Rachel Arkle: We have an entitlement to be well at work

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he work life balance is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain, even though firms are putting a greater emphasis on wellbeing
The work life balance is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain, even though firms are putting a greater emphasis on wellbeing

Some UK firms, it seems, remain resistant to taking wellbeing seriously. Despite growing employee calls for action, certain organisations remain limited in their belief that health is good for business. Such mindsets not only deprioritise wellbeing but are also enabling worrying behaviours and cultures to emerge that actively
discourage people’s ability to look after themselves.

Two insights into the issue have recently been released. Firstly, Canada Life Group Insurance’s report
stated that one in five of us in the UK fail to take our full paid holiday allowance; and secondly the
National Accident Helpline’s survey found nine out of ten employees fail to take valid sick leave
when we are ill.

Despite our legal entitlement to both holiday and sick leave these studies reveal the difficult
reality of managing our wellbeing at work. The articles highlight the short term view of
organisations who wish to squeeze their resource base for supposed productivity gains, offering
examples of employees have been ‘discouraged’ and even ‘threatened with disciplinary
measures’ after requesting leave.

Short termism

This short sighted view contradicts the valid beneifts for wellbeing. In the long term these
activities can only have a negative impact on both productivity and retention rates; with people,
and their often ciritcal skill sets, burning out or moving on as a result of an unsustainable work
pattern. As Yoke Consultancy’s own work demonstrates, such costs significantly outweigh the
instant bonus of an extra day or two in the office.

In addition the limitations of ignoring wellbeing go beyond simply the numbers. The Care Quality
Commission (CQC) is an example of an emerging movement that advocates the need to not
only meet the ‘fundamental standards’ of Employer care, but also evidence it through credible
audit trails. This mirrors Yoke Consultancy’s growth for wellbeing analysis, with offerings like our
independent wellbeing reports, now providing ‘intelligent monitoring capabilities’ (CQC) that
substantiate the reputation of firms for future credibility and talent attraction.

What can be done today?

For those in the challenging position of feeling unable to manage their health and wellbeing at
work effectively, there are several practical steps that can be taken to actively change these
cultures:

1. Challenge ourselves

Ask yourself honestly, do I really feel I can afford not to take time off?

As Anne-Marie Slaughter’s recent book, ‘Unfinished Business,’ calls out, many of us have given
up on the idea of ‘work life balance’. Our energy to ‘achieve this elusive idea’ (Harvard Business
Review 2015) is depleting, with ‘people criticising the entire idea of having it all’ (Anne-Marie
Slaughter, 2015). With this comes an element of acceptance that health is a common trade-off
for career progression.

Such complacency must be challenged within ourselves. With forward thinking companies now
setting wellbeing criteria into their recruitment methodologies, being well and good at your job
can set you above your peers.

2. Manage the risk

Make the most of your technology.

Especially at this time of year, the likehood of catching and sharing illnesses is growing. Modern
technology however offers a flexible and proactive tool to help mitigate the need for potential
time off. Forward thinking managers are encouraging individuals to work from home if they feel
at risk of poor health, to both help them manage their own wellbeing risk but also that of the
wider team.

3. Collaborate effectively

Make holiday planning a priority

One in seven blame staffing issues as to why they felt unable to take time out. In high pressure
environments ‘holiday calenders’ are often deprioritised and ignored, with long term leave
(inlcuding materinity cover) rarely built into contingency plans, despite it taking months to find
replacements. The key is to plan collaboratively and transparently as a team; and as you begin
to understand the often seasonal pinch points, you can ensure the weight and relief is shared
effectively.

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About Rachel Arkle

Rachel has over 15 years of Management Consultancy experience and an MSc in Organisational Wellbeing. She is the key driving force behind Yoke and so excited to be at the forefront of such an inspiring industry.

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