Employee work life balance

Employee work life balance in small businesses

14 December 2020

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Private health cover

We provide business healthcare cover for 1 to 249 employees. Our plans are built around the needs of you and your business.


Working in a small business can be all consuming. Being part of a smaller team can mean that your employees feel much more invested in the business and its performance, compared to how they might feel working for a large company. While this obviously has a lot of benefits, such as higher levels of motivation and teamwork, it can also have negative effects for your team. Being highly motivated and dedicated to their role and the business can sometimes mean that your employees’ work life balance takes a hit. 

According to a CIPD report, the average UK worker reports around five hours of overwork per week1. While some overtime may be inevitable, consistently working over and above their contracted hours can result in your team having less time to spend on the things outside of work that make them happy, including spending time with their friends and family. When this occurs regularly, it can start to negatively impact their work life balance. 

Now that more of us are working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the lines between home life and work life are becoming even more blurred. This makes the need to maintain a positive work life balance more important than ever.

The importance of work life balance

In a survey conducted on behalf of AXA Health, 56% of SME employees said that having a good work/life balance would make them the most happy at work, and 47% said that having a poor work/life balance would make them the least happy2. According to a CIPD survey, 24% of workers reported finding it difficult to relax in their personal time because of their job, while 26% of workers said that their job affects personal commitments1

Consistently working long hours could be having a negative effect on your employees’ mental health. According to a survey by the Mental Health Foundation, when working long hours more than a quarter of employees feel depressed (27%), one third feel anxious (34%), and more than half feel irritable (58%)3.

How to encourage a positive work life balance amongst your team

Work life balance can mean different things to different people. Some members of your team may find that they can strike a positive work life balance when they have the opportunity to flex their working hours, while others may like to completely switch off from work emails when they finish the working day.

So how can small business owners ensure that their team have a positive work life balance?

  • Flexible working. If your business allows for it, you could offer flexible working to your team. This could be in the form of flexible working hours, for example. According to a report by Powwownow, 47% of full time employees do not have flexible working encouraged in their workplace4. However, 67% of employees wish they were offered flexible working4
  • Encourage relaxation. Help your team to relax in their personal time by avoiding emailing them outside of working hours unless it’s absolutely essential. According to research conducted on behalf of AXA Health, 27% of SME employees said that they send/receive emails from colleagues outside of working hours and 19% said that the amount of emails they receive has a negative effect on their wellbeing1. You should also encourage your team to make use of their full annual leave allowance so they can spend time away from work and give themselves the opportunity to switch off
  • Place importance on lunch breaks. According to one research study, the average UK worker takes just 22 minutes for their lunch break5. However, encouraging your team to make full use of their lunch break, particularly if they’re able to get outside for some fresh air, can mean that they return to work in the afternoon feeling more refreshed
  • Set an example. As the owner of the business, your employees may often mirror your work life balance behaviours in order to establish what the norm seems to be within the business. This means that if you’re regularly staying logged on until late in the evening and working through lunch, your team may then mimic these behaviours. Making a point of not emailing outside of working hours, or openly discussing how you have been spending your lunch breaks, can mean that your employees feel more comfortable doing the same
  • Implement a health and wellbeing strategy. Introducing a health and wellbeing strategy can help to show your team that you’re investing in them as much as they’re investing themselves in your business. It can also give them access to tools and services that can help them juggle their work and personal commitments, such as 24/7 online GP appointments

How we can help

At AXA Health, all of our small business health insurance plans come with access to the following as standard:

  • Unlimited access to our 24/7 online GP service, AXA Doctor at Hand (powered by Doctor Care Anywhere) giving you a 20 minute GP appointment online or over the phone at a time and place that suits you. Appointments subject to availability. Doctor Care Anywhere's fair usage policy applies
  • Access to physiotherapist advice over the phone with no need for a GP referral via our Working Body service. Available to members aged 18 and over
  • Wellbeing incentives such as discounted gym memberships
  • Access to 24/7 health information and support via our telephone helpline, Health at Hand.
  • Heart and cancer nurses, available by phone, who are dedicated to supporting you and your family when living with these conditions

We think that the best way for you to get the healthcare cover that’s right for your business and your budget is to let you build your plan yourself. That’s why we offer a range of cover options and benefits that you can select from, so you only pay for the cover you need. 

Find out more about our small business health insurance, including what we do and don’t cover, and get a quote today.

Sources and references

1CIPD, 2019

2Research by onepoll on behalf of AXA Health of 1500 employees working for companies of up to 250 people, May 2019

3Mental Health Foundation

4Powwownow, 2017

5Sodexo and UKActive via The Independent, 2018

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Start taking care of yourself and your team today and get a quote for our business health insurance. Or, talk to us about how we can help your business reach their wellbeing goals.