Preserving Work-Life Balance
How is your work-lifestyle balance linked to conversation?
The connection between them may not be an obvious one. However, let’s imagine that you are poor at saying ‘no’ to people’s requests, meaning that you take on more than you can deliver. Something has to give, and you steal time from your home life to keep up with the demands of work. In the short term, the cost of this strategy may be invisible and inconsequential, but in the long run we have to pay a price for it.
There are ways in which you can address the situation through more effective conversation. For example:
1. Say ‘No’.
One part of the solution is to improve your ability to decline requests or negotiate the terms of what you commit to. When a request is made of you, perhaps you can challenge the date that it’s required by, or the specification of what’s needed. This can be a sign of strength rather than weakness, and you may have more room to say no than you think. The people who are often the best at managing their work-life balance have no compunction about negotiating the terms of their commitments.
2. Agree expectations.
When tensions arise around work spilling into your home life, it can often be traced back to not agreeing your expectations of each other at the outset. In both a home or work context, it’s important to have an ‘expectations exchange’. This involves communicating what you need from each together and it’s vital for it to be an explicit conversation rather than an assumed one. While it may feel more suited to the boardroom than the kitchen, it helps you iron out differences before they result in disappointments and flare-up’s.
If you have this conversation successfully, you end up with clear agreements. They don’t have to be written down on parchment with a royal seal, but you need to be able to review them from time to time. This is vital, because circumstances can change. After all, I may be quite happy for you to do your emails in the evenings under normal circumstances, but if I’m feeling stressed and need emotional support then I might feel differently.
3. Stay in communication.
For all of us, unexpected issues crop up. Again, this is where communication is vitally important. Sometimes you may need to reset the expectations of your partner or family members and say, ‘Sorry, I simply have to get this done’. If it’s not a regular occurrence, you’re more likely to get their support. If it’s the 3rd time this week, and you keep promising that it won’t happen again, you may not get much sympathy.
In summary, there is no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to work-lifestyle balance. For some people, it’s understood that they spend half an hour every morning replying to emails while on holiday. For others, this situation would cause catastrophic rows. If you work in the armed forces, or run a school and only get downtime in the holidays, then your circumstances will strongly determine the form of your work-lifestyle balance.
The point is that we need to jointly establish what works for own circumstances and family members, and then keep in communication about how it’s going. What’s undeniable is that the line between home and work is getting increasingly blurred because our emails are only an arm’s length away and more of us are working flexible hours or from home. As a result, it’s more important than ever to discuss and review what this means for our relationships.