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Out of office hours: Which industries offer the best life-work balance?

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A healthy life-work balance means being able to effectively prioritize job responsibilities and the demands of personal life. This requires having enough time to socialize, relax, rest and pursue leisure activities, completely independent of work hours.

There’s more to life than work, and here at Remote, we take the view that your life should always come first. That’s why when we discuss this topic, we use the term life-work balance rather than work-life balance. It’s our way of challenging unhealthy attitudes towards work and reframing the conversation.

Whilst the work from home policies made popular by the pandemic have given employees more freedom over their work schedules than ever, it’s also made it much harder for some people to switch off.

Since March 2020, the lines between our work time and our personal time have become blurred like never before. Communication technologies like Slack and Zoom mean we’re able to be contacted by work colleagues at home and outside of work hours any time. 

This can create pressure to always be available, making it more difficult to achieve a real life-work balance and truly switch off outside of work hours. Some workers also feel a need to replace the time that they would have spent commuting to and from work with completing extra tasks, which means they’re starting earlier and finishing later - leaving less personal time for themselves.

To find out which industries offer the best life-work balance, we’ve analyzed 22 different industries, creating an overall ranking based on basic and overtime pay rates, annual incentive pay, the amount of hours worked each week, and employee turnover rates.

The best industries to work in for a healthy life-work balance

A consistently poor life-work balance can have lasting damage to the company’s culture, resulting in poor job satisfaction levels, high absenteeism, decreased quality of work, and a high employee turnover rate. Employers should follow in the footsteps of companies in our top three best industries for a healthy life-work balance to prevent these situations from arising.

1. Financial and insurance activities industry

Our analysis reveals that the industry offering its employees the best life-work balance is the financial and insurance activities sector. 

Compared with the rest of the sectors we analyzed, this industry has the highest average salary with £62,244 and the best annual incentive pay with £11,843. Employees working in financial and insurance activities also have the highest basic weekly pay rate at £985.20, working just under 34 hours each week to earn this.

This is slightly lower than the average amount of hours worked by full-time workers in the UK, which is 36.5 hours per week. The BBC reports that fewer weekly working hours can help employees feel more rested, more able to juggle their responsibilities outside of work, and keep burnout at bay. 

Offering financial and insurance professionals such an excellent life-work balance could be the reason why this sector has the lowest employee turnover rate of every industry we looked at, with 25%.

Workers who feel that their employers actively support their life-work balances typically experience higher levels of job satisfaction and are therefore less likely to jump ship to competitor companies who can offer them more in the way of a healthy life-work balance.

This is an important consideration for employers looking for ways to bolster their recruitment processes and attract a consistent stream of high-quality candidates. In fact, Forbes reports that more than 80% of millennial workers say they ‘seriously consider how a position will affect their work-life balance’, with millennial workers now making up 50% of the workforce..

One example of a UK company in the finance industry offering a great work-life balance is Mastercard. The average salary at Mastercard is £92,350.81 and Glassdoor ranks it the fifth best employer for work-life balance, based on more than 600,000 employee reviews and the specific measures the organizations analyzed have put in place to combat burnout.

2. Information and communication industry

Paying an average salary of £47,556, the information and communication industry offers the second best life-work balance according to our analysis. 

Whilst basic pay rates are relatively high in this industry, overtime pay is fairly low at £5.20 an hour and the employee turnover rate is not as favorable as in the financial and insurance activities sector with 44%. 

Glassdoor ranks IT infrastructure and services provider, Softcat, second in its analysis of the best UK companies for a healthy work-life balance. Examples of the policies Softcat has introduced for its employees include flexible start/finish times, part-time and job share options.

3. Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply industry

The third best industry for a life-work balance is electricity, gas, steam, and air conditioning supply.

When we discuss working in this sector we’re referring to job activities that help to provide electric power, natural gas, steam, and hot water etc. to industrial parks and residential buildings.

The average annual salary in electricity, gas, steam, and air conditioning supply is £45,541, around £2,000 less than the information and communication industry offers. However, workers in this industry receive a much higher rate of overtime pay at £41.50, the financial and insurance activities industry and the information and communication industry offer just £5.90 and £5.20 respectively.

However, employee turnover in this sector is 67%, the highest out of our top five industries - the slightly higher 36.1 hour working week could be a contributor to this. 

Annual incentive pay is significantly lower than in the financial and insurance industry too, offering just £1,680 compared to £11,843. 

Anglian Water and npower are two UK-based companies within electricity, gas, steam, and air conditioning supply (utilities) that Glassdoor lists as some of the best companies for work-life balance. 

The table below shows our ranking of the best industries to work in for a healthy life-work balance.

Table of industries

How to improve life-work balance and employee wellbeing

Increasing productivity during work hours is a key element of improving life-work balances amongst employees. The more effectively workers are able to manage their time and spend it working productively, the less likely they are to allow their work responsibilities to spill over into their personal time, which can lead to stress, burnout and poor mental health.

Here are some ways that employers can ensure their staff are finding a healthy balance between work and life. 

Recognise that a healthy life-work balance will look different for everyone

Your employees might have their life-work balance affected by health concerns, childcare requirements, or other care responsibilities. Giving them the freedom to choose where they work from and the hours they work with remote and flexible working means they can construct a schedule with a life-work balance that works for them. This supports diverse workforces and helps to attract talent from a wider range of backgrounds.

Nadia Vatalidis, Remote’s VP of People says, “At Remote, we encourage belonging, inclusion, diversity, and equity (BIDE) and believe that the more diverse we become, the more attractive we are to a wider range of people who might consider Remote for their next career move. When you make this a non-negotiable, you create a space your future hires can thrive in.”

Provide training on how to identify stress and poor life-work balance

Whilst employers and senior level managers are responsible for putting measures in place to facilitate healthy life-work balances, it’s vital that everyone within the company knows what to keep an eye out for when it comes to stress and burnout. 

It’s important that this type of training is extended beyond management teams, so that each and every employee is empowered with the skills and knowledge required to support their fellow team members.

This can help to evaluate the effectiveness of the life-work balances that have been put in place and ensure there is continual improvement within this area.

Set company-wide disconnect hours

As discussed at the beginning of this article, work from home policies are making it more difficult than ever to switch their devices off outside of work hours, which means employees are often emailing and messaging each other about work matters during their personal time.

In response to the rise in remote working, Portugal legally banned employers from calling, texting, messaging, or emailing their staff outside of working hours to reinforce healthier life-work balances. Whilst there is little legislation relating specifically to remote working in the UK at the moment, there’s nothing to stop companies proactively introducing no-communication hours themselves.

Introduce a shorter work week

Working five days then having two days off each week is a generally accepted working pattern for full-time employees, but attitudes towards this are changing fast. 

Globally, four-day work week trials have been largely met with success, with productivity remaining the same or increasing in some companies across Iceland, Sweden, and Australia. Earlier this year, the UK launched what is thought to be the world’s largest pilot scheme for four day work weeks, involving more than 3,000 workers at 60 companies across Britain.

Four day work weeks aim to improve company-wide productivity and wellbeing without employees having to sacrifice the equivalent to a day’s worth of pay each week.

Create clear boundaries between employees’ work lives and home lives

Remote’s Senior People Specialist, Keah Nguyen advises employees to help their staff set clear boundaries between work and personal time. Nguyen says, “Remote encourages its employees not to have work apps on their phones and to master the art of working asynchronously. By switching to async workflows, team members can work at the hours that are best for them — and not during hours they would rather be doing something else.

Not only does an optimally balanced life-work split hold benefits for employees, employers can also benefit from a reduction in the costs associated with absenteeism and additional recruitment to cope with a high employee turnover rate. This is because their staff will experience less stress, a lower risk of burnout, improved wellbeing, and a greater sense of loyalty.