Balancing our work and home life can be a real challenge, maybe even more so now in this post-pandemic world where many of us are working from home either on a full-time or hybrid basis. The once distinct lines between our work and home environments have become increasingly blurred and it can be difficult to know where one ends and one begins. The elusive “work-life balance” that we constantly hear about can be genuinely hard to achieve. So much so, that a “Work-Life Balance Provisions Bill 2022” bill was passed as recently as December 2022 by Dáil Éireann. The purpose of the Bill, currently before the Oireachtas, is to amend the Parental Leave Act 1998 to entitle employees to request flexible working arrangements for caring purposes, amongst other things.
Following on from our ‘Returning to Work Blog’ last year, we spoke to our Aspira colleagues about their own situations in this regard, and to give us their key tips for overcoming these challenges. Here’s what they said!
Set Yourself up for Success
In March 2020 many office-based workers found themselves suddenly thrust into working from home. Many of us set ourselves up at the kitchen table, blissfully unaware that almost three years on the majority of us would still, to varying extents, be working from home. While some of us have returned to our normal workplace, many are still working from home on a more permanent basis so it is important recognise this and establish a dedicated and suitable workspace.
When we started working from home my main challenge initially was physically separating my work and home life as I had set up an office at the kitchen table and the lines between both became very blurred. I learned…! I now have a dedicated room to work from, my office. Once I go through that door in the morning I’m in ‘work mode’ and each evening I take my work hat off, close the office door, and (in theory) that’s it for the day!
Noreen Quinn, HR Business Partner
Trying to maintain a work-life balance has always been a challenge. Now in a time of hybrid and fully remote working models, it has become even more difficult. Now more than ever, it is crucial for employees to understand and implement the personal boundaries necessary for them to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
I have a 1½ year old home and, as parents of young children will know, small children demand lots of attention and need quality time with parents. Parental involvement is crucial at this development stage. When our work requires us to do long hours and evenings and we don’t have time to spend with a child, they can feel we are stressed/busy and it affects the whole family. Long working hours and lack of balance can seriously affect quality family time.
My tips would be to find out what options for life-work balance are support your company and utilise the flexibility available. It’s a good idea to set boundaries with your work colleagues around how available you can be outside working hours, whether it be checking and responding to emails or answering phone calls. When working from home it is useful to have clear start and finish times – or even to have blocked out parts of the day for work, rather than constantly being on your laptop/mobile.
Marta Borkowska, Head of Training and Mum of One
My challenges are that I travel for work to Cork from Moira in Northern Ireland and I am away from my family 2 nights a week. I come down on Tuesday and back very late Thursday night. So it’s tough. It’s tough for my family as well. So, when I am home I try to pack as much into the time we have.
I’ve 2 kids so I try to spend quality time with them separately. I make sure myself and my wife make time for us as well. I also try to get some downtime with my business coach once a month. I also like to climb mountains when I get the chance. It’s a juggling match all the time and has its challenges. I think I’ve found the perfect balance that keeps me and everyone happy.
Ian Christie, Project Manager at Apple and Parent of Two
Learn to Disconnect
Being ‘always on’ isn’t good for us mentally or physically and studies have shown that rest and downtime are equally as important for our brains as they are for our bodies. We all need to learn to work smarter, not harder, and disconnecting from our work devices outside our working hours can play a significant role in this.
I sometimes find it difficult to step away from my laptop at the end of the workday. When you work from home so easy to let work spill over into personal time. It’s almost harder when there is no homework/afterschool activities tying you to a hard stop.
Find something you love outside of work to engage in and plan to do it earlier in the evening to encourage you to log off. Or make plans with your family for the evening, even just to walk to the dog, and log off and leave the house.
Louise Sweeny, Account Manager and Parent of Teenagers
With all the technology now available to us, more and more we are finding ourselves to be ‘aways on’……replying to MS Teams instant messages while cooking dinner or answering work emails on the phone (covertly from my husband!) while watching Netflix late in the evening. My advice on this would be to try avoid contacting colleagues outside working hours about work matters unless really necessary and to encourage your team to switch off and leave their laptops and work phones at home when they go on holiday.
Emma Daly, Head of Business Resourcing and Mum of One
Achieving a true work-life balance can sometimes feel like an impossible task. Striving to be fully present both at work and at home 100% of the time can be very challenging to achieve. Rather than focusing your efforts on balancing your work and home life, try to learn how to integrate them.
I sometimes find it difficult to re-focus when moving from one area to another. For example, when I’m with kids doing homework I may not be focusing on work – but I may have the feeling of being a little wired when I feel like I should probably be more present.
I try to deliberately separate myself from the higher energy I feel when working and try to meditate, walk or do some yoga to smooth the transition into my family or social life. A little bit of “me time” essentially.
CSR Manager and Parent of 2 Young Children
No Such Thing as Perfection
Maintaining a work-life balance is not only important for our overall well-being, but it also improves both our working and personal relationships. However, putting ourselves under pressure to achieve the perfect balance – (hint: it doesn’t exist!) – can be counterproductive. Instead, strive to integrate your personal and professional lives in a way that fulfills your needs and enables you to thrive in both.