Finding work-life balance seems to be one of the hardest challenges for business leaders and executives, and dare I say it, those who are female in particular. This is confirmed in the latest OECD report ‘How’s Life’ where Australia rated above average in all but one of the 11 life dimensions studied, all but work-life balance. Why are women doing it a little tougher? The report also showed that Australian men dedicate only 28 hours of their week to domestic responsibilities versus the 32 hours spent by women. And women are often the main care providers of children also. No wonder we struggle more in this area.
The knife edge balancing act between your needs at work and those at home can often clash, and this is where careful prioritising is required.
‘Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.’
– Robert Fulgham
Women are often their own worst enemies in relation to their expectations of what is ‘their job’ plus we tend to think that we are the only person capable of getting things done to the right standard. However when we have conflicting priorities and insufficient time, our outputs often lose quality leading to more pressure, stress and dissatisfaction. It’s a vicious circle.
One of the simplest solutions is delegation. Assess if it is really necessary that you complete all work, family or domestic tasks personally and whether a better outcome is achieved by removing the most stretched person from the equation altogether.
You work hard and your time is valuable. Will it make any real difference and will anyone notice if you outsource some of the domestic duties at home, if you haven’t done so already?
Consider the strengths and commitment of the team you work with in your professional life. You recruited them for their skills, experience and qualifications and saw potential in them; leverage these things! Do you have responsibilities or tasks you could use as learning opportunities for junior members of your staff? You don’t have to research every report, attend every event or run every session in every seminar, and you may be doing your team as well as yourself a disservice, by not calling on them to step up.
Only you can decide what is more important when it comes to conflicting priorities between work and home. A seriously ill child on a regular work day may take priority but a child with a bad cold on a day involving important meetings or other commitments might be just as well be looked after by an extended family member. A trip to the park might be a higher priority on an ordinary afternoon but if the following day includes a presentation that requires final preparation, that may take precedence. Decide the significance of each situation and take appropriate action, and communicate the process to the people around you so that they better understand why you can’t always be available.
Create a family calendar that includes important dates and priorities of all parties and include some of those important work dates as well as family commitments that cannot be moved. You not only set expectations, you also set an excellent example to your children about what being a successful working woman and team member is all about.
Revise the calendar as needed and make sure you keep the lines of communication open, and most importantly don’t be afraid to say no sometimes.
‘Problems arise in that one has to find balance between what people need from you and what you need for yourself.’
– Jessye Norman