Softworks Blog

Top Five Countries for Work-life balance

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Mon, Jan 18, 2016


Balancing work, family, leisure activities and personal commitments is a constant challenge for many of us. In my house we all either work or go to school and evenings and weekends are filled to the brim with a myriad of sports including; Gaelic football, rugby, hurling, soccer, running, swimming and Pilates to name a few. This means constantly running from work to the next activity and hoping to grab a bite somewhere in between. Being able to successfully do everything so that every member of our little family (there’s only four of us!) gets their activity is a constant challenge. That said, we are some of the lucky ones as I work for a company that values work life balance and the benefits it brings to their employees so all Softworks employees have flexible working/flexitime.

According to the OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) “Finding a suitable balance between work and daily living is a challenge that all workers face. The ability to successfully combine work, family commitments and personal life is important for the well-being of all members in a household. An important aspect of work-life balance is the amount of time a person spends at work. Evidence suggests that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardise safety and increase stress.

The OECD report on Work Life Balance ranks its 36 member countries on balancing work and daily living. In their report, Denmark was ranked as the number one country for work-life balance. The key indicators used were share of employees working long hours (50 hours or more per week), time devoted to leisure and comparing the scores with respect to gender.   Let's take a closer look at the top five counties for work-life balance and the secret to their success. 

1) Denmark

Denmark is the number one country for work life balance. According to the OECD, an important aspect of work-life balance is the amount of time a person spends at work. Evidence suggests that long work hours may damage personal health, risk safety and increase stress.   In Denmark only 2% of employees work very long hours, one of the lowest rates in the OECD where the average is 13%.   Obviously if people are working long hours they have less time to to spend on other activities, such as time with friends/family or leisure activities. Furthermore the amount and quality of leisure time is important for people’s overall well-being, and can bring additional physical and mental health benefits. In Denmark, full-time workers devote 67% of their day on average, or 16.1 hours, to personal care (eating, sleeping, etc.) and leisure (socialising with friends and family, hobbies, games, computer and television use, etc.).  The OECD average is15 hours.  

Furthermore policy in Denmark provides extensive financial support to families with young children: public spending on family benefits amounts to just over 4% of GDP, compared to 2.6 % on average across the OECD, and close to 60% of such spending is on family services including childcare. In Denmark 37 hours is the standard working week and they have higher female employment rates and better gender equality within the labour market. Gender employment gaps and gender payment gaps are among the lowest among the OECD and all of this has led to the Danes being satisfied with both their working and personal lives.



2) Spain  

In Spain workers have as much personal time as their Danish counterparts however a higher proportion of them stay late at work. According to the OECD,  Spanish workers give 16.1 hours, or 67% of their day, to personal and  leisure activities however 8% still work very long hours.

Spain also has one of the lowest fertility rates in Europe and a poor (but getting better) record of female employment, meaning for all that free time, Spaniards haven't yet managed to successfully combine work and family life to the extent of the Danes.  Female rates of fertility have deteriorated for two decades, among the lowest in the OECD at 1.3 children per woman. It would appear that both men and women have worked to establish their careers before considering childbirth.  This has seen a rise in female employment to  51 per cent, a move in the right direction, but still falling short of the OECD average of 57.5 per cent.

 3) The Netherlands

In the Netherlands workers have no interest in long hours. Only 0.5% of workers work very long hours however surprisingly this for some reason does not convert to more leisure time. Dutch workers spend on average 15.4 hours a day on themselves and their families, ranking them 5th among member states. However in the Netherlands, high levels of gender equality mean men and women share work responsibilities and families are helped by generous state benefits.  High literacy levels, low youth unemployment as well as a 93 per cent above average life satisfaction of 11-15-year-olds, coupled with high fertility rates and low unemployment all lead to a very happy country.   

4) Belgium  

Next up is Belgium, where 5% of employees work very long hours, less than the OECD average of 13%. Overall, more men work very long hours; in Belgium 7% of men work very long hours, compared with 2% for women. Workers in Belgium benefit from successful flexible working programmes and a high-level of personal time devoted to friends and family. The Belgian Federal Public Service Social Security has questioned conventional ways of working and this has resulted in them being named as the best employer. Their objective is to find talented people, to retain the right people and to make workers happy. The organisation lets people be in charge of their own life; it does not matter anymore when, where and how they work. Only results are important and evaluated. These new policies have led to a 30% reduction in office space resulting in a saving of 6 million euros per year along with a 55% reduction in the use of paper for printing, and a 60% reduction in office furniture expenditure.

5) Norway

In Norway, 3% of employees work very long hours, again much less than the OECD average of 13% with men working longer hours than women. 4% of men work very long hours, compared with 1% for women.Full-time workers devote 65% of their day on average, or 15.6 hours, to personal care and leisure just over the OECD average of 15 hours. In Norway, men devote approximately 15 hours per day to personal care and leisure, and women 16 hours per day.

Other countries that made the top ten were ranked in the following order

6 – Sweden

7 – Germany

8 – Russian Federation

9 – Ireland

10 – Luxembourg

Out of the 36 countries evaluated, The United Kingdom was ranked number 23, Canada 24, USA 29 and Australia 30.  Turkey was ranked worst coming in at number 36 and is by far the country with the highest proportion of people working very long hours, with close to 41%. If you would like to find out more you can view the OECD's Better Life Index for 2015 via this link   


Topics: Work-Life Balance, Flexible Working, Working Hours, Happy Workers

The Alphabet of Softworks WFM

Posted by Nadine Walsh on Tue, Sep 15, 2015

Topics: Working Hours, Workforce Management

The Key to a Happy Workforce

Posted by Nadine Walsh on Mon, Feb 2, 2015


happy workforce


We all know that saying, find something you love to do and you will never work a day in your life. There's nothing I would like more than for everyone I know to be working in a job they love, in a field they are really interested in, surrounded by supportive, talented co-workers. I am generally a positive thinker but the harsh reality behind that statement is that we have bills to pay, the job we love isn't always that easy to find and we all know every office has a nuisance (or two). There are a number of simple steps that will help you on your way to a happier workforce. This one is for you managers, CEOs, presidents and everyone else in charge of someone else's working day. Implement the ideas below now and I promise you will see a difference.


1. Introduce Flexitime.

Its 2015. Our lives are crazier and busier then ever. As it is, most of us spend 25% of our week at work and 34% sleeping leaving just 41% of your week to do the things you like. Plus or minus a family, hobbies, exercise, eating we really are short on time. Just the other day I wanted to kill my Iphone. Just this one device allows me to communicate in over 10 different ways; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Whatsapp, Viber, Imessage, text message, email, call, Facetime... Yes I am ranting but my point is that there is more to life then work, however much we like our job. It will make such a difference to everyone if they can leave ten minutes earlier so that they can make that appointment or take an extra long lunch if its been a particularly stressful day. Remember that your workplace is made up of people, not machines. Being honest, we could all use a bit more flexibility in all areas of our lives so the workplace is a good place to start.

2. Celebrate Moments and People.

If somebody has been in the building for 20 years today, why not send a mass email to all staff and congratulate and thank them. They are choosing to be here and they wouldn't still be here if they weren't important to your company! Something I love about working at Softworks is that there are so many people working here that unless we were obesity advocates, we couldn't possibly have a cake for everyone's birthday. With that in mind our CEO introduced "cake day" where once a month we get in an array of buns and cakes and enjoy them together. Its definitely in the little things, and there is a great sense of fun round the office once everyone realises it's "cake day".

3. Schedule, Schedule, Schedule

There is nothing worse than your job taking over your life. I remember years of working in restaurants and the problems the messy schedule brought. I knew I had to get out of the shift work world when I had to miss an award ceremony where I was actually receiving a prize because my manager wouldn't let me reschedule my shift. I also missed birthdays of loved ones, my own birthday and lost a few friends because it. For people like nurses, doctors and many more escaping the 24 hour roster isn't ever going to happen. Set up a system where if needs be co-workers can do a swap. A disappointed and sulking worker is of no benefit to anyone.

4. Hand Over the Power

I cannot stress how important I think Self Service is. Employees, in my opinion should always have access to their own records. I want to be able so see how many hours overtime I have done, I want to check my holiday balance and I want to know how many times I was late or early this month without having to ask HR who will usually pass comment or wonder why I am asking. Don't get me wrong I think every company; big or small should have a HR department. A great HR team is fundamental to every successful company but my roster and my holiday details are the business of my manager and I. Get rid of the middle man.

5. Time to be on Time

We all have great intentions. You all know that amazing feeling when you come out of a productive meeting feeling all motivated because you and your team brainstormed tons of great ideas that could really work. Then you look back on the minutes of the meeting a month or two later no progress has been made and most of the ideas have been tossed aside and forgotten about. Start tracking your projects. Once the whole team can see on a shared screen what needs to be done and who needs to do it, the project will be done in no time. Set a deadline, make a task list, assign responsibility and get on with it. A great idea should never be let slide.


I would love to know your tips too! Feel free to share



Topics: Time & Attendance, Workforce Solutions, Flexitime / Flexible Working Hours Arrangement, Labour Scheduling, Work-Life Balance, Flexible Working, Working From Home, Rostering, Working Hours, Performance, Happy Workers, The Key To a Happy Workforce

Time to be On Time!

Posted by Nadine Walsh on Thu, Dec 4, 2014


Win an alarm clock!

1 in 5 people are late to work once a week. Are you?

It can be really difficult to monitor your staffs' comings and goings, but if you don't, those few minutes late for just one worker every day can lead to hours of work missed every month which you may be still paying for. On top of this, frequent lateness contributes to a negative working envoirnment, as other workers will notice the lack of discipline paid to the late comer. Research also highlights that late comers are more distracted and are far more likely to suffer from stress in the workplace. 

Softworks Time and Attendance system is an easy to use, powerful, automated time recording system that captures 100% of your organisation’s rules and work practices. With over 1,000 implementations across the UK, Ireland Canada and USA, Softworks Time and Attendance will help your organisation to build a clear picture of employee time through detailed dashboards, KPI’s, proactive alerts and reports on attendance, absenteeism, overtime, flexi-balances, scheduling and holiday leave. Our systems can shedule alerts to notify managers when an employee arrives late, and allows reporting on an employee's punctuality. 

If 9 - 5 if proving problematic in your envoirnment, Perhaps this be a good time of year to consider implementing flexitime in your workplace. Softworks Flexible Working can assist you to easily manage flexible working hours and family friendly policies, which will in turn assist you to attract, retain and motivate a talented workforce.

Join our #timetobeontime campaign this December to promote a timely workforce in your office. To celebrate we have really annoying alarm clocks to give away. Just register yourself or a collegue who you think needs one. We will also send you our expert tips on time management in your workplace. 


 Click here for more information! 



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Topics: Time & Attendance, Flexitime / Flexible Working Hours Arrangement, Labour Scheduling, Flexible Working, Working Hours

How to Use The Bradford Factor to Manage Employee Absence

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Mon, May 19, 2014

Most time and attendance systems simply track absenteeism.  Softworks solutions go deeper by focusing on the frequency of absences, problem areas and/or employees, which in turn, enables organizations to take proactive measures to improve attendance. For many organizations, the cost and disruption of persistent, short spells of absence are greater than for occasional, longer periods of absence. To address this problem, we have developed a formula based on the Bradford factor, which measures the number of incidences and the duration of each incidence to compute an absence score for each employee. I've set out below some further information about how your business can use the Bradford Factor to measure and tackle employee absence.

Why Many Organizations Use the Bradford Factor

The Bradford Factor is used by many organizations due to the fact that it both proactively discourages unnecessary absence in the first place, and it uses a set procedure to identify and tackle persistent absenteeism. The Bradford Factor measures the number of absence incidents and the duration of each incident to compute an absence score for each employee. Evidence from industry suggests; that the higher the score, the more disruption the employee’s absence is causing an organization. It is important to bear in mind if using the Bradford Factor that it is only one method of looking at absence and may not be appropriate for all organizations. The scores act best as a trigger to prompt line managers to investigate a case further.

How is the score calculated?

The Bradford Factor Score is calculated using the following formula: S x S x D where

  • S is the number of spells of absence of an individual over a given period; and
  • D is the total number of days of absence of the individual over the same period.

So for employees with 10 days' absence in one year, differently distributed, the score can vary enormously:

  • 1 absence of 10 days is 10 points (1 x 1 x 10) 
  • 5 absences of two days each is 250 points (5 x 5 x 10) 
  • 10 days of one day each is 1000 points (10 x 10 x 10)

Whereas using the traditional percentage method, all would result in the same percentage. Using this formula, Managers can see at a glance, the effects of employee absence on the organization as a whole as well as a comparison between departments.

Duvet Day resized 600

How is it used?

The Bradford Factor is generally used by organizations to identify employees with frequent short-term absences. Short term absences are often considered more disruptive than long term absences, due to the fact that, it’s often easier to make arrangements to cover an employee who is going to be off for long periods. Employees taking odd days off here and there are considered more disruptive to the business and a lot harder to plan for. They can have an immediate effect, and if recurrent, they are likely to arouse suspicions over the genuineness of the absences. The more frequent the absences the higher the score.
Managers therefore monitor scores so that if an employee hits a certain score/trigger point, further investigation or action can be taken. This in itself can act as a deterrent to employees who do take absence for non-genuine reasons. A number of organizations have reported that absence is reduced when Bradford scores are first introduced, which may be due to the use of this system, as a visible warning and deterrent to employees.

Things to consider if using

Bradford scores should not form the only basis for important decisions such as disciplinary action due to persistent absenteeism. Additional analysis and consideration of each individual case is an essential companion to the use of The Bradford Factor. Bradford scores focus purely on short-term absence and can therefore easily distract attention from the problems of long-term absence. The safest approach to using this measure is to ensure that important decisions; are not based around Bradford scores alone. These scores act best as a trigger to prompt managers to examine further.

The Bradford Factor also concentrates on the number of instances and length of time absent, but doesn’t pick up on other trends such as days of the week, particular shifts, sporting events, etc. Therefore, the analysis is limited in terms of tracking absenteeism trends. Furthermore, the Bradford Factor calculation is worked out for each individual employee so it can be reasonably complicated to work out on a departmental/company-wide level. This problem can however be surmounted, with the use of a good time & attendance system, which can automatically calculate the Bradford Factor points score, rank employees and trigger alerts when issues arise.


There are no hard and fast rules for using the Bradford Factor; it is effectively down to each individual organization to decide how it will use the score. Used effectively, the Bradford Factor can undoubtedly reduce absenteeism and serve as a deterrent to persistent offenders. Studies have shown that by educating employees about the Bradford Factor, and informing them of their score on a regular basis, absenteeism can be dramatically reduced. This is largely down to employees realizing that taking the odd day off here and there will quickly multiply their Bradford Factor score. The Bradford Factor places a value on the absence which an employee can clearly see. Where the absence is not absolutely necessary, this can serve to deter absenteeism. If you would like a demonstration of Softworks Absence Management Solutions, contact us today. 

Topics: Absenteeism, Absenteeism, Working Hours, Bradford Factor

How much do smokers really cost your business?

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Thu, Jan 9, 2014

By Oliver Mitchell, ACA

Before I get started let me state that I’m not a smoker and never have been one so obviously I don’t understand the cravings/compulsion to smoke. Setting aside all the obvious and known effects of smoking on your health, individually, societally and financially, what about the cost to the employer? I don’t understand why one employee should in effect be allowed an extra 2-3 WEEKS off per year compared to their fellow work colleague simply because they smoke. To save everyone jumping to their calculators to work out how it’s that much time, I’ve based it on the following formula.

Assuming a smoke break takes on average 10 minutes from the time you get organised to leave your desk to the time you return and start working again. Then let’s assume you take a modest 3 smoke breaks a day during normal working hours. That’s 30 minutes a day extra time to yourself that a non-smoking colleague would be working. Based that on a normal 5 day week, its 150 minutes a week, finally, let’s take it that there are approximately 46 working weeks in the year after annual leave/public holidays etc. (150*46= 6,900 minutes which is 115 hours or just over 15 days a year).

No smoking resized 600

In simple terms I think that this is totally inequitable and essentially unfair. I have to ask the question, why is it accepted as common practice? Why do nearly all companies allow smoke breaks during what’s essentially paid working hours - should the employer take a hit (excuse the pun) to their pockets because they employ smokers? Why should a non-smoking employee work longer throughout the year than a smoker!?

In money terms based on the calculation above, 15 days at an average salary of 40,000 equates to just over 2,600 a year (230 working days in the year, adjusted for Annual Leave). Perhaps smoking employees should get paid this much less per annum compared to non-smokers in the same role allowing them 3 ‘guilt - free’ smoke breaks a day?! Or simply ban smoke breaks outside of normal working hour’s altogether?

According to the Organisations of Working Time Act 1997, the general rule on breaks is that you are entitled to a break of 15 minutes after a 4 ½ hour work period. If you work more than 6 hours you are entitled to a break of 30 minutes, which can include the first 15-minute break. There is no entitlement to be paid during these breaks and they are not considered part of working time.

The other argument could be that as smoking is gradually being viewed more and more as socially unacceptable from the start of the smoking ban to the general perception of the public today perhaps the employers should be doing more to try to encourage and assist their employee’s to quit. How about offering health assessments given the common idea that most smokers would actually prefer to quit for health reasons, not to mention the constant increase in the cost of cigarettes (a 20 a day smoker spends approximately 3-4,000 a year).

I’ve absolutely no doubt that it’s incredibly difficult to quit smoking, I’ve seen my own family members succumb to the ill effects of it, but should the employer also suffer because their employees smoke? Can they do more to assist with quitting – should they have to? I have no doubt this is a debate that will continue on.

 Further blogs from Oliver Mitchell

Topics: Time & Attendance, Absenteeism, Working Hours

Could your working hours be damaging your health?

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Thu, Jul 4, 2013

New research suggests that women who work night shifts for more than 30 years can have a twice as high risk of developing breast cancer than those who don't. The study, undertaken jointly by Queen’s University, Ontario and the British Columbia Cancer Agency, examined 1,134 women with breast cancer and 1,179 women without it, of same ages, in Vancouver and Kingston. They were questioned about their work and shift patterns and researchers also assessed the hospital records for the women who suffered from the disease. About a third of the women had a history of night shift work.

Working at night

The study, published this month in The Occupational and Environmental Medicine Journal, found that those who had worked nights for 30 or more years were twice as likely to have developed the disease, after taking account of potentially influential factors, although the numbers in this group were comparatively small.

According to lead researcher Kristan Aronson, a professor of public health sciences at the Queen's Cancer Research Institute at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario;

“Other research has also found a link between night-shift work and breast cancer, especially for health-care professionals. But the new study revealed an apparent risk among other types of workers”

While those women with 30 or more years of night-shift work had a doubling of risk, Aronson's team found no increased risk among those who worked nights for less than 30 years.

“The study showed no evidence that those who worked nights for up to 14 years, or between 15 and 29 years, had any increased risk of developing the cancer. However, the women who had worked nights for 30 years or more were twice as likely to have developed breast cancer.”

The researchers obtained very specific details about the women's work history.

"We were very careful in asking about lifetime occupational histories, including specific start and stop times of each shift worked," Aronson explained, "so we carefully assessed each woman's exposure to night work."

When Aronson looked at the groups of women in terms of duration of night-shift work, she found that the link between working 30 years or more and a doubling of breast cancer risk held even after taking into account other factors that can affect cancer risk, such as body-mass index.

"There are only hypotheses so far about what could link long-term shift work to increased breast cancer risk," she said. "Some hypotheses are: disruption to the normal daily body [circadian] rhythm, decreased melatonin [a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles that is produced in greater quantity during sleep], increased sleep disturbance and possible lower vitamin D."

However, Aronson said that no one can yet pinpoint to one of these things as more dangerous than the other.

“We just can’t determine that yet,” she said. “We’re looking to lots of continued research both in basic science and epidemiology to be able to determine which of the potential pathways from shift work to cancer is the most important.”

Provincial workplace insurance boards and employers are already interested in the findings and ways of reducing the impact of shift work, Aronson said.

 In Denmark, 37 women who got breast cancer after working night shifts were compensated following a 2007 decision by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

 The findings echo those of previous research, said Russel Reiter, a researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, who has also studied the topic.

"The strength of the study is in the number of individuals included," he said. "Overall, it strengthens the association between night-shift work and breast cancer."

Among the possible explanations, he agreed, is suppression of melatonin. Night-shift work can affect melatonin levels. Melatonin may also help strengthen the immune system, some experts believe.

Besides preventive care such as mammograms, what can women do if they work night shifts? Many women don't have a choice of which shift to work, of course. If possible, Aronson said, women might try to work less than 30 years of night shifts.

But experts cautioned that the increased cancer risk is yet to be confirmed.

Dr Jane Green, clinical epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, said: "This seems to be a well-conducted study with the benefit of more detailed occupational history than in many studies.

"The finding of an increased risk of breast cancer in women with a long history of shift work adds to similar results from some previous studies, but does not change the existing consensus: that while there is some evidence to associate increased risk of breast cancer with very long term shift work, the evidence is not yet sufficient to be sure and certainly not sufficient to give a public health message about working shifts.

"With further work, the increased cancer risk may not be confirmed; and even if it is, could turn out to be explained by differences in known breast cancer risk factors among shift workers vs non-shift workers. In other words, it might not be the shift work itself that is to blame. We therefore cannot interpret this study to say shift work causes cancer."

Topics: Working Hours, Shift Work