Across the City: Achieving a better work/life balance

Across the City: Achieving a better work/life balance

How can parents and professionals in the City successfully pursue their careers without sacrificing a meaningful home life?  And what can employers do to foster a more positive and sustainable experience of work across the City?

Over 90 Cityparents members discussed these questions at our recent Cityparents Accelerator Day conference.  Here are some recurring themes that emerged from the conversations.

Tips for parents and professionals

Role models matter’.  Real, authentic, honest role models send strong signals within an organisation that a flexible, balanced approach to working is possible.  Don’t be afraid to lead the way and be a role model yourself, but be prepared for some difficult conversations or pressures if you’re breaking the mould and working differently to accepted practices.

Small changes can have a big impact’.  From the language you use to the tone of your voice, small changes to the way you communicate at work can dramatically alter how others perceive you and respond to your input.  If you want to achieve more influence in the workplace or simply a particular outcome at an upcoming initiative or meeting, look objectively at your usual style of interaction and try doing one or two specific things differently.

Apply your workplace skills in your home life’.   Whether it’s to do with organising tasks, planning ahead, seeking commitment from others, think about the skills and lessons you’ve learnt at work and how you can make better use of these in managing the many demands of a home/family life.

 ‘Be mindful and attentive to your mindset’.  It takes time and practice, but try using mindfulness techniques to focus on work matters when you’re at work, and on home matters when you’re at home.  It’ll help you compartmentalize more and concentrate better if you’re not constantly battling intrusions from one aspect of your daily life into another.  Pay attention to how you’re mentally responding to a work or home life situation and whether you’re falling into any unconscious habits, assumptions or thought patterns that may be unhelpful or add to a sense of stress.

Find ways to keep in touch’.  Find creative ways to show your partner and family that you are present in your home life, even when you’re not physically there.  From notes left in school bags or lunchboxes to soft toys or a mascot as symbols of love and care, parents can remind their children that they are thinking of them.   And don’t forget to consider the impact of a busy professional career on partners, not just children.

Coping with guilt or difficult challenges’.  Guilt is commonly experienced among working professionals, parents and carers and is seen by many as an inevitable result of the decision (whether through choice or necessity) to engage in an active family/home life and a career.   As one Cityparents conference participant put it: whatever the parenting or career challenge you’re currently facing, “it’s all NORMAL”.  Talking with other colleagues, internal role models or acquaintances in external networks can help reassure you that your experiences are rarely unique and there are ways of managing the guilt or rising to the challenge positively.

Messages back to employers

Flexible working is not a ‘nice to have’’. If employers want to attract and retain the best talent, then it’s absolutely critical to offer genuinely flexible working practices.  Businesses that can crack this successfully will be handsomely rewarded in discretionary effort and loyalty.

Be less fearful of change’.  Businesses need to be brave, take a few small risks and trial new approaches.  Too often they are held back by the fear of setting a precedent or an underinvestment in technology. 

Be clearer about the working arrangements on offer’.  Share existing examples of different working patterns and practices more widely, and articulate clearly what a successful flexible/part-time/agile working arrangement looks like.  Celebrate role models loudly and repeatedly, flag more clearly all job postings where flexible working is an option and provide clearer guidance around measuring performance in terms of outputs and achievements.

Address the gap between ‘say’ and ‘do’.  Many big employers have commendable workplace policies but too often these are often at best re-interpreted or at worst ignored locally.  Hold people accountable for putting these policies into practice successfully and for walking the talk.  At all levels of the organisation, call out unhelpful behaviours and evaluate how successfully leaders and direct managers set and encourage positive examples of workplace policies in practice.

Offer practical support to employees’.  This can be through internal and external networks, mentors and wellbeing guidance, for example.  More formal arrangements for employees to learn and continue practising self-care would be welcomed by City professionals, along with more opportunities to bring a parenting and carer cohort together to exchange experiences and advice.

Finally: ‘Trust us’.  Professionals across the City made a plea to employers to trust them to do the job successfully whilst working flexibly. Too often employers place too much emphasis or value on time spent in the office, and this is compounded by line managers who are not sufficiently adept at managing and supporting flexible workers and teams.   Focus on the outputs that people deliver and help them to find a way of working that works for them.  The business will be rewarded through goodwill, loyalty and discretionary effort over the longer-term.

Category: Cityworks News

Released On 17th Nov 2016

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