61% of UK employees, the highest amount in Europe, say they often still think about work during their private time but 71% of these have no trouble with combining their work and private lives. These are the results of a survey of five thousand employees in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom conducted by payroll and HR services provider SD Worx.

Almost half (47%) often view work emails outside working hours, more than four out of ten (44%) regularly still work during their private time, for example at night, at weekends or during holidays. Nevertheless, we are generally satisfied with our work-life balance. A lot has to do with freedom of choice and flexibility. For example, 74% of UK employees are satisfied with the flexibility of getting to choose their holidays.

Greatest flexibility in determining leave period

The better the work environment and the less time pressure individuals experience, the more satisfied they are with work-life balance. Naturally, the flexibility that employers offer to reconcile work and private life is important in this respect. 84% of British workers feel that their employer is generally flexible when it comes down to this and 32% even experience it as very flexible.

SD Worx also assessed the extent to which employees in the UK can determine their own leave, working hours and finally the place where they work. Employees experience the greatest flexibility in determining their leave period, 79% find this to be the case. The ability to determine workplace is less obvious but 56% of UK workers still feel that their employer is adaptable in this respect. That shouldn’t come as a surprise as for practical reasons, certain types of work can only be performed at the workplace.

Flexibility affects the work-life balance

There is clearly a correlation between obtaining flexibility at work and a good work-life balance: the more flexibility obtained from one’s employer, the better the work-life balance.   Out of the countries surveyed, the UK was the second-highest country with 57% saying they have flexibility at work and a good work-life balance. Austria secured the highest figures for this question with 60% in contrast to France where 39% of employees felt the same.

Impact on retention, satisfaction and engagement

The extent to which employees can properly combine their work and private lives has an impact on satisfaction and engagement. In the UK, almost nine out of ten of those who are able to reconcile work and private life are satisfied (88%) while 85% feel engaged. In the group where work and private lives are not in balance, only 17% are satisfied and 24% are engaged.

Finally, the intention to change jobs is 10% more likely in the group where work/life balance is not right: respectively 25% as compared to 15%.


Fiona McKee, Head of Human Resources at SD Worx Group comments: “What we are seeing today is a work-life blend: the two are becoming increasingly intertwined. Work is no longer limited to specific times or locations with most employees having access to work systems 24/7. The figures from  the SD Worx Work-Life survey show that many (61%) employees do tend to check their email when they are away from the office, including when they are on holiday. Of course, this is down to personal choice The aim is not to get the pendulum to swing in the other direction either. A good balance is important.


“We are however seeing two extremes at present: the first is that there are still environments in which a great deal of change is needed to be able to provide the flexibility that is an inherent part of the work-life blend. Secondly, there are environments in which this flexibility is being discussed with some concern. Examples here include debates about a 4-day week and initiatives such as no-email Friday. More flexibility offers benefits to both employers and employees. Today, people can organise their work and lives in an increasing number of ways. Responding to this is a way of promoting workable work.”