There may never be a clear winner when it comes to prioritising work and family, but there are steps you can take to make it easier to get home on time. Find out how to get a better balance without harming your career.
Let’s face it, balancing work and family life has traditionally been seen as a woman’s problem. Yet research shows this is no longer the case. Since 1977, the percentage of men experiencing conflict between their personal and professional lives has nearly doubled. So how can dads stand up for their parental rights and stop working long hours without losing credibility in the office?
Dads have rights too!
Just like women, men are legally entitled to support in the first few years of their child’s life.
Until your child is five years old, dads can request up to 13 weeks of unpaid parental leave. You also qualify for exactly the same opportunities as mothers when it comes to flexible working – this can include homeworking, compressed hours and even job shares.
Allow your life to change
If you tell yourself life should carry on exactly as before once you’ve had a child, then the chances are things will become pretty stressful!
Consider how you can best meet your professional targets and become a hands-on parent.
Go to your boss or HR manager with suggestions for making the most of your time. Remember – if you don’t question your right to a healthy family and professional life, then no one else will.
What to do when commitments clash
Naturally, as a working parent, there will be moments when the needs of home and work clash.
So what do you say to your boss if he or she decides to hold a meeting at 5.30pm? Or if you’re suddenly expected to travel overnight for work?
If it goes against a macho culture at your workplace to say you have childcare commitments – and you’re not brave enough to be honest – simply say that you can’t make it or have a prior appointment.
Why not offer to organise a meeting at another time yourself? It’s doubtful your boss really wants to be in the office in the evening either.
Working parents can be subject to discrimination. So if your employer makes it practically difficult for you to take part in certain projects due to your personal commitments, make this problem known to Human Resources.
Often an open discussion will put problems right. Or you can contact Acas to find out whether you are being legally discriminated against, and need to make an official discrimination complaint.
Get organised to leave on time
Develop better working habits, such as only checking emails at set times each day, to help you maximise your efficiency.
Set an alarm on your phone or watch around 20 minutes before you want to leave work to remind you to finish up.
Learn how to prioritise work and don’t be afraid to leave things until the following day.
Spread the word and make a change!
You know the phrase ‘a problem shared’? Well, if yours isn’t a family-friendly workplace, make it so.
Family-friendly working practices can help a company improve productivity and retain personnel. So if there are other parents working in your office, consider chatting to them about their experiences.
You might find that together you can come up with some strategies that would be easy to implement and benefit both the employer and employees.
Failing that, it could be time to look for a new job.