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Waking up to other ways of working

David Saul, managing director of leading serviced office operator Business Environment, explains why work-life balance is so crucial

With perhaps the exception of a bed-testing firm, there aren’t many companies that would want staff sleeping on the job, which is why the recently launched Daydreamer Desk – topped with a foam surface to allow employees to get 40 winks at work – is unlikely to be coming to an office near you anytime soon.

Despite this, the launch of the product, along with its subsequent global media coverage, might offer some lessons to business owners. Of course, as with any quirky invention, the Daydreamer Desk will gain news coverage because of its novelty value. Beyond this, however, I think it’s caught the imagination because it resonates – people are in busy jobs, working long hours, juggling work and family commitments and finding themselves exhausted at work.

For employers, it’s crucial to be aware of this and to help staff achieve a healthy work-life balance. Firstly, this is simply the right thing to do and a key aspect of becoming a responsible employer and creating a positive working environment. Additionally, even in pure business terms, there’s a clear imperative for companies to take action – an employee who is utterly exhausted might as well be asleep for all the productive work they’ll be able to achieve.

Companies should impress the value of downtime on their employees. This is increasingly important because of the widespread use of smart phones, which has led to the blurring of work and leisure time, with people checking emails outside of working hours and even while on holiday.

Research we carried out at Business Environment found that more than 40 per cent of people are unable to switch off from work when they leave the office, while a study by psychologist Richard Balding revealed that someone is likely to become more stressed the more they check their phone.

Employees should be encouraged to draw clear boundaries between work and personal life and to schedule a cut-off point when the mobile and computer is turned off and they spend time with friends and family, uninterrupted.

All the evidence shows that being constantly at work – whether in the office or not – is more likely to result in burn out and an inability to concentrate properly rather than any meaningful increase in productivity.

Offering employees flexible working can also be an effective way to ensure staff are able to achieve work-life balance – whether by allowing them to work an earlier or later shift or to work from home.

By creating a company culture that offers a healthy work-life balance, firms can create a better working environment, with more effective and happier employees –business owners underestimating the importance of this are guilty of sleeping at their desks.

David Saul David Saul is Managing Director of Business Environment