News & Articles

Work/life balance: an employer’s responsibility

clip_image002The work/leisure concept was invented in the 1800s with the supporting definition that happiness was to have as little separation as possible between work and play. The expression “work/life balance” was first used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s to describe an individual’s balance between work and personal life.

Employee assistance professionals suggest that there are many reasons for the increasing conflict between work/life balance, one being that parents who are affected by work may avoid family life in order to manage their work obligations and the accelerating pace of technology.

Companies are now realising the importance of work/life balance in their employees’ productivity and creativity. Recent research has shown that employees who saw that their company’s efforts to support work/life balance were favourable and as such employees indicated lower intentions to leave their organisation, and were more likely to recommend it as a place to work due to improved job satisfaction.

Employers are now able to offer a range of initiatives such as flexible working hours, with more proactive employers providing compulsory leave and strict maximum working hours that encourage employees to go home on time, and not work after hours.

In Europe, the Working Time Directive has implemented a maximum 48 hour working week, although many other countries have opted for fewer working hours. The European Quality of Life survey discovered that countries in South Eastern Europe had the most common work/life balance problems. In Croatia and Greece, 70% of working citizens suggested that they were too tired to complete household chores at least several times a month because of work pressure.

In Britain, legislation has been granted to allow parents of children under six years old to request a more flexible work schedule. Employers must approve this request as long as it doesn’t damage the business.

Read our tips to leaving work at the door to take further steps to improve your work/life balance.

Work/life balance in the UK

clip_image002[11]The British are becoming more and more aware of the issue of a work-life balance, especially with the current nature of the economy and business environments forcing many employees to work longer hours. However, the UK is taking the lead from larger international corporations where policies have been introduced to reduce the pressure of work on private life. This current thinking aims to improve work-life balance for all parties: the company, the individual and the customer.

People in the United Kingdom on average work 1,654 hours a year

Whilst the working week is officially set at 48 hours, the UK has opted out of the European Working Time Directive which means that employees may work more hours if they provide written consent. As such, UK employees are working longer hours with an increased intensity of work. Many employees suggest that they are now working as hard as they can and unable to work any harder. These factors contribute to work/life balance awareness and the important issue of how work demands are regularly affecting family commitments.

Workers in the UK currently work the longest hours in Europe, take the shortest lunch breaks and enjoy the fewest public holidays

Unless employees can manage the demands of work, family, home and leisure then they are more susceptible to illness and stress and unable to perform to their full potential.

Employers are now recognising the importance of a fit and healthy workforce by providing incentives such as free fruit, discount gym membership or organising lunchtime activities. Eating lunch at your desk is one of the most common sights in a modern office environment, but it’s a proven fact that getting out of the office at lunchtime helps to refresh employees and maintain concentration throughout the day. As such, more and more companies are offering activities such as yoga, running clubs or team competitions.

Getting the balance right is tricky, sure, but talking your work hours through with your boss is a positive step. Making the smallest changes can make a big difference to you and your family’s lives. Try to come home relaxed - people pick up on moods so take 10 minutes to wind down, leave work at the door and enjoy your family time together.

Related articles:

· Managing your work/life balance

· Secrets to maximising family time

How to leave work at the door

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Had a rough day at the office? When we feel this way it’s inevitable that we will go home and complain about what’s going on at work. We need to change this habit otherwise we’ll bring everyone else around us down, having a negative effect on the whole household. Here are some tips to help you leave work at the door.

  • Remember when we were at school and parents asked what we learnt at school that day? It is a positive question- so when you walk in talk about the best thing that happened in your day, regardless how small it was. This will have the effect of starting the evening off on a positive note.
  • Use the commute to switch off and put your favourite music on. Singing along can even help you to refocus – however if you’re on a train or bus this may not endear you to your fellow passengers…
  • Avoid taking work home with you, if you remember that you have to do something for the following day then send yourself a reminder email and put it out of your mind.
  • Act like a tourist on your way home – it sounds strange but we are constantly thinking and don’t take the time to enjoy our surroundings. Instead of concentrating on what happened in our work day, appreciate the scenery and look at things you perhaps haven’t noticed before.
  • Change your clothes as soon as you get home. This is a physical reminder that you’ve been at work and can help your mind to shut off. This also helps children when they come back from school; changing out of their uniform can shift their mindset too.
  • Take some time out for you to chill out; sitting and talking can go a long way to reconnect with the household.

There’s no need to make too many changes, otherwise you may face a brick wall to alter everything at once. Everyone has times where they are unable to switch off from work, but try taking one simple step at a time and enjoy your home without letting work come through the door with you.

Related articles:

· How important is a work/life balance

· Secrets to maximising family time

Tips to manage work (to achieve work/life balance)

clip_image002Our school days seem a distant memory: no responsibilities, a free and easy life... These days, however, we seem overwhelmed by work and finding that perfect balance is a challenge for us all. Here are some tips to help you manage your work life, in order to spend more time in your personal life.

“My work day and commute prevents me from finding the time to spend on basic things such as shopping, housework or spending time with my family and friends...!

Tip #1 – time calendar

We budget our money, why not budget our time? While you can earn more money, it’s hard to earn time lost. Work out how much time you’re spending working and you’re left with time you can spend on your actual life to do the things you want and need to do.

Tip #2 – manage expectations

So you have to work late one evening; try leaving work early later in the week to make up for the personal time lost. Most businesses don’t pay you for the extra work, but you feel a responsibility to meet work deadlines. Employers should understand the importance of personal time.

Tip #3 – look at what’s important

What’s more important, your job or your life? Sadly most people will assume it’s their job, however some countries will suggest it’s their life – these are people that even build siestas into their working day and still achieve what they want because they are managing their time effectively.

Tip #4 – less is more

Working mad hours isn’t always productive. Work more, sacrifice your personal life, and get stressed. The stress of long hours reduces productivity and can cancel the benefits of working extra hours. You do best by working fewer, higher-quality hours.

Tip #5 – schedule personal time first

If you schedule personal time first then you can meet work deadlines in the left over time in your schedule. Organise a family dinner at the same time each evening, and you will find a way to meet your work deadlines in order to get home at that time. If not, then complete the work at home after dinner – this way it’s not eating into your personal schedule.

All these small changes aren’t that hard to build into your day: work less, do more and have a better life!

Related articles:

· Managing your work/life balance

· Secrets to maximising family time

What if we went on strike…?

Superman washing machineDo our kids have it too easy? A recent survey by Vileda showed that a quarter of our children aged between five and 16 do nothing to help around the house*. One mother of two was so fed up with being taken for granted that she went on strike, and whilst the experiment wasn’t a raging success, the guilty parties did eventually start to recognise the amount of work that goes into keeping the household shipshape. Albeit after the kitchen sink resembled a science experiment and the entire house was decorated with dirty clothes…

Sometimes it’s the sneaky way of getting parents to do it: if the guilty parties do a bad enough job of cleaning something up then we’ll intervene and do it ourselves to ensure its done properly, grumbling along the way.

However, extreme measures aren’t always necessary, just a few simple strategies that can be built into the day can go a long way to developing a bit of order in the household. It’s important to ensure that these strategies are followed through each time – the best way to change behaviour is to stop intervening so that the consequences are recognised by everyone else.

Decide who needs to be responsible for what

Let everyone know that they need to be responsible for contributing; for example laundry days will be on certain days of the week and if laundry isn’t in the basket then you won’t be begging them to bring down their dirty clothes all week.

Pack the school lunches but only if a clean and empty lunchbox is provided each day. Cook dinner but only if the dirty plates are washed afterwards, or put in the dishwasher.

Warning!

Make sure that everyone knows what is expected of them, explain the rules and the subsequent consequences that they’ll face should their responsibilities not be carried out. Ensure that these new rules are crystal clear and understood by everyone.

The consequences…

If toys aren’t put away then let it be known that anything that remains on the floor will be placed off dirty platelimits for a couple of days. If a lunchbox is left to fester in a school bag all weekend then the guilty party will be responsible for packing their own lunch. If the kitchen counter is covered with everyone’s dishes then dinner can’t be prepared until everything’s clear. Intervening in these areas will only demonstrate that you’re not serious about the rules, so be strong and it will pay off in the end by introducing routine and responsibility.

Whilst drastic measures such as going on strike can show everyone how much effort goes into keeping a house organised, teach the kids that you having to keep cleaning up after them is a lot harder and time consuming than they think.

Make sure that you follow the rules you set and you’ll find that a few days in dirty gym clothes or without their favourites toys won’t necessarily affect their wellbeing, but it will get them to clean up after themselves!

To read more tips on organising your home, click here

*Source: Vileda: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2160855/One-children-aged-5-16-help-parents-house.html

How important is a work/life balance

clip_image002A lot of us don’t understand the importance of a work/life balance, some of us tend to groan out loud and assume it’s just some sort of mumbo jumbo - a new buzzword added to our increasing nanny state. But the fact is too many of us focus on work these days and neglect our personal lives, which inevitably affects relationships with family and friends.

This is creating negative long term effects, it has even been suggested that young people are now avoiding having children in order to focus on their career, which is very sad. There’s no need to for work to dominate your life; sure, it’s important but what’s more important?  Family or work?

Family and friends are there to enjoy life with; work is there to support your responsibilities. Our work life blend is becoming a vicious cycle, when we’re not in work we feel guilty for missing out on what needs to be done, which ends up with stress and affecting time with those that matter. In fact, a study from Accenture [http://newsroom.accenture.com/news/accenture-research-finds-most-professionals-believe-they-can-have-it-all.htm] found that having a good work life balance is actually the key to a successful career!

For example, phones and iPads should be removed during dinner time to give us time to connect directly. We all need to start prioritising better, and understanding that our work expectations are too high.

The three main negative effects of not having a work/life balance are:

· Feeling tired – work suffers.

· Missed time with family and friends – there are too many important moments that would be terrible if we missed.

· Increased expectations – if you go above and beyond with your work, your boss will come to expect it.

It’s important for everyone to have a balanced life because this goes a long way to being more productive at work!

Related articles:

Managing your work/life balance

Secrets to maximising family time

Tips for the cleaning obsessive

For some of us, the thought of not cleaning the kitchen side boards for a  couple of days would send us into a frenzy. Imagine it now – a ban on wiping down the sides, would you be able to hack it or would you stand there, staring at the grease with a mad tick in the eye, waiting for those two days to be up – or simply cave in and reach for the bleach?

Luckily for us there are some people out there trying all sorts of weird tricks to help with the cleaning, although how they came up with some of them we can’t imagine…

· Germ free sponges: put your cleaning sponges in the microwave and blast them for two minutes to remove germs.

· Sparkling iron soleplates: place a imagecotton cloth on your ironing board, add a couple of scoops of coarse salt and put the iron on the highest setting (turning off the steam), place the iron’s soleplate on top of the salt and press lightly. Grease and dirt will stick to the salt, leaving it sparkling again.

· Candle dust: remove the dust on your candles by putting them in a pair of tights, rub them around a bit – dust removed!

· Water stains on wood: mayonnaise… apparently. Spread mayonnaise over water marks on wooden furniture to remove – seeing is believing.

· Pet hair: window squeegees are really good for pet hair on carpets.

· Iron off carpet stains: mix one part vinegar, two parts water and spray stained area, put a damp cloth over the spot and place iron (switched to steam) over it for about 30 seconds.

· Picture grime: pictures looking grimy? Cut a bagel in half and imagegently rub the doughy inside all over the painting, this will draw out the grime like a sponge.

· Cleaning Pyrex dishes and pans: for those ingrained areas mix ¼ cup of baking soda and add water until it becomes a runny paste – spread over the glass or pan and leave for 20 minutes, then wipe off.

· Putting the sparkle back on taps: lightly rub with wax paper, this stops water spots and fingerprints from lingering.

How these tips were discovered we do not know, we’re not judging!

To read more tips time and money saving in the household, click here.

Holiday organisation

clip_image002We all remember that classic film moment in Home Alone when Kevin was left at home because of the manic rush to catch the plane… Whilst this might seem extreme, recent research from E.ON revealed some shocking pre-holiday organisation:

· Almost one in 10 holidaymakers have left a loved one at home in their rush to catch their flight

· 17% said that they have left important holiday documents such as passports

· Almost one in five have forgotten their luggage

So if you’re planning a holiday, here are some organisation tips to make sure you have everything covered before you all head off.

1. Check you have all necessary documentation

Sounds obvious but ensure you have your passport, entry visas, tickets, driving licence, hotel confirmation and boarding pass, and keep them together in a plastic folder. Take a list of useful numbers with you in case of an emergency, for example emergency contact details for lost mobile phones or credit cards.

2. Make sure you’re aware of the luggage allowance

Being stuck at the check in desk with overweight luggage will not start your break off on the right track. Different flight companies have different allowances so make sure you know the limits before you start packing. There are many digital luggage scales around these days so invest in one of those - it will be cheaper than the excess baggage charge you’ll end up having to pay!

3. Lock up your house

clip_image004E.ON also discovered that 13% of people forget to secure their homes before they go on holiday, leaving them vulnerable to robbery.

Double check the doors and windows and ask a family member or neighbour to check on the house and move any mail left behind the door (an indication that the property is empty). Remember that if you haven’t properly secured your home before going on holiday your insurance may be invalid, so taking the time to check everything is important.

4. Take out travel insurance and EHIC if you’re off to Europe

Make sure you have an up to date European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), this will ensure that you are covered should any of you get ill in Europe. EHIC is free to apply for so avoid any websites that are charging a fee. Visit the NHS website to get your card.

Please note that the EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance, things can still go wrong such as lost or stolen baggage or delayed flights so make sure you’re covered.

5. Get your finances in check

Travel money ordered at the last minute will cost you more, so it’s advisable to shop around online for the best deals which can then be picked up or delivered.

Remember to let your bank know you’re going abroad and that you intend to use your card overseas, if sudden overseas activity causes them to become suspicious your card might be stopped – so remember to take down their phone number just in case.

To read more tips on organisation, click here.  Otherwise, happy holidays!

Food waste – the good, the bad and the ugly truth

Food waste is a big issue in the UK and we waste an incredible £12.5 billion a year on food through a lack of understanding of use by dates. We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink a year – 4.4 million tonnes of which could be eaten*. So how can we identify the good, the bad and the really ugly truth about food waste?

 

Date labels

There has been some confusion with regards to the labelling on food in the past but recently the government has been clamping down on food manufacturers and improving clarity around the dates issued on food labelling:

· Best before: this refers to the quality of the food rather than safety. Food is still safe to eat after the best before date, but may no longer be at their best.

· Use by: thisimage advice is about safety, it can be eaten up to the date but not after.

· Display until / sell by: these are for shop staff and not the public.

 

Do you waste food?

We don’t want to admit we waste food, but each of us throws away up to 110kg of food a year. Explore your kitchen and see where you might be wasting good food without even realising it:

· Fridge: incorrect storage is one of the main reasons we waste food. Your fridge should be set at 5 degrees Celsius or below to help your food stay fresher for longer.

· Cupboards: use cupboard staples such as rice and pasta to add to leftover food from a meal

· Shopping list: check cupboards and fridge and write a list of items you actually need instead of stocking up on things that might go to waste or that you already have.

· Leftovers: we often cook or prepare imagetoo much, use airtight containers to store the leftovers and put in the freezer for an extra meal.

· Storage: many of us are unaware of the correct way to store things; put bread in a cupboard or a bread bin, keep fruit in the fridge and store potatoes in a cool dark place.

Follow our tips to save money on the food bill, and reduce unnecessary food waste!

 

For more handy tips and time saving, click here

The meaning of spring cleaning

daisy Lighter evenings, flowers blooming and temperatures warming up can only mean one thing – spring is on its way! The first warm days of the year also mean it’s time to tackle our annual spring clean, stepping up normal cleaning duties a notch, in-order to banish the winter blues from the house.

It has been suggested that the origins of spring cleaning date further back than we could imagine; in Iran they continue to practise what they translate as “shaking the house” on the first day of spring which means everything from the drapes to the furniture is cleaned. A similar tradition is the Scottish New Year held on Hogmanay (31st December), a practice now also common in Ireland, North America and New Zealand.

Cleaning woman Another possible origin of spring cleaning can be traced back to the ancient Jewish practice of thoroughly cleansing the home for the spring-time memorial feast of Passover; this is in remembrance of the Jews’ hasty departure from Egypt following their captivity. During this seven day observance, Passover prohibits the eating or drinking of anything that might be fermented with yeast, and therefore everyone was commanded to rid their homes of even the smallest remnants – conducting a thorough “spring clean” of the house.

In Northern Europe and North America, the spring cleaning custom was practical due to the regions’ wet climates; before the vacuum cleaner was introduced, March was often the best time for dusting. It was warm enough to open the windows and doors and the high winds would carry the dust out of the houses. For the same reason, modern rural households often use the month of March for cleaning projects involving the use of chemical products which can generate fumes.

Whilst in Greece, their thorough spring clean is carried out during the first week of Great Lent, which is referred to as “Clean Week”, held on 1st April.

For handy tips and time saving advice on spring cleaning your house, click here