Work-life balance has long been considered a strict separation between work and personal life, but the lines between the two have gradually become blurred, attributable to the technology advancements which allow people to be constantly connected and businesses to be active and accessible at all times without boundaries. With the capabilities of modern technology, work-life integration, a concept in which work and life are intertwined, is emerging and is perceived to be the future of the working world. The new reality is that many fields allow employees to work remotely at least one day of the work week. This, coupled with an ever increasing global workplace, has brought change to the traditional nine to five work day.
How can you make integration work for your family? Read these work-life tips for ideas on work-life integration, whether you’re in need of childcare for the first time, returning to work after having a baby, or trying to improve upon your existing routine.
How to Integrate Work and Family Time:
Create a master schedule. With knowledge of your employer’s expectations and regulations, map out a plan that reflects home and work responsibilities, and includes your typical work schedule as well as your family priorities. Periodically evaluate how your plan is meeting your goals as a working parent and make changes as necessary.
Review and adjust. Pick a time each week to look in-depth at the upcoming week or two. Do you have a late meeting on Wednesday? Does your child have a special event at their childcare Friday morning? What do you need to put in place to make this work for family? By planning in advance, you avoid being surprised by overlapping commitments.
Evaluate where boundaries make sense. Consider drawing a distinction between work and family when needed, especially if you work from home. Depending on your company guidelines, these may, however, be set differently than the typical work block followed by a block of family time. Perhaps you have a client in a different time zone with whom you need to collaborate in the early evening. What do you need to have planned to give you uninterrupted time to focus without distraction? When attending your childcare celebration, what do you need to put in place to participate without concurrently answering emails from the office?
Be present. Multi-tasking is not the answer to integration and neither is switching quickly from one task to another. As a busy parent balancing work and family, the goal is to be fully present in the moment for each aspect of your life. Be sure you have a plan so that your children are actively engaged and supervised when you are working at home. Together with your family, set a signal that lets everyone in the house know when you are not to be interrupted.
On the flip side, set a regular routine to implement when you switch to family activities. Perhaps you pack up your computer and put it out of your sight, change into different clothes, or even verbally recite “I’m stopping work now” as you swap focus.
Take control of technology. Set no tech/phone zones that are appropriate for your family. Turn off alerts to minimize distractions during your designated family time. Technology can be irresistible, but work as a family to stick to the guidelines you set and try to avoid the just one more mindset. The temptation to tune-in looms large. Stick to the plan and guidelines you set as a family.
Strike a Balance Between Work and Family
For many, work schedules are fixed and flexibility is not an option. But no matter what job you hold, the practice of looking at your overall schedule, planning in advance, setting guidelines, and making a conscious mental shift from work to home, or home to work, can free your mind to focus more fully on each arena in your life.
Lastly, don’t forget to make time for yourself in your schedule as well.