I was interested to learn this week that our latest ETS benchmark data reveals a rise in employees reportedly happy with their working hours and work-life balance.  Of 185,000 private sector workers surveyed, 85% are happy with their working hours and 77% their work-life balance.

In isolation these four percent rises aren’t particularly noteworthy.  But with the latest Office for National Statistics data showing average working hours are also on the up, it is pretty surprising.  So what’s behind this anomaly?

Companies have improved the management of their people, are communicating more effectively and setting objectives more successfully.  ETS survey benchmark data comparing 2011 and 2010 backs this up:

·         79% of workers claim senior management communicates well with them (up from 70%).

·         85% of workers know what the company wants to achieve (up from 77%).

·         88%of workers fully understand how their role fits in to company objectives (up from 80%).

The rise can also be partly attributed to the higher profile of employee engagement which, as advocated by the MacLeod Review, has become a top business priority for leading organisations.

We found that 80% of employees are encouraged by their company to find new ways of working (up by seven percent from 2010).  And a further 74% of employees say companies are quicker in adopting new ideas (also up on 2010).  This reflects the fact that organisations recognise they must be more innovative to create and sustain competitive advantage.  And for employees, having greater autonomy to make decisions could have mitigated potential dissatisfaction with slightly longer working hours. 

The likelihood is that a combination of factors, rather than any single one, has influenced employee’s increased satisfaction with their working hours and work-life balance.