Stressed woman

Don’t let leavism get in the way of work life balance

At Westfield Health, we believe that a healthy work life balance - knowing how and when to switch off from work - is key to both physical and mental wellbeing.

Getting the right work-life balance is about finding what works for each individual, so that whether at work or at home, they can lead a fulfilled, happy and healthy life. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ number of hours that work for everyone.

National Work Life Week (1st – 5th October 2018) aims to raise awareness of workplace wellbeing and encourages positive change.

To support the initiative we’re taking a look at leavism, an issue which can have a detrimental effect on achieving a positive work-life balance.

What is Leavism?

While it’s not the sole cause, technology has eroded the traditional boundaries that helped create a separation between work and home life. Leaving the office is no longer synonymous with leaving work, emails can be accessed on the go and work can often end up creeping into home life.

Leavism occurs when employees feel they have to work during non-paid hours or on annual leave.

Whilst it may seem harmless to pop into the office on weekends, or check emails on holiday, this can soon snowball into a larger issue which affects an individual’s overall health and wellbeing.

Below we outline how you can start to tackle leavism within your organisation.

What can employers do to stop Leavism?

The pressure placed on employees who are constantly overworked can lead to a decrease in morale and productivity, as well as to more complex issues such as stress and depression.

To help prevent leavism affecting your employees, addressing the issue needs to be part of your company culture, with the precedent set from the top down.

According to research by Deloitte*, an organisation-wide culture/awareness raising approach to mental health intervention can have up to an 8:1 return on investment.

Here’s what you can do to spot the signs and start developing a solution:

  • 1-2-1 Meetings

    An informal, open and honest chat is likely the most reliable way to learn of any issues relating to leavism. It will help you to spot the early signs so that you are able to intervene and offer the right support for your staff.
  • Offer training to line managers

    With health and wellbeing moving up the corporate agenda, line managers are best placed to be able to spot the signs and take action. Offering mental health training to line managers enables them to spot the early signs. Training will also help them spot the signs of other potential wellbeing issues and enables early intervention. 
  • Redistribution of work

    Once you have identified the signs and discovered that an employee is often taking work home with them, it’s time to take a look at workloads and how your staff are coping. Simply discussing the individual’s task list and redistributing workloads accordingly can relieve the pressure on employees who are struggling.
  • Annual leave cover

    Employees often worry about taking annual leave due to the pressures of meeting deadlines whilst they’re away and potential workloads when they return. Implementing a procedure where workloads and responsibilities are allocated to other members of staff during annual leave will take away the pressure from taking time off. Alternatively, you could identify quieter periods across the year and discuss these with employees to help inform when to take their annual leave.
  • Flexible working

    If family life is impacting productivity then it’s important to listen to your employees, take into account the ever changing demands of modern working life and develop your flexible working policy accordingly. This helps employees to have a positive work-life balance, helps to keep them motivated and engaged, and ultimately less susceptible to leavism.


The ultimate challenge when it comes to leavism lies within respecting the boundaries between work and home life, and switching off when you sign off.

It’s all about making a conscious decision, forcing yourself to not read emails, take calls or continue working on projects out of hours.

Putting this into practice so that it becomes part of your company culture is a great first step in reducing leavism and supporting your employees’ health and wellbeing.

Our free Health & Wellbeing Toolkit contains all the information you need to start creating your company's strategy, featuring help and advice on everything from building the business case and exploring supplier options, to implementing and evaluating the process.

Find out more on how we can help your business and employees’ health and wellbeing.

*Mental health and employers: The case for investment, Deloitte UK, October 2017

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