EXPERT TIPS: Balancing Work & Family

Balancing family & work has always been hard. 

With 2/3 of American families headed by single parents or by two working parents, juggling family & work has never been easy, especially in DC’s intense 24/7 work culture. Those who work longer hours are paid disproportionately more, and employers expect workers to be available on-demand. This has never been compatible with parenthood, according to the New York Times.

And we are are often discouraged– and sometimes penalized– when we ask for more work flexibility, according to the Harvard Business Review. Research shows this stress is often born largely by women

It’s so much harder now

You know it.

Your kids know it.

And your colleagues & bosses can’t ignore it.

In ZOOM meetings and on site at workplaces across DC, the messy realities of family life are increasingly on display to peers and bosses. Parenting has long been viewed as a ‘private matter, one that should not interfere with job responsibilities.” But social distancing has made it “impossible to hide what has always been true: Raising children is a round-the-clock responsibility.”

The challenges are different depending on whether you’re working inside or outside the home. It is especially hard for low-wage workers, who may have less job security and flexibility, and for workers who risk exposure to COVID. This pandemic has “exposed uncomfortable truths about working families“:

  • 1) parenting is not confined to after-work hours.
  • 2) raising kids isn’t a lifestyle choice like a hobby
  • 3) working parents can’t do it alone.

Expert Tips for Managing Work and Family 

The OCC is compiling expert advice and links to that we hope may help. We recommend these article from Harvard Business ReviewVox and UNICEF and Marketplace. This article from the New York Times is also excellent.

Key points

  • Figure out your optimal schedule, working hours, availability, and how much you think you can realistically get done in the coming days.
  • Meet with your spouse, partner or other adult who lives with you. Compare weekly schedules, figure out which meetings & projects simply cannot be moved and which can be. Perhaps work in shifts. 
  • Consider scheduling a video call with your boss. Present your boss with options, “something to respond to and edit.” These days, unconventional and flexible working hours or project planning may be necessary. Employers may be more open to flexible working arrangements.
  • Ditch the perfectionism. You will be less productive. Try to be “exceedingly and radically realistic” with yourself. Maybe set a maximum of 5 goals for the day: things you need to accomplish at work; things you want your kids to accomplish, a one or two valued and fun family activities.
  • Create new rules or “personal policies” to help you manage work-life balance.  According to growing research, these personal policies can help us “streamline our thinking so that we don’t waste valuable mental energy making the same decisions over and over again.” (e.g., “Fighting with your spouse about the messy kitchen? Make a policy that you don’t comment on housework during work hours no matter how messy it gets.”
  • Create daily ritualsResearch finds that everyday rituals, such as 45 minutes of family physical activity after lunch can redice stress and increase productivity.

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