for the use of options such as flexible hours, home working and the provision of childcare.

"This stress results in increased absenteeism and reduced productivity so it is clearly in management’s interest to address this.”

The cost to companies and other organisations incurred by stress and health-related absenteeism is estimated at £11 billion a year in the UK.

Dr Beauregard’s paper said: “The development of an organisational culture supportive of work-home balance is necessary to fully reap the benefits of work-home options and alleviate work-home interference.”

Her study showed stress increases when employees perceive that the company expects them to put in long hours and put work ahead of home if they want to progress.

“Management of such expectations is an area in which managers can and should play a key role.

Long hours and an emphasis on ‘presenteeism’ are generally thought to be unrelated to productivity, and may even be detrimental to performance,” she said.

Beauregard suggested that increasing awareness of unreasonable expectations among management
and staff and addressing the potent-ially negative consequences of taking leave for personal reasons could contribute to a shift in workplace culture to acknowledge the import-ance of employees’ family and non-work roles.”

Her paper recommends that managers’ performance appraisals should encourage this culture change.

This would incentivise managers to work with employees on a solution to any work-home interference.

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