searching for work/life balance
Work/life balance is on the minds of many working people. Whether you are raising children, furthering your education, pursuing a hobby, or taking care of an elderly relative, balance is something that we constantly strive to achieve. Sometimes the issue isn't so much the balancing of these things, rather the ability to reduce the amount of conflict among them that is key.
Work/family conflict can be described in three categories: time-based, strain-based, and behavior-based (Greenhaus and Beutell, 1985). You've probably experienced one or more of these types of work/family conflict at one time or another.
- Time-based conflict occurs when there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done.
For example: Joe is pursing a degree in business to enhance his potential for advancement at work, and for his personal satisfaction. He has an exam tonight that he was going to study for after work, but now he has to work late. Since he's been feeling so stressed, he'd like to fit in some exercise after the exam, but the lawn needs to be mowed.
- Strain-based conflict occurs when the worries of one area of your life spill into another. It is not unusual to be preoccupied with the obligations of work while you're at home, and vice versa.
For example: Sarah has missed some work lately due to her mother's move from a home to an assisted living facility. Now that she's back to work she finds herself constantly worrying about her mom, and is unable to concentrate on her work. When she is with her mom, she finds herself thinking about the work that has gone undone, and cannot give her mom her full attention.
- Role-behavior conflict occurs when your interactions at work are inconsistent with your interactions at home.
For example: Barbara is the manager of a large department at the medical center. She is extremely busy and prides herself on her efficiency and subsequently high customer service scores. In order to maintain this level of service, Barbara is very directive and strictly professional in her communications with her staff. At home, as the mother of 3 young children, she sometimes finds it difficult to slow down and soften up for her kids.
These scenarios may sound familiar to you. Keep in mind that you likely won't be able to eliminate work/family conflict, but you can reduce it. Here are some tips:
- Prioritize. Learn some time management strategies.
- Outsource. Order out dinner once a week; hire a neighborhood kid to cut your lawn;
- Ask for help. Split household tasks with a partner, roommate or spouse; share childcare responsibilities with other parents.
- Evaluate your current situation to see if you can make changes. Can you negotiate a flexible schedule at work? Can you take a semester off of school?
Remember that the issues of work/life balance or work/life conflict ebb and flow. Recognize that, even if this is a difficult time, it’s likely to be time-limited. Children grow up, degrees are completed, and elder care issues stabilize.
To assist you in the ongoing search for work/life balance, take advantage of the resources available through the Work/Life Resource Center.
Adapted from an article by Valerie Palazzolo, Work/Life Resource Center