Forget the work-life balance, we need to find the right "blend"

Paul Lindley
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The balance is out-dated: In a world of 24 hour connectivity, the distinction between work and life is increasingly impossible to make out (Source: Getty)

It is time to abandon the idea of the work-life balance. Work and life don’t exist in separate, opposing spheres. In a world of 24 hour connectivity, the distinction between the two is increasingly impossible to make out.

According to a survey by Willis Towers Watson, our pursuit of this illusive sense of balance is a principal cause of workplace stress. Businesses across the country are counting the cost of reduced productivity and attainment associated with diminished wellbeing, which eventually affects employee attendance and retention rates.

So what can we use to replace the idea of balance?

Work-life blend

Put simply, employers need to embrace the truth that work impacts on life, and life is impacted by work. But reports demonstrate that employees don’t feel comfortable discussing vital parts of their lives with their employers. For example, the Modern Families Index recently showed that fewer than half of parents are happy to discuss family issues with their employer.

Read more: Britain's bankers are more stressed than ever

At Ella’s Kitchen, our head of HR has recently begun piloting a new method of employee coaching. The goal is to help our team achieve a work-life blend. The idea behind the blend is to openly acknowledge and respect that productivity at work is impacted by external, as well as internal factors.

Create space to talk

A vital part of the strategy is to create open, honest communication between leaders and the individuals in their team.

Make time for one-on-one meetings between leaders and team members to discuss the factors inside and outside work which are affecting their success. It may be that they want the time to play on a badminton team, be home for dinner with their children, take a language class or train for a marathon.

It’s vital to acknowledge that having time to do these things has as much of an impact on a person’s wellbeing and productivity as good team dynamics or a sense of career progression. There needs to be space on the agenda in resourcing and strategy decisions to accommodate these external interests.

Make a plan

It is important that leaders work with each team member to identify practical, measurable steps that will help them to achieve a fulfilling work-life blend.

Online tools can help in this area. We use the Open Blend Method, which facilitates interactive coaching sessions between individuals and their managers, encouraging each to achieve their optimal blend.

It’s also worth ensuring you’ve got expert support available. We work with a specialist coach who supports on specific areas, like returning to work following maternity leave.

Track and feedback

Open Blend also provides a great software application that allows us to track the feedback of our team in real-time, across a number of their different priority areas.

It also provides an analytics tool which allows leaders to analyse live data about their team members, and compare their trends and performance with other that of other industries and countries.

Read more: Is this the future of the office?

Before Ella’s Kitchen began running the Open Blend initiative, 50 per cent of a group we sampled said that they had achieved right work-life blend. But after only a few sessions, this had increased to 80 per cent.

Change in mindset

The rise of flexible working has been an enormous step forwards. It has given individuals back a sense of ownership over their time, and is gradually creating a more compassionate style of management. However, these new approaches must be underpinned by a genuine shift in mindset at the heart of businesses.

In the race to attract and retain top talent, as well as to spark creativity and industry-leading innovation, prioritising the wellbeing of your team has got to be top of the agenda if you want to make your employees more productive and profitable.