We all know that work and life can conflict at times. But, how do we create situations that are more likely to result in work-life balance? Research shows that it’s got a lot to do with the structure of our jobs and the structure of our lives. Luckily, the research on this topic is really robust. This week, I’m breaking down what you’ll need to focus on to decrease how much your job interferes with your life and how much your life interferes with your job. Read my tips below!
Decrease Conflict by Minimizing Stress in Your Job and in Your Life
Ok, I admit that I’m starting with a tip that sounds impossible. We have been studying work and family conflict since the 80s. If it was as easy as snapping your fingers and making things less stressful, we would have done it already. But there are some things you can do to decrease stress that you might not be thinking about.
For example, job stress can come from feeling like you have too much to do. It can also come from feeling like you’re not quite sure where to start. If you feel overwhelmed in your job, you might ask yourself whether or not you can delegate some of your work to others. If you aren’t sure where to start or your job tasks are ambiguous, you might set up some time to talk with your manager. What are the specific behaviors they expect you to complete to get the job done?
Similarly, if you have too much to do at home, think about whether or not you might outsource some tasks that don’t bring you joy. Even if you don’t have the financial means to pay to have your house cleaned or your dog walked, you could try to barter with friends and family. Trading the things that you find stressful with others who find them relaxing (and vice versa) can help to make your life more peaceful. If you are feeling stretched with too many roles (spouse, friend, parent, community member, sibling, etc.), see if you might be able to cut out relationships that are more draining. If that’s not possible, try to decrease the amount of time that you spend with those who are adding to your stress.
Ease Conflict by Gaining Control Over Your Work Schedule
Work commitments are a bit different than life commitments because they usually have more stringent deadlines associated with them. Being able to gain some control over how your work hours are structured can help to make work and life “fit” together. We have talked about the importance of having control over your schedule before.
Are you able to request the ability to work from home a few days a week or even a few days a month? Can you start or leave an hour earlier or later? If you’re not in a job that allows for this kind of flexibility, see if you might be able to use otherwise “dead” time to get life tasks done. If there are pressing things that can get done on breaks or during your lunch hour, taking care of them might alleviate some of the stress you’ll feel at work until they get done. Even negotiating for more vacation days can help you to feel more in control over your schedule.
Get Rid of Unnecessary Stress by Working Out Relationship Conflicts
Not surprisingly, creating a more peaceful home environment can make you feel more balanced. There are many kinds of conflicts that arise in relationships that we have outside of work. Marital conflicts, conflicts with parents or children, and conflicts with friends can cause your home life to intrude upon your work life more frequently. Again, some friendships or relationships are more trouble than they are worth. In these instances, you may think about limiting time spent with those individuals.
On the flip side, if you are having conflict with someone who is truly important to you, it’s a good idea to dedicate some time to thinking through the root cause. This means that you have to be honest with yourself about your role in the conflict and take steps to address how you’re contributing to the problem. You probably also have to sit down with those you are conflicting with. This will give you an opportunity to share your feelings. You can also suggest ways that they might exhibit behaviors that are less likely to result in conflict. This isn’t easy to do. But, interpersonal conflict can be really distracting at work. So, it’s important to address conflicts head on instead of letting them fester.
Delegate Your Conflicts Away by Doing Your Fair Share at Home
Finally, it’s really important that you are good at delegating work at home. It can be easy to take everything on. Sometimes it seems simpler to tackle tasks yourself, compared to trying to show someone else how to do them. However, if you take the time to show your family members how to do something well, you can continue to delegate that task in the future. What chores can your spouse pitch in on more frequently? Can your kids help with some of the daily household duties? Do you have other friends or family members who can help you in a pinch, in exchange for some of your time when you’re feeling less stressed?
While men certainly experience work-life conflicts, women report 50 more minutes spent on housework per day compared to males. That adds up! So, if you are female, this tip may pertain more strongly to you. No matter what your gender though, if you are feeling really stretched, you may want to set aside dedicated time with your family to determine fair roles and responsibilities in the household. Giving up and letting go of tasks that you know you do well can be hard at first. But, the time you’ll get back into your schedule is worth it.
Overall, if you can: 1) try to decrease your work and life stress, 2) get more control over your schedule (even just a little!), 3) tackle interpersonal conflicts constructively, and 4) try to make sure that you aren’t taking on the bulk of the work at home – you’ll feel more balanced. What are some tips and tricks you have for work-life balance? Share your best ideas with our hive below!