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HR Zone Any Answers Digest #12 – Work/life balance, flexible hours, TNA, mobile phones…


HR ZONE Any Answers Digest – Issue 12
Tuesday 23 July 2002

********** THIS WEEK’S TOPICS ***** THIS WEEK’S TOPICS *********
Work/Life balance… sick days… mobile phones… perceptions
of HR… accrediting training… flexible hours… TNA
********** THIS WEEK’S TOPICS ***** THIS WEEK’S TOPICS *********

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What you asked this fortnight

New questions posted include:

– Any advice on sick days during pregnancy? asks Jenni Lawrence

– Can anyone suggest any tools for assessing perceptions of the
HR function? asks Sarah Day

– Any examples of a policy for the use of mobile phones at work?
asks Sharon Doggrell

Do you have a question, a problem, or just want to compare notes?
Post your questions now, free of charge at

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Featured question: Work/Life Balance – a tired term?

So often I see articles referring to Work/Life balance. This
bothers me because work is of course part of life – life does not
just exist outside of working hours. As we continue to use this
terminology, we reinforce this unreal distinction. Can we agree
to deal with Work/Home balance, or better still just ‘Life
Balance’, in future?
Geoff Roberts

Edited responses appear, to read responses in full, go to


In essence you are right, but the essential paradox of work/life
balance must be just that. It should force us all to look at the
proportionality of our entire existence.

Appreciating and enumerating one’s work/life balance enables you
to build social clusters and (hopefully almost sub- conciously)
bring this knowledge back to the workplace. There is a compelling
business case for an age diverse workforce and indeed some
companies have gone even further – extolling the virtues of
overall diversity in order to better reflect the views and needs
of all interest groups within their customer community.

Stephen Leggett


The issue is more about having discretionary time, and it is
apparent to me that the demands of employers for more of
employees time has thrown life out of balance. As an employed
person I was contracted to work 37.5 hours per week but company
culture and demands of the job required me to work 50 to 70
hours. This had a cost associated with it.

The problem with these situations are that when as an individual
you are in the thick of it you do not always see what is going on
and it is not until something dramatic happens to bring you up
sharp that you are aware that life is out of balance.

The strap line ‘work/life balance’ brings it to the attention of
all the stakeholders in business that actually there is a
different way. I applaud that if it helps to get people into the
concept and to do something that makes their life better. Don’t
get frustrated with if you can help it, but get more converts to
the idea of balance.

There is an old saying that no-one on their deathbed will say
‘I wish I had spent more time at the office’!

Colin Williams


The term work-life balance grew out of the ‘family-friendly’
employment policies of the 80s and was coined in the US. They are
now talking about work-life quality, which suggests that ‘work’
and ‘outside work’ are no longer two separate states that you
must give equal time to, but what really matters is how you feel
about it.

Striking the balance between the demands and needs of work and
life is still an important concept, and is a useful tool to help
people think about priorities and how they negotiate them.
Employers are also beginning to recognise that the long hours
devotee, does not necessarily add any greater value in the long
run, and when other elements of life are being neglected can
cause harm to themselves and the business.

Rob Shorrock

To read responses in full, go to

Questions and Answers on accrediting your training
A key session at Training Solutions looked at how to accredit
training in the workplace. We have published the questions, and
the answers by the panel of experts:

Any Answers Answered:
This fortnight, new responses have been added to the following

Q – I am looking into introducing flexible working hours into my
organisation. We are a large, multi-site company with large
numbers of field based service and sales engineers. I am
interested in finding out about how other companies have
introduced flexible working practices in this type of
environment, and what methods of monitoring they use (ie external
pc based systems, paper logs etc).
Vanessa Payne

(Shortened responses appear – see site for responses in full)

A – We concluded that with customer-facing field engineers it was
not feasible to have employees varying their hours on a daily
basis as in a classic flexitime system (even with core hours).
Instead we offered a choice of several flexible work patterns,
such as longer hours on fewer days, planned weekends (instead of
ad hoc overtime) and shift patterns which provided extended
coverage during the day (eg 8am-4pm, 10am-6pm or 12-8pm). The
exact choices had to vary depending on the number of people in a
team and patterns of customer demand in different areas.

The programme replaced the standard 9-5 contract with
unpredictable overtime and was popular as it improved working
conditions for the engineers and improved response times to
Marianne Dolan

A – I have found that the only way to effectively manage the
hour’s issue was by the use of electronic clocking. Manual time
recording can be open to serious abuse.
Iain Young

To see all the responses to this question in full, go to:


Q – I have been asked to undertake a skills audit / training
needs analysis for approx 250 staff. Can any one advise me on
best practise for this?
Julie Ryland

A – The lessons that participants in a recent TNA course said
were most valuable to them were:
1)Link the TNA to organisation objectives. These SHOULD ( but are
not always) be cascade through to team and individual objectives.
2)And be clear about who is sponsoring you and what they want to
achieve and WHY.
3) Don’t rely on forms. Talk to people to clarify and interpret.
Patrick Sullivan

To see all the responses to this question in full, go to:

Do you have anything to add? Or do you have a problem or a query
on any HR-related subject? Join in now, at

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Copyright (c) 2002 Sift Group Ltd. All rights reserved.
May be reproduced in any medium for non-commercial purposes as
long as attribution is given.
HR Zone, 100 Victoria Street, Bristol BS1 6HZ
Tel:+44 (0)117 915 9600 Fax:+44 (0)117 915 9630 ISSN 1474-2225

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