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The art of balance: Family vs. work or family & work?

The idea of “balance” is an increasingly present theme in our daily lives. Why? Because we realize that balance is crucial for our well-being, satisfaction and happiness.

How many times have you said or heard “I have to do x but because of work/family I couldn’t do ?” or “Am I always going from one side to the other trying to fulfill all my obligations?”.

We need to understand that work and family are two interdependent spheres: effective performance in both requires time, energy and involvement.

In recent years, there have been several societal changes (e.g., increase in single-parent families or dual-career couples) and in the world of work (e.g., globalization of the economy, intensification of the “pace” of work), which may influence the balance between work and other spheres of the individual's life, such as the family. Until recently, private life was seen as something that did not interfere with work and the relationship between the two spheres rarely entered our discourse.

Currently, individuals who develop a career face two major types of tensions: those existing between career and family and those caused by the differences between the experiences lived by men and women. With regard to the first aspect, people are finding it increasingly difficult to find the time and energy to carry out the various commitments they have with work and family.

In general, the work-family conflict, as a source of mental and physical stress, has been identified as generating negative consequences, ranging from increased health risks for working parents, reduced performance of parental roles, decreased productivity, slowness, absenteeism, decreased motivation, personal and professional dissatisfaction, depression and physical health problems.

However, when work is experienced positively, positive effects can emerge in the family, and vice versa, that is, work and family can function as sources of meaning and identity through which men and women balance their commitments.

A good work-family balance has numerous positive effects, including less stress, less likelihood of burnout and a greater sense of well-being. So how can we create a good work-family balance?

  • Accept that there is no such thing as a perfect balance: don't strive to have the perfect schedule; strive to have a realistic schedule. Some days you can focus more on work, while other days you can have more time and energy to pursue your hobbies or spend time with your loved ones. Balance is achieved over time, not every day.

  • Find a job you enjoy: while work is an expected social norm, your career shouldn't be restrictive. If you don't like what you do, then you are unlikely to feel happy or balanced. It's unrealistic to enjoy every aspect of your job, but it needs to be exciting enough that you're not afraid to get out of bed every morning.

  • Prioritize your health: your overall physical, emotional and mental health should be your main concern. If you are going through a period of heightened anxiety or symptoms that disrupt your normal functioning and you feel that therapy would benefit you, fit these sessions into your schedule, even if you have to leave work early. If you're going through some kind of physical illness, don't be afraid to call in sick on the hard days. Working too hard prevents you from improving.

  • Don't be afraid to disconnect: cutting ties with the outside world from time to time allows us to recover from the weekly stress and gives us space for other thoughts and ideas to emerge.

  • Take a vacation: sometimes, truly disconnecting means taking a vacation and completely disconnecting from work for a while. Whether your vacation consists of a one-day stay or a two-week trip somewhere, it's important to take time to recharge physically and mentally.

  • Make time for yourself and your loved ones: while your work is important, it shouldn't be your life exclusively. Prioritize activities or hobbies that make you happy. Also try to plan time with your loved ones, create a calendar for romantic and family get-togethers. It may seem strange to plan a one-on-one date with someone you live with, but doing so will ensure that you spend quality time with them, with no conflicts between work and personal life.

  • Set limits and work schedules: set limits for yourself and your colleagues to avoid burnout. When leaving the office, avoid thinking about future projects or answering company emails. Consider having a separate computer or phone for work. If this is not possible, use separate browsers, emails or filters for your work and personal platforms.

  • Set goals and priorities (and stick to them!): set achievable goals by implementing time management strategies, reviewing your to-do list, and eliminating tasks that have little or no value. Also pay attention to the times when you are most productive at work and reserve that free time for more important work-related activities. Structuring your day can increase productivity at work, which can result in more free time to relax outside of work.

Don't forget, balance is something very personal and only you can figure out which lifestyle best suits you and your needs.

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