Written by KATE SCOTT

January 21 may be officially the most depressing day of the year, but ensuring your employees enjoy a good work-life balance will not only help them banish the blues – it will also enable them to face the year ahead feeling positive and motivated.

The worry of unpaid Christmas bills and the depression that comes with cold winter weather and low levels of sunlight all combine to reach a peak by the third week of January, earning it the label of Blue Monday.

In the office, those January woes can be worse for those who are already failing to balance their professional and personal lives.

Long office hours, demanding employers, pressure to be in the office even when you’re sick or on holiday, and the constant demands of the digital era make it increasingly difficult to maintain a good work-life balance.

Ensuring your workforce feels valued and happy pays long-term dividends.

Giving employees an element of control over their working and personal lives has been proven to lower stress levels and increase motivation and productivity. The Corporate Executive Board, which represents 80 per cent of the Fortune 500 companies, found employees who believe they have a good work-life balance work 21 per cent harder than those who don’t.

By law, all employees who have worked for their employer for more than 26 weeks have the right to request flexible working, and many companies now recognise that adapting working patterns to suit their staff makes good business sense.

Flexi-time, remote working, and job sharing all benefit employees – but companies are also reaping the rewards, as offering flexible working arrangements has been proven to reduce staff turnover and lower recruitment costs.

A study by the Society for Human Resource Management found 89 per cent of HR professionals reported an increase in employee retention by introducing flexible working arrangements. It also affords companies the opportunity to attract the best new recruits, with three-quarters of UK employees favouring a job that gives them the option of flexible work schedules.

For some roles where flexible working simply isn’t feasible, employers can reject a request, but must demonstrate clear grounds for doing so, based on clear business reasons. It is usually advisable to seek help with this from an HR practitioner to avoid falling foul of employment law.

As we approach Blue Monday, here are five tips on helping your staff achieve a good work-life balance, enabling you to find – and keep – the most productive, creative and loyal people for your team.

  • Offer flexible hours

Give employees the ability to schedule their working hours around their personal lives. Demonstrate your business understands the demands of working parents, for example, by moving outside of the traditional nine-to-five shift.

  •  Remote working

Take advantage of technology and offer employees the chance to work from home. Working remotely benefits employees, who have greater flexibility, and employers – a recent Canada Life survey showed homeworkers ranked their profitability at 7.7/10, compared with 6.5/10 for office workers.

  • Set boundaries

In a 24/7 digital era, it can be very tempting to constantly check in – even when at home or on holiday. Employers should encourage their employees to switch off in the evenings or set times after which emails should not be sent.

  • Consider providing pet care options

Having a ‘bring your dog to work day’ can be a great motivator for workers, lowering stress, building trust and even motivating staff to stay longer as they don’t have to worry about getting home to the dog!

  • Encourage family time

Being flexible when working parents need to take children to medical appointments, attend sports days, or fetch them from school encourages loyalty and boosts your company’s reputation as a caring employer.

 Are you interested in finding out more about the benefits of flexible working  and how to implement a policy? Contact us on: 01256 328428 or email: info@realityhr.co.uk