Walking the Walk

Published: 21 Jun 2019

Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive of Working Families, explains the importance of Go Home on Time Day and why senior leaders should be leading the way.

Today we celebrate Go Home on Time Day, Working Families’ national campaign to raise awareness of the importance of work-life balance.

We know from our 40 years of research and practical experience that finishing work on time—and generally having access to flexible working—is good for employees and good for business. The government has acknowledged this with the Right to Request Flexible Working and with the recent announcement that it is considering a duty on employers to think through whether jobs can be done part-time or flexibly and, if they can be, to advertise them as such. And more and more companies are creating their own internal policies designed to improve work-life balance.

However, 80% of parents in the UK are working beyond their contracted hours, and less than half of parents report having access to flexibility in their jobs. Clearly, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

Our research shows that over half of parents who work extra hours do so because of their company’s culture. To tackle this problem, culture change has to come from the very top.

Of course, this is easier said than done. As a CEO, I am very familiar with the urge to always be “on”. As my team will tell you, I am sometimes guilty of sending the occasional e-mail after hours or checking in while I am on leave.

I love my job, I am committed to the work I do, and—as CEO—I have the freedom to work as and when it suits me. But I must be mindful that my colleagues might not share the same feeling of control over their working lives, and that my behaviours can be contagious. Every now and then, I have noticed my team feeling the need to reply to messages over the weekend, monitor their inboxes during holidays, and work late on non-urgent projects. While I have made it clear that I only expect my colleagues to work their hours, my own actions sometimes send a very different message.

I am still learning the valuable lesson that senior leaders are not exempt from work-life balance. We should lead the way by going home on time, too.

By supporting good policies through our actions, senior leaders can effect real cultural change in an organisation. This may be through working flexibly and making sure this is known throughout the organisation. It may be through taking family leave. Or it may be through vocally supporting others who take time out or decide to work in a different way.

When senior leaders “walk the walk”—and go home on time—employees will feel that their organisation is truly behind its family-friendly and flexible policies.  And that’s what real commitment looks like.


Find our more about Go Home on Time Day

Our latest research is the 2019 Modern Families Index and the 2019 Modern Families Index – Employer Report

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