Work-life balance is one of those terms that gets thrown around these days - but what does it really mean & how 'healthy' is your balance?
If you are a ‘visual’ kind of Man, the term ‘work-life balance’ will conjure up an image - perhaps a set of scales with ‘work’ on one side and ‘life’ on the other (possibly tipping precariously over the edge!), or perhaps you have an image of walking a ‘tightrope’ - the perfect line between work & home, or a ‘clock’ - precious time ticking away, should you spend it at home or at work...?
You will no doubt have heard the saying ‘no-one ever wished on their deathbed that they had spent more time at work’ - but the reality of today’s world means that Men are often pressured to do just that - and, truth be told, sometimes would rather be at work than at home!
On a blank sheet of paper, draw a picture of yourself in the middle of the page. (Stick man will do, don’t stress over it.) Next draw a line down the middle (effectively split yourself in half). On one side write ‘home’ at the top of the page, and on the other side write ‘work’. Now list all the things you really like about home/work under each heading. Finally, list all the things you don’t like about home/work.
Which list stands out: Do you work to live, or live to work?
Do you prefer being at work more than at home?
Is there anything you could do to improve home-life or are you prepared to accept things as they are?
What are the issues at home? Talk to your wife/partner or a friend & discuss what could be changed along with what has to be accepted.
Do you prefer being at home more than at work?
Is it time to look for a new job/change in career?
Are you able to put up with a ‘less-than-perfect’ job when balanced with a great home life?
To check out the balance in your life, try the following exercise:
- Write a list of all the different parts of your life (choose 8) - everyone will have different things, but some suggestions are: work (you may have more than one job, list them separately); wife/partner; children; health - physical, mental, spiritual; house/diy; sleep; sex; relaxation; family; church; education; career-development; travel; voluntary work; friends etc.
- Write each of the items from your list onto the ‘spokes’ of a wheel.
- Next, make a cross along each spoke which relates to how much time & energy you currently invest in each part of your life e.g. on the work spoke, you may feel you are investing a lot of time & energy so may make a cross on number ‘9’, likewise you may feel you are not investing much time on a spoke marked ‘exercise’ so you may make a cross on number ‘2’. Match up all the crosses to create a ‘star pattern’.
- Finally, using a different coloured pen, go around the chart again, this time marking up how much you would like to invest in that part of your life. Again, match the crosses to create a ‘star’.
The second colour shows how you would like your life-balance to look, the first colour shows the reality. How close to your ‘ideal’ balance are you - what can you do to adjust those areas that are out of balance?
- Try working out what your priorities in life are - what really matters to you?
- Make time for the things that really matter.
- Stand back from the problems & look at where you want to end up - what can you do to get there?
- Talk to your partner/friends about how you are feeling.
- Consider different working options.
Think outside the box - do all men have to work a standard 9-5.30, Monday-Friday, 40-hour week? Different options may be available at your current workplace, or it may be up to you to suggest something new. On the whole, employers want to have ‘happy’ employees (they produce better results!) so if you are not happy with your current work-life balance it is in their best interest to find a better way of working. Sell your idea as a ‘win-win’ scenario i.e. a happy & well-balanced employee is more motivated and energised to produce the goods for the employer. Every one wins.
All parents with childcare responsibilities have a right to request flexible working arrangements to help them care for children under the age of six. Employers must take your request seriously and try to find a solution.
Flexitime - usually involves a ‘core time’ (e.g. 10am-4pm) when everyone is expected to be at work plus a ‘flexible time’ when employees can choose how to make up their working hours. As a Dad, you then have the option of taking children to school, attending after school football clubs, taking your children to the dentist...
Compressed workweek - involves compressing a 40-hour week into less than five days e.g. working four 10-hour days. This would give you a three-day weekend, one extra day a week where you can hang out with your kids, meet them from school, do some DIY, get fit...
Annual hours - the total hours for a given year are agreed, but the working pattern required to achieve these hours can be flexible. This option would require quite some organising, but would allow you to work more when the children are not around (school terms) and take more time off during the school holidays.
Home/remote working - in this modern Internet age it is entirely feasible to work many jobs from home. You do need to be disciplined & to think about whether you can work in an environment with a two year old in the background but it can be done!
Part-time work / Job-sharing - have you considered reducing your hours? Perhaps sharing income generation with your partner & each looking after the children whilst the other is working?
If you are an employee (not self-employed), you have a statutory right to paid paternity leave. To be eligible for paternity leave you must:
- Have or expect to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing,
- Be the biological father of the child or the mother’s husband, civil partner or partner,
- Have worked continuously for their employer for 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the baby is due and
- Still be employed by the employer on the day the child is born.
For full details of your paternity rights, and how to apply for paternity leave see: www.workingfamilies.org.uk or call their helpline on 0800 013 0313 for free legal advice & support for working parents.
You can also find information relating to taking time off for emergencies (find out what you are entitled to before your child breaks their arm at school), along with parental leave rights and rights of parents with disabled children.