Professor Craig Jackson

Head of Division, Psychology
School of Social Sciences

Companies often talk about the work-life balance, but what does it mean in the real world? And how can it be achieved?
In this interview, Craig Jackson, Professor of Occupational Health Psychology, talks about the efforts that the Work-life Improvement Group is doing to help staff develop a healthy working lifestyle and reduce workplace stress.

What is work-life balance and why is it relevant to staff?

"Since 1997 I have specialised in occupational psychology and workplace health issues. I’m very passionate about working health and see it as a professional challenge that working people’s health and well-being should be no worse after they have finished work for the day, than it was at the start of their day.

Work-life balance is a theoretical concept whereby workers can enjoy a mix of their working life and their private/personal life that happily co-exists. It might sound like ‘new-age’ language, but essentially it is the application of the knowledge that ‘your business should be your pleasure, and your pleasure should be your business’. There are excellent human-centred and business-centred cases for keeping workers as healthy as they can be – and the workplace can be an ideal forum for improving health even further."

What is the Work-life Improvement Group?

"I chair the Work-life Improvement Group, which is a team of thirteen colleagues that was convened to improve colleagues’ working experiences. We meet regularly to assess areas within the University where colleagues have reported difficulties or excessive demands with their work and workload."

What is the aim of the group?

"The aim of the group is more than to merely 'reduce workplace stress' - and although that is an important remit of what the WIG does, a more proactive approach is to change and improve working practices in consultation with both the Faculty Management and colleagues themselves.

We routinely scan the horizon for upcoming issues that could impact upon staff experiences and working lives, and try to address any such issues before they occur. It is a little bit like long-term 'health and safety' that focuses on the psychosocial experiences of staff, rather than just 'slips, trips and falls'. "

Why is ensuring a healthy work-life balance important?

"There are plenty of reasons behind this, but to put it bluntly, in the current society trend of on-demand working, with an end of the traditional 9-5 working life, it is now more important than ever to make sure that working does not begin to occupy too much of peoples’ lives. Years ago, employers would fit the person to the job – one way or another, that worker would do the task demanded of them - whether they were suited to it or not.

Contemporary thinking is more enlightened – and employers are encouraged to fit the job around the person and all their unique skills and talents they bring with them to the workplace. The workplace is also the best chance many of us may have at keeping fit and active – with many employers starting up fitness clubs, affordable gym membership, bicycle schemes, smoking-cessation clinics and healthy eating programmes to benefit the workforce. Health promotion in the workplace is an important emerging field that could benefit nearly everyone. Good health is good business for all."