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Lifestyle patterns the cornerstone of your Workplace Wellness Strategy

Published on 29 August 2019

Lifestyle patterns the cornerstone of your Workplace Wellness Strategy

Over 50% of organisations now have a Wellness Strategy. Typically, top of this list is: Meaningful work, respectful culture and flexible hours and working. Wellness Strategies may be relatively new, however, wellness is not new, as quoted by Sigmund Freud 100 years ago "Love and work are the cornerstones to our humanness".  If you want to take this seriously this needs to be built into your organisation’s strategy, budgeted for and built into your operating model. There is a cost, but how will you pay?

 The Forum has almost 20 years of scheduling Best Practice case studies starting with “Flextra: work-life-balance at HBOS” in 2005. Each year we see great examples of how organisations approach lifestyle shift patterns, listening to their colleagues, analysing their demand and designing an operating model to meet organisational objectives. Unfortunately, we also have many examples of businesses who haven’t had success implementing lifestyle patterns or aren’t able to make the necessary changes due to (sometimes perceived) blockages outside of their control and influence. We also have many organisations who still adopt an “old-fashioned” approach to shift designs with one-size fits all rotational patterns (unfair for everyone) and HR enforced part-time patterns, whose approach to shift reviews is to direct new patterns with little to no engagement.

 It is important to be clear what we mean by “Lifestyle patterns” and flexible hours and work, and distinguish this from traditional “Flexible Working” and “Agile Working”.

 Flexible hours/working is much more than “Flexible Working” the legal entitlement: “Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, e.g. having flexible start and finish times, or working from home.” Source:

Flexible Working: Overview

  • All employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers.
  • Employees must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible.

Employers must deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’.

Examples of handling requests in a reasonable manner include:

  • assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application
  • holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee
  • offering an appeal process

Please note: Flexible working rules are different in Northern Ireland.


Agile working is referred to as: an approach in which an organisation empowers its people to work where, when and how they choose. Those of a certain age sometimes refer to these as the Martini shifts “Anytime, anyplace, anywhere”! This complete free reign approach rarely works in a customer contact centre as typically customer demand drives operating times and volumes.

Flexible hours and working are about shift patterns which support a way of life that integrates works alongside home, family, community, personal health and wellbeing. Importantly, the focus isn’t just on time in the office, but also on time outside the office.

 Key questions to consider

How much flexibility do you need as a business? What can be predicted with a high level of certainty and what volatility exists, considering both supply and demand.

Follow-up questions:

  • How can you control your demand and reduce volatility (both peaks and troughs)?
  • Do you still expect the same level of service during peak and troughs, or do your key objectives and performance measures change?

How much flexibility do your (current and future) employees want? Offering something which no one wants is offering nothing; understand your different employee demographics and review regularly to keep up to date, as circumstances change.

Follow-up questions: 

  • How much flexibility can you afford to offer?
  • How will you track the benefit of lifestyle patterns? E.g. retention versus attrition, reduce sickness, easier attraction for new recruits, etc…

 With this information you can now start to design your lifestyle patterns and flexibility strategy. The Flexibility toolkit, designed back in 2011 by The Forum, provides different approaches which can be combined to create a powerful operating model to meet changes in demand whilst offering choice, certainty and control for your employees.

 Flexibility Toolkit – Starting Point

Full-Time: Typically, between 35 and 40 hours per week. We often see organisations only offer 1 choice of full-time hours, why not offer a range, e.g. 35, 37.5 or 40?

Part-Time: Less than full-time, ideally strategically designed supporting lifestyle choices. Consider the minimum hours and shrinkage impact on part-time contracts. 8 hours per week isn’t much after 1-2-1s, team meetings and training sessions.

Contractual: Formally agreed with terms and conditions. Ensure that the contract stipulates a review mechanism in place, to ensure that the terms and conditions remain relevant to both company and colleague and changes can be made.

Non-contractual: Agreed locally, or on an ad-hoc basis. A great way of “piloting” a new lifestyle pattern is to start with an informal agreement, just make sure these don’t become BAU.

 Flexibility Toolkit – Basic Shift Types

  • Term-time
  • Student working
  • Second jobs
  • Job share
  • Homeworking
  • Zero-hours
  • Fixed-patterns
  • Annualised hours
  • Flexi-time
  • Overtime
  • Contractual overtime
  • On-call
  • Short-notice
  • Rotations
  • Time-banking
  • Unpaid-leave
  • Trade-offs
  • Preferential shifts

It is rare to require all these options; however, it is recognised that you will require more than 1 and more than Full-time and Part-Time. All these examples have been successfully implemented in at least one of our members’ organisations; if they can do it, so can you.

Examples of how these can be used and combined:

Fixed-pattern & Trade-offs: This works well when a perceived unpopular shift is combined with a great day off, e.g. working mid-week late shifts and not working weekends or, working weekends and not working any late shifts.

Student working & Annualised hours: Reflecting the availability of a full time University student by decreasing hours during study time and increasing during holiday periods. Annualising means that the Student has a steady income.

Contractual overtime: When overtime become BAU and the first choice to increase hours, add this to contracts so you can plan for this in advance and reduce the administrative burden of tactically adding to each person.

Short-notice, zero-hours & homeworking: Without any commute, working from home can be extremely flexible and provide an opportunity to work short-periods of time, e.g. 1 hour, at late notice. By combining with a zero-hours contract both the company and employee has maximum flexibility.

 The Forum’s expertise and experience is with scheduling, lifestyle patterns and flexibility, which only represent one part of a Workplace Wellness Strategy. Other considerations include:

Medical: Onsite Doctor, nurse, or physio (including massages); Free, or discounted flu-jabs; Annual health checks, e.g. blood pressure, cholesterol; Optician appointments

Lifestyle & Nutrition: Fruit boxes and vending machines; Subsidised healthy food options (occasional treats, e.g. cake and donuts); Step challenges, use stairs where possible; Onsite “Slimming World” or “Weight Watchers”

Fitness: Onsite gym, with fitness instructors and classes; Discount to local gyms; Sports clubs, e.g. 5-a-side football, netball, running club; Yoga and meditation classes

Other: Onsite nursery; Bring your dogs to work; Concierge service; Shuttle bus service

These options need to be considered alongside your lifestyle-patterns and working arrangements, as these can mitigate the reasons for the shift choice, e.g. onsite doctor could mean a 20-minute break during the day versus a 2-hour appointment plus commute.

 Final thoughts

  1. Make your Workplace Wellness strategy transparent and understood by all, including what the plans are for the future.
  2. Document strong business cases for all considerations, recognising both the positive and negative impact on results.
  3. Review regularly and involve people from across the organisation at different levels. Identify champions in senior management who advocate the strategy.  

Combining these approaches helps to create the respectful culture to support workplace wellness.

If you have any comments/thoughts please feel free to share them on the Linkedin article

Date Published: 29/08/2019

Author: Phil Anderson

Comments (0)Number of views (602)

Author: Leanne McNamee

Categories: Library, Planning & Resourcing


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