Work-life Balance

by Barbara Buffton

Flexible working patterns

The opportunity to work flexibly can greatly improve your ability to balance home and work priorities. These days, due to technological advances, there are fewer and fewer types of work that are intrinsically full-time or unsuitable for flexible working in some form or other.

Consider this...

Are the number of hours worked a fair reflection of someone’s effectiveness?

Anyone thinking of changing their work pattern should speak to their employer as early as possible in order to explore what opportunities are available. The challenge is to develop a flexible working strategy that meets the needs both of individuals and of the organisation. See the topic on Employment Contracts.

It has been said that the concept of time rises – organising working hours more flexibly or shortening hours – can be just as important a reward as pay rises, and achieve similar results.

Consider whether any of the suggestions given below would change things for the better for you. If your company doesn’t already have these policies and practices in place, how much can you negotiate? Look also at The business case before presenting your case. Other options to consider include changing from full-time to part-time working or job sharing.

Staggered hours

Employees have different start, break and finish times. This can help employers to cover longer opening hours and it can also be a good opportunity to offer people more flexibility.

Term-time working

Employees remain on a permanent contract, either on a full- or part-time basis, but can have unpaid leave of absence during the school holidays.


Voluntarily reduced hours: it is agreed that the employee works reduced or variable hours on a temporary basis.

Banked time arrangements

The employee works additional hours when the service demands/allows it, with agreement from the manager, and the additional hours are recorded and banked. The banked hours are then used to take additional leave at an agreed time.


People choose the hours they work, within certain parameters: for example, they may have freedom to choose their hours outside agreed core times.

Compressed hours

Employees work a total number of agreed hours over a shorter number of working days – four days instead of five, for instance.

Annualised hours

Employees work on the basis of the number of hours to be worked over a year rather than a week. Obviously, it helps if the hours worked fit in with peaks and troughs of work.

Swapping shifts

Employees negotiate working times to suit their needs and re-arrange shifts amongst themselves or within teams.

Flexible places of work

Employees choose to work either from home or on the employer’s premises, or a combination of both.


Employees work from home regularly or on ad hoc basis, on a full-time or part-time basis. See topic Working from Home.

Career break or sabbatical

Employees take a period of time off work, usually unpaid. Sabbaticals can be anything from three months to three years, and may be taken in order to pursue other activities outside work or even to spend time with family (they might be reserved for employees with at least two years’ service).

Additional holiday purchase

Staff can purchase a number of days’ holiday per year in addition to their existing holiday entitlement.

Working reduced hours allows me to achieve more of a balance between my work and spending time with my children...

Head of HR Operations, BI UK Ltd

It might be that your organisation has some of the above in place. If so, and if you can negotiate your own flexible working hours, then you have an element of control over improving your life balance.

However, if your organisation has few or none of these policies and practices and is not prepared to negotiate, and if you believe a different way of working might improve your work-life balance, then maybe it’s time to rethink where you work...

What’s important to you? If you need reminding, go back to The personal case (for work-life balance).