- Career Journal
7 Tips on Balancing Work and Family
Is work eating up so much of your time that you don’t have enough to spend with your family? Have your relationships with loved ones started to fall apart?
Hectic work schedules, extra working hours, or a job that keeps you out of town for days are common reasons why professionals sometimes don’t feel connected with their families.
But all work and no play can make you feel guilty, affect your general temperament and both your family and career. So try and strike a balance between the pulls of work and your personal life. Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Get organized: If you are better organized at work, you will likely be more efficient and will meet your deadlines faster, leaving you more personal time.
Make a list of activities you have to do during the day and mark the importance of each activity. “Carry a pocket planner and spend a few minutes sketching out the day’s events,” says Dr. Jitendra Nagpal, a psychiatrist at the Child Development and Adolescent Health Center at Moolchand Hospital.
Also, try to plan ahead for the week and month and include personal events in your planning. Is there a parent-teacher meeting coming up for your child? Pencil that into your calendar and inform your employer well in advance that you may need to take some time off for that.
Remember to leave a little down time in your schedule, if you can, so you have a little room for flexibility.
2. Show that you care: A few simple gestures and words can let your family know that you love them. Talking with your spouse and children about their day, joking or gossiping, are some ways to connect with them. A gift every once in a while goes a long way to show that you are thinking of them even if you’re not always there.
It’s a good idea to call your family members once during the day, even it’s for a few seconds. Don’t forget to talk to your children during these calls.
If you have missed a call during the work day because of a meeting or urgent work, make sure you “call back when you can,” says P.V. Narasimha Rao, head of operations at Prithvi Information Solutions Ltd. an information technology firm.
3. Plan activities: Try to make the most of the time that you do get to spend with your family. Get involved with hobbies and plan outings and activities that all of you can do together. “Helping in the kitchen, playing an outdoor sport together can go a long way” in bonding, says Dr. Nagpal.
Or try going to watch a movie together, or for a picnic every once in a while.
When possible, try to get out of town on long weekends, and make it a point to take an annual vacation. Be sure to disconnect yourself from work as much as possible during such breaks.
4. Leave work at work: Develop a mental switch to create boundaries between work and home. Obsessing over things that happened at work not only cuts into your family time, but can also lead to mental fatigue and reduce your productivity.
When at work, turn off the home switch, and while at home, disconnect from work.
To be sure, this is easier said that done, but practice will help.
Use your commute home to decompress and maybe think about what you might want to share or do with your children when you get home. “Enter your house with a smile,” says Dr. Nagpal.
As much as possible, inform your colleagues and bosses that you won’t able to check or respond to emails during your personal time, say between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Maybe that means you have to stay up after 10 p.m. to finish your work after the children go to bed.
Setting the right tone is important – if you call colleagues or boss at odd hours, they will do the same with you.
5. Negotiate with your employer: If your work requires you to travel a lot, or be stationed away from your family part of the time, the balance becomes harder to achieve.
At all times, stay in constant touch with your family by making at least one phone call daily sharing your day’s activities. Make it a point to spend a relaxing day at home after you return from an official trip. If you need to rejoin office immediately, try to catch up with the family on your weekly holiday.
Long spells of separation from your family could be detrimental over a period of time. When possible, try to take your family along. If that is not feasible, then “try and negotiate a relocation” closer to home, says Prithvi Information’s Mr. Rao.
Similarly, if your boss requires you to work late or work on weekends very often, “gather the courage to talk to your manager or the HR department” about changing this, says Niketh Sundar, global head human resources at UST Global Inc., a firm providing information technology services.
6. Care for yourself: In the juggle between managing family and work, we often forget to take care of ourselves. Too much work can lead to stress, anxiety and even health problems.
Your family won’t benefit if you are grumpy around them all the time.
So make time for yourself, and pay attention to your health. Adding just 30 minutes of exercise to your daily schedule can help. Simple yoga or “breathing exercises can keep you healthier, positive and happier,” says Mr. Sundar.
7. Keep trying: There is no single formula to achieve work-life balance permanently, so you have to keep striving for it daily.
Stop yourself from feeling guilty about not getting enough time to spend with your family. This guilt can be very stressful, it can lower your morale and ultimately ruin your family time as well as work.
Accept that missing out on a day or two of your child’s life does not make you a bad parent. Share the duties of parenting with your spouse, and when possible with your parents or in-laws.
Tell yourself everyday that there will be a new day to focus on your family and children, and prioritize accordingly.
And if nothing seems to help, it might be worth considering whether you would prefer to be in a job that allows you more free time.
Share your tips for maintaining a work-family balance in the Comments section or write to Ms. Sodhi at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
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