Taking steps to balance work and family
|Sometimes it's hard not to think about family at work, especially when there are problems at home or things aren't quite right with the kids. Employers can help a lot by having flexible plans in place.|
Whether they're logging extra hours in the office or taking work home with them, many professionals today work hard so they can better provide for their families.
Parents often say, "I want my children to have things I didn't have growing up." While such a thought process is both natural and admirable, it's also somewhat of a catch-22. The more parents work to provide for their families, the more they tend to deprive their children of what they need most: time with their folks.
Of course, the fact such a dilemma exists comes as no surprise to working parents, who struggle each day to let their kids know they come first and work second. Adding to the struggle is that, unlike previous generations, more of today's children are growing up with both parents working, further straining the balance between work and family.
With both parents having commitments outside the household, meshing two adult schedules with the schedule of a child (or children) is harder than ever before. But just like families must work together within themselves to ensure they spend quality time with one another, parents and their employers need to take steps to maintain a healthy balance between work and family.
Here are some ideas on how to manage the dilemma.
Ask for or institute family-friendly benefits or policies. Recognizing the needs of their workforce, many companies, particularly larger ones, have begun to institute policies such as flexible schedules, work-from-home opportunities and on-site daycare, among others. These are a great way for an employer to let staff know their needs away from the office are a concern, too. Employers without such benefits should consider them, while employees should open a dialogue with their employer as to the likelihood of implementing such policies.
The benefits of such policies are abundant for all parties involved. Employers will notice workers who are less stressed and less prone to fatigue. In addition, companies that provide such benefits tend to attract better candidates for job openings. For parents, such benefits help lessen some of the daily load, while provide more time to spend with the kids.
Don't let go of your values. Again, this can apply to both employees and employers. Employees need to keep in mind that while it's nice to give kids something you might not have had, it's nicer yet to spend time with them. Ultimately, making it to all of your kids soccer games or piano recitals will mean more to your child than another video game.
For employers, especially those with small businesses, it's often best to reflect on why you started your own business. More often than not, one of the main reasons small business owners set out on their own is to leave behind a world where their time was becoming less and less their own. Small business owners or even managers in large corporations should remember a parent's first responsibility is to his or her children, not his employer. Encourage such a thought process and do what you can to make meeting the needs of family easier for your employees.
Become more efficient. While it's perfectly normal and healthy to take breaks throughout the workday, limit the time you spend around the water cooler or getting a cup of coffee. In the long run, distractions or extended breaks only extend the time it takes to do your job, which in turn limits your ability to leave the office on time and get home and see your family.
Employers, as well, can take steps to increase efficiency. Make sure technical problems are addressed in a timely fashion and keep machines such as computers, printers and fax machines as up-to-date as possible. Other perks, such as keeping the office coffee pot full throughout the day, will encourage breaks but minimize the time spent taking them.
Recognize balance is a work in progress. While it's great to get a week where you get your work done and get to spend ample time with your family, recognize that the next week won't necessarily go as smoothly. Rather, balancing work and family is often a full-time job in and of itself, one that needs to be worked on each and every week. If you find one week where your office workload is abnormally light, try and get ahead on other projects that you know are coming up. Getting a head start, even a small one, will pay dividends for you and your family down the road.
Employers, as well, should recognize that not all weeks are going to be demanding for their employees. Use the slow weeks as a chance to show your appreciation to your employees by letting them leave early here and there or even take a personal day off the books. Of course all such moves must be done fairly and consistently with every employee, otherwise problems can arise.
Such loyalty will be appreciated and remembered by employees when the more hectic weeks return.