Work-life Balance

by Barbara Buffton

Terms used in this topic

As you look at this list of terms associated with achieving a good work-life balance, you may find some ideas that could work in your organisation.

Additional holiday purchase

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

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 demand.

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 taken as additional leave at an agreed time.

Career break or sabbatical

Employees take a period of time off work, usually unpaid. Sabbaticals can be anything from three months to three years, 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.

Compressed hours

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

Core hours

These are the hours (say, 10am to 4pm) during which flexi-time workers must be engaged in work.


Any policy or practice deemed to help families spend more time together and/or enjoy a better quality of life


People choose the hours they work, within certain parameters: for example, outside agreed core times.

Flexible places of work

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

Flexible working

This embraces any form of alternative working pattern that is negotiable between the employer and employee, such as varying working hours, times of work, work organisation and place of work to suit the needs of the individual and the business.


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

Job sharing

Typically, two people carry out the duties of a post normally done by one person. Each is employed part-time, but together they cover a full-time post and divide the pay, holidays and other benefits.

Part-time working

Part-time working is defined as less than 30 hours a week. Part-time workers are entitled to the same treatment as full-time employees, including the same hourly rate of pay.

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.

Swapping shifts

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

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.

Time off in lieu (TOIL)

Time-off instead of overtime pay


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

Work-life balance

Work-life balance – having a measure of control over when, where and how you work, leading to an enhanced quality of life – is achieved when an individual’s right to a fulfilled life inside and outside paid work is accepted and respected as the norm, to the mutual benefit of the individual, business and society.