Too often, work-life balance is positioned as the balance of two different and separate worlds – opposite ends of a seesaw, where increasing one must decrease the other. What if we instead invited these worlds to interact and overlap? Here are three strategies for connecting our worlds, and the benefits of doing so.
Keep family pictures at work and exchange stories that support empathy. Not everyone talks about family at work, but displaying family pictures or your children’s art can invite the conversation. In turn, if you see another person’s family photos or art, ask about them. (You can generally assume that openly displayed photos are an invitation to ask.) Why do this? Exchanging family stories builds personal connections at work. This enhances work relationships, and increases understanding and empathy when a colleague needs flexibility for family events.
Invite your family to work. Occasionally bringing a partner, child or parents, to work helps them visualize the world you live in when you are not in theirs. This can invite curiosity and decrease resentment when late nights happen, because it removes the mystery of what you are doing, and encourages positive imagery of your workplace. Introducing your family to work colleagues reminds both your family and your colleagues of each other’s importance in your life – again increasing empathy when you need to leave early or stay late.
Selectively share work problems at home. Many articles focus on the importance of putting away your computer or mobile device while at home, however, sometimes that’s just not realistic. When you need to work at home, consider integrating it into the family experience. Take a single work problem, and reframe it as a math word problem for your child (thus creating a space to work side-by-side with your child) or if you must work late, talk with your partner about doing it in a way that supports connection and minimizes disruption. Sharing what you are working on and why it is important (while protecting any sensitive business information) helps communicate the value of your work to others, and reminds others of the importance of the work you do.
These three strategies are designed to support work-life balance by integrating the worlds together – increasing understanding, connection and empathy on both sides.