Why A Good Work-Life Balance Is Better for Business

Emma Way our consultant managing the role
Author: Emma Way
Posting date: 8/15/2018 9:02 AM
Contrary to American sitcoms, work life balance isn’t about sitting in coffee shops contemplating life and complaining about work. However, there are plenty of jobs where you can work from or in a coffee shop. The rise of virtual, remote, and contractual roles has contributed to the demand for work life balance. But, sometimes, in our tech-led world, where business can follow us anywhere, the balance becomes more about setting boundaries. It’s about putting down our mobile phones, closing our laptops, and dipping our toes into other waters. 

Where Does Your Country Fit on the Work-Life Balance Scale?


European countries have been leading the way with work-life balance for some time, with the Netherlands topping the list at number one. With the UK sitting at number 29 out of the 38 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), what’s tipping the scales?

  • 13% of British employees work 50 or more hours per week versus 0.5% of people in the Netherlands work those long hours.
  • The average Brit is therefore only setting aside 14.9 hours for leisure and personal care (including eating and sleeping) a day versus those in the Netherlands who dedicate 15.9 hours.
  • Countries in the Nordics work a maximum of 48-hours per week. However, the reality is significantly lower, with the Finnish working an average of 36.2 hours a week, the Swedes 35.9 hours, Norwegians at 34 hours, and the Danes just 32 hours.
Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland have become renowned for fostering optimal work-life balance. But, though the Netherlands sits at the number one spot on the OECD, the Danes top the list as the happiest in the world.

The Danish welfare model, characterised by quality of life and a good work-life balance offers:

  • Flexible working conditions and social support networks, including maternity leave and childcare facilities.
  • A high degree of flexibility at work – often including adaptable start times and the ability to work from home.
  • Lunch breaks are often at a designated time each day, enabling colleagues to interact, eat together, and get away from their desks.
  • There is a minimum 5 weeks’ paid holiday for all wage earners.
  • The Danish welfare society is characterised by quality of life and a good work-life balance.

Work-life balance for the Danes is a healthy balance of priorities. As important as career and ambition is, are is just as important to balance life outside work (pleasure, leisure, family, and health). This understanding of balance not only puts Denmark at the top of the international equality table, it also contributes to a generally high standard of living.

Further research shows 33% of working American adults work over the weekend and on holidays. This, in turn, has led 66% to say they don’t feel they have a good work-life balance. One of the main drivers contributing to the need to always be “on” and available is 24/7 technology. 

For example, if an employer emails, texts, or rings an employee at dinnertime, the employee often feels compelled to answer straightaway. While 57% of those surveyed feel technology has ruined the family dinner, 40% believe it is okay to answer an urgent call or email at the dinner table. So, it comes back to boundaries and not feeling guilty about ‘switching off’ for a few hours or a few days to ‘recharge’.

What Companies are Doing to Improve Work-Life Balance 


Nordic businesses remain at the top of the list for best work-life balance. Though much of it is dictated by strict Nordic Labour laws, companies outside the Nordics are beginning to take pages from their playbook. 

At a business in Helsinki, Finland, employees are encouraged to go home on time at the end of their day. Often this falls around 5:00pm, though leaving earlier to say, go to a child’s sports activity, is always a guilt-free option.  Like many European businesses, employees also receive five weeks of paid vacation each year. Everyone gets stock options and teams are small with the ability to make autonomous decisions. The theory: this team is closest to the project, they know what is best for it. No management approval required, but only to help share in lessons learned.

Many Nordic businesses have shortened hours and a focus on family. By putting family first, businesses report improved productivity and innovation, less absenteeism, and reductions in staff turnover. Other benefits can include:

  • Ability to leave work 30-minutes early to pick up kids from school or take them to sports practice
  • Ability to use sick days to take care of sick children
  • Businesses regularly offer gym memberships, event discounts, leadership classes, and team-building exercises as well as opportunities for employees to take courses and further their education. At one business, in Sweden, for example, employees have access to a leisure centre and recreational activities such as fishing, tennis, and swimming.

Though everyone has their own definition of what work-life balance means to them, it can be difficult to follow without government mandates, like in some European countries, or if you’re a small business. Our UK and Europe Salary Guide showed that, with over 98% of respondents working full time, at least some flexibility is now expected. We found that 53% of respondents work at home at least one day a week, and 56% have flexible working hours, highlighting that these ‘benefits’ are now becoming the norm. 

Harnham Life


As a business, we try to both reflect, and the lead the way with, developments that we see across the Data & Analytics industry. From ensuring our consultants leave on time two days per week to participate in pursuits outside work, to offering one fully-paid Charity Day per year, we place emphasis on creating an environment where our teams feel like they have a good work-life balance. By building a culture where a consultant can set up a book club or arrange a night out on the town, we have formed a business where employee welfare is prioritised. 

Though everyone has their own definition of what work-life balance means to them, it can be difficult to follow without government mandates like in some European countries or if you’re a small business. The important thing is to do what’s right for you and sometimes turn off your phone, close your laptop, and meet up with some family or friends in that coffee shop. 

Whether you’re looking for a permanent position with more benefits, or the freedom of a contract role, we’re here to help with your job search.  

Related blog & news

With over 10 years experience working solely in the Data & Analytics sector our consultants are able to offer detailed insights into the industry.

Visit our Blogs & News portal or check out the related posts below.

Weekly News Digest - 11th-15th Jan 2021

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Seven Ways To Minimise Unconscious Bias In Your Recruitment Process

When it comes to the recruitment process, organisations will often take different approaches to securing their next hire. Yet, one challenge that remains the same across the board is the ubiquitous nature of unconscious bias. This typically means that individuals will favour those that look or think similarly to themselves. Not only is the potential for prejudice to arise an alarming issue here, but the impacts of unconscious bias can also have a detrimental effect on the hiring process, in both the short and long term. You could face missing out on a highly skilled and qualified candidate, as well as damaging opportunities for improving the diversity of the business. In order to address unconscious bias, organisations really need to take a moment to reflect and challenge their perceptions on the positive and the negative implications. Our own research demonstrates the opportunities of bolstering not only a diverse team in Data and Analytics, but an inclusive one too. Here are some core ways in which organisations can challenge and adapt their processes: Check your job descriptions It’s one of the simplest changes to make, but far too often overlooked. Many of us will use gender coded language without even realising it. It is therefore critical that all job descriptions are neutral, and that descriptive language is removed. Masculine-coded words such as ‘confident’ and ‘guru’ and feminine-coded words such as ‘understanding’ and ‘modest’ can really discourage individuals from applying for positions. Make use of panel-based interviews Over the past year, we’ve all become accustomed to a much more virtual way of working, which includes the recruitment process.  Our reliance on technology now plays an integral role in how we interview, test and hire candidates. When interviewing candidates, organisations should involve a range of different people (even if this is just in an observational role), as they may challenge your preconceptions and provide an alternative viewpoint. Instead of only involving the CEO and Managing Director, for example, make sure you have individuals from other departments and areas within the team sitting in too. Interviews should instead focus on skills-based tasks  In order to minimise the unconscious bias that permeates the recruitment process across industries, interviews need to focus on skills-based tasks. Importantly, hiring managers should be assessing the suitability for a role, so practical, skills-focused tasks are important in establishing this. Appoint an external inclusion agency If you’re stuck for where to start when it comes to improving the ways in which you plan and execute your hiring strategies, it could be worthwhile to seek support from an external agency or individual that specialises in inclusion. Their insights, experiences and knowledge will be able to support an organisation to ensure that their hiring process minimises the impacts of unconscious bias. Facilitating discussions and training In the same way that liaising with external experts can support an organisation, so to can introducing training sessions. Stamping out unconscious bias requires us all to challenge our ways of thinking to create an inclusive culture for all. Regardless of whether this is during the recruitment process, through onboarding or once an individual is working within the business, facilitating discussions and training can help. It should be noted though, that generalised training to minimise unconscious bias training isn’t always effective, so this should be assessed and planned according to relevant objectives and goals. Advertise roles through different channels To ensure that you are reaching a diverse pool of talent, hiring managers should ensure that positions are advertised across a range of different platforms. It may be the case that highly skilled professionals from different backgrounds do not all source new positions through the same websites or streams. Improving this access will ensure that you are not selecting candidates from the same pool of talent.  Set specific diversity and inclusion goals It’s crucial to remember that taking steps to minimise and remove these biases is just one part of a much bigger challenge that organisations are facing in order to action change. Firms need to assess their long-term diversity and inclusion goals in order to ensure that removing biases is part of an embedded strategy. Internal strategies must be reviewed and assessed in order to ensure that the approach to the recruitment process provides equal and fair access and opportunities for all to thrive. In the Data and Analytics sector, it’s key for leaders to take action to mandate some core strategies to engage and include a diverse team of talent. If you're looking to make your next hire, or are searching role yourself, get in touch with our expert consultants or take a look at our latest Data & Analytics jobs here. 

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