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Current practices and trends in Work-Life Balance

Is the typical UK workplace inclined to be flexible? Or are we all sucked into the long-hours culture, blindly shackling ourselves to the mill like slaves?

The recently released report from the UK Department for Education and Employment (DFEE) Work-Life Balance 2000 paints a mixed picture. It shows growing awareness of work-life issues, quite widespread flexible working practices, but also a dominant long hours culture.

Highlights of the report include:

Flexible work

  • the most common type of "flexible" work is part-time work

  • 25% of employees work in workplaces which offer flexitime

  • about 20% of employees work from home occasionally

  • 24% of men work from home occasionally, and 16% of women

  • 35% of managers work from home occasionally. 

  • 80% of those who work from home are managers

  • a third of employees not currently working from home said they would like to

  • the most frequently cited reasons for working from home given by employees were work related. Few employees cite factors related to caring as a reason.

Long hours

  • Most workplaces have staff working in excess of standard hours

  • almost half of all employees work additional hours

  • those who work extra hours do so by an average 9.6 extra hours per week

  • almost 11% of full-time employees work 60 hours or more per week - typically those in professional or managerial jobs

  • the employees most likely to work long hours are men in cou0ple households with dependent children

Measures to create a balance

  • The majority of women returning from maternity leave switch to part-time work

  • more women (56%)prefer greater flexibility on return rather than longer leave

  • very few employers provide workplaces crèches (2%) or subsidised nursery places (1%)

  • employers are more willing to pay for facilities to relieve symptoms of stress than to prevent it in the first place

These figures are part of a baseline study - future research will show if the government's Work-Life campaigning is making a difference. It is however to compare some of the figures with earlier surveys of working hours and of flexible working practices.

The picture that comes through is one of progress more in some areas than others: flexitime and part-time work have become well-established, while home working  is practised by managers who won't trust their staff to do likewise!

Long hours continue - and there is little evidence that flexible working is actively introduced in order to achieve work-life balance.


The DFEE's research report, Work-Life Balance 2000: Baseline study of work-life balance practices in Great Britain can be found on the Work-Life Balance website 

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