Work-life balance is a concept that describes the ideal situation in which an employee can split his or her time and energy between work and other important aspects of their life. Achieving work-life balance is a daily challenge. It is tough to make time for family, friends, community participation, spirituality, personal growth, self-care, and other personal activities, in addition to the demands of the workplace.
Because many employees experience a personal, professional, and monetary need to achieve, work-life balance can be challenging. Employers can help employees achieve work-life balance by instituting policies, procedures, actions, and expectations that enable them to pursue more balanced lives, such as flexible work schedules, paid time off (PTO) policies, responsibly paced time and communication expectations, and company-sponsored family events and activities.
Work-life balance reduces the stress employees experience. When an employee spends the majority of their days on work-related activities and feels as if they are neglecting other important components of their lives, stress and unhappiness result. An employee, who doesn't make time for self-care, eventually damages their output and productivity.
The workplace that enables employees to achieve work-life balance is particularly motivating and gratifying to employees, which makes them happy. And happy employees, whose needs for work-life balance are achieved, tend to stay with their employer and are more productive.
Work-Life Balance for Parents
Work-life balance can be an elusive goal for working parents. But, you can take steps as a parent to make it a reality for you and your children. Like many great achievements, work-life balance takes time and organization—but it’s worth the effort—for parents and their families.
Managers are important to employees seeking work-life balance. Managers are the source of many of the expectations that cause employees to have difficulty finding work-life balance. In their efforts to please their managers and succeed at work, employees can miss out on the rest of the opportunities available for an enriching life.
Managers also serve as a source of inspiration. Managers who pursue work-life balance in their own lives model appropriate behavior and support employees in their pursuit of work-life balance.
When you are considering your work-life balance, planning begins before you look for a job and accept a new position. First, take the time to determine your real-life needs from the broadest perspective. For example, you may be surprised to discover that a lower-paying job with proximity to great daycare for your children is preferable to another option that takes you an hour away.
Determine How Your Job and Its Location Affect Work-Life Balance
Parents should think carefully about job location: the commute to daycare can make or break your ability to spend invaluable bonding time before, during, and after work with your children. The satisfaction you get from seeing your child more often will make you much more relaxed and productive at work, and reduce your stress significantly. Make quality of life an aspect of your job criteria before you commit.
During your interview for a new job, keep your ears open to hear the company’s view on telecommuting, work culture, time flexibility, and so on. All of these aspects of employment will affect your ability to pursue a work-life balance. If they're not mentioned during the interviews, you'll want to ask specific questions to assess the workplace's compatibility with your work-life balance needs.
Usually, benefits are spelled out at the time of the job offer, and sometimes they'll be listed on a company’s website. If you get the chance to chat with other employees, ask if the corporate culture is family-friendly. Are there daycare benefits? Is there enough personal time off for emergencies—a sense of empathy for parents?
Make sure that you are not stepping into territory that is unfriendly-to-parents. By noticing your surroundings, the posture, demeanor, and the sociability level of your potential coworkers—you'll get a feel for how flexible management will be. And that’s one valuable data point for your family-friendly checklist.
Prioritize Family Times to Achieve Work-Life Balance
Experiencing calm and no chaos each weekday morning seems difficult, especially when winging it at 7 a.m. has been the norm. Try starting the day on a positive note with an unhurried, sit-down, healthy breakfast with your family.
A brief, morning family meal—even for 15 minutes—cuts down stress for everyone. It also assures your children that they are your priority. In case you can’t get together for dinner because of other commitments, then you at least have had this meal together.
If you can’t pick up or meet your child at lunchtime, then arrange to place a call. It’s reassuring for a child to hear from a parent during the day. A brief check-in will be rewarding for both of you.
In the evening, designate a quality time—especially at dinner. A little extra time with your children now will prove enormously beneficial as they grow.
"If I could wave a magic wand, I would make sure that every child in America had dinner with his or her parents at least five times a week. Dinner serves as an ideal time to strengthen the quality of family relationships and helps kids grow up healthy and drug-free," said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Founder and Chairman Emeritus of CASAColumbia and former US Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.
Instead of letting the TV, YouTube, or computer games fill up the evening, plan pre-bedtime family activities. Even if you have to catch up on work, keep your family members somewhat engaged and nearby.
Other Work-Life Balancing Techniques
Bring your children to the office if and when you can, and let them see their photos or their creative work on your desk. This lets them know that they are in your mind and heart. It helps them to understand, that you think of them often—and they will also feel a part of what you do. Make their special day an adventure.
Work-life balance for anyone means having great time-management skills. If you allow your workday to drag on, you’re stealing precious leisure and family time. Here are six additional tips.
Work-life balance for anyone means having great time-management skills. If you allow your workday to drag on, you’re stealing precious leisure and family time. Here are additional tips:
Know your manager's schedule.
Maximize the amount of meeting time with your boss; be strategic and work closely with him or her to achieve the proper proportion of time and information they need to feel connected.
Know when to make calls and when to do administrative work.
You want to optimize your time at work so that you are accomplishing the tasks that add value and further your career over trivialities and busywork.
Schedule family vacations to minimize work disruption.
You will want to schedule vacation time when people aren’t going to be around. Offer a countdown to vacation time so you keep both your manager and team clearly informed of the time period during which you will be out of the office.
If you telecommute, ensure that your tech tools are state-of-the-art.
Make sure you can video conference with ease and that you are reachable via text message, smartphone, and email.
Draw a clear line between your personal and work time.
Set clear expectations with your manager and coworkers about when you are available for work discussions, how late in the day you'll respond to email and any other interaction that has an effect on your work-life balance.
If you’re an overachiever, consider cutting back
If you are an overachiever at work the chances are that you have set unrealistic goals for your accomplishments. You will want to switch to making realistic goals, so you feel as if you’ve succeeded.
When You’re the Boss
If you’re a manager, and you tend to be an overachiever, encourage your staff to take breaks—even if you don’t. (You really should, though.)
Make sure that you aren’t holding back the reigns when it comes to your employees' work-life balance. Learning to let go will pay dividends in building a dedicated, motivated staff.
The Bottom Line
Achieving a comfortable work-life balance as a parent doesn’t just happen randomly anymore than does a great career. It takes strategy and thought. You can make work-life balance a labor of love—after all, it is about love.