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Achieving a healthy work-life balance

(As published by My Family Care Vouchers - an online parenting site for users of the market leading childcare voucher scheme.)

Life as a working parent can be tough. Whether you are working purely for financial reasons, to keep your foot on the career ladder, or maybe because you feel isolated and unfulfilled being a full-time mum (or dad), chances are at some point you will feel guilty that you have chosen your job over staying at home with your children. But whatever your reasons for working, it is possible to be a successful employee and a great parent too as long as you manage to get the work-life balance right.

Work-life balance is a popular concept usually used to describe a working pattern which gives employees the opportunity to fulfil their obligations and interests outside work, such as family, friends, hobbies, etc and which recognises the importance of time spent on non-work related activities. A perfect balance between work and homelife is something all working parents aim for, but in reality most parents feel constantly under pressure as they strive to meet targets at work, whilst at the same time trying to be the perfect parent at home, with endless enthusiasm and energy to have fun with the kids, and a tidy house and full fridge to boot!

If you struggle to achieve that elusive work-life balance, you are not alone. With longer working hours than ever before, and mobile technology meaning it can be hard to leave work behind when you leave the office, it is even more difficult for the 21 st century working parent to juggle work and home life. However, it is well documented that people work best when they are not overstretched trying to balance work and family life, and an unhealthy work- life balance can lead to stress, increased errors at work, anxiety, fatigue, depression, relationship problems and ultimately time off work if things are left unchecked for too long.

Read on for ten ways you can improve your work-life balance.

Improving your work-life balance

  1. Think about good ‘time management’. Start by taking a few minutes each day simply to plan and organise your time and work out what you need to achieve that day. You will feel more in control.

  2. Share the household workload with your partner and other family members, it should not be the responsibility of one person. Create a ‘chore chart’ and make sure everyone pulls their weight.

  3. Accept help from friends when it’s offered. Think about creating a rota with other working parents for pick-ups and drop-offs to school/clubs, etc to give you that bit of extra time.

  4. Talk to your children about your work, help them to understand what you do and why you are proud of your achievements. It helps if the children view your job in a positive way and can talk to you about it.

  5. Learn to say ‘no’ at work, you do not have to volunteer for everything!

  6. Ask your employer for a flexible working arrangement – eg spending some of the time working from home, working flexi hours, working less in school holidays. All parents of under 16s are entitled to request this.

  7. Try and think positively! Focus on the time you are with your children, rather than the hours you are away at work. Equally, when at work, focus on what you have achieved, rather than what is left to do.

  8. Reduce your stress levels by taking time out to relax with exercise, time with friends, hobbies, etc. Fun and relaxation are an essential part of a well-balanced life!

  9. Look after yourself by eating as healthily as you can and getting enough sleep. A healthy diet and plenty of rest will make you feel more able to cope with the day ahead.

  10. Finally, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to a healthy work-life balance, so pay attention to your own family’s needs, and don’t compare yourself to others!

Article published on MyFamilyCareVouchers.co.uk (Subscribers Only Parenting Site), June 2010

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