How to keep home life calm when work gets crazy

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Achieving a healthy work/life balance is important but let’s not kid ourselves – when things amp up in the office, personal time usually takes a hit. Here’s one management professor’s advice on how to survive a stressful patch while keeping your home life on an even keel.

“It’s not possible to have perfect equilibrium among the four domains of life – work, home, community, and self – every day, every week, or even every year,” says Steward Friedman. “Naturally, there are times when any one of these aspects of your life has to take centre stage.”

Friedman is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the founder of the Wharton School of Business’ Work/Life Integration Project – he says professionals need to “forget balance” and find a way to talk through times of high stress.

“When a spike in work-related activities is having a deleterious effect on your family or on some other part of your life, then it’s time for what I call ‘stakeholder dialogues,’” he said, “conversations with the people who matter most about your mutual expectations and how best to meet them, now and in the long run.”

Friedman says there are five steps to making sure these discussions are a success.

1.“Provide context”

Let the people closest to you know why your work is demanding a greater deal of your attention than normal, suggests Friedman.

“Keep it short,” he says. “This is not an excuse, just a brief explanation to set the stage for dialogue.”

2.“Explain the purpose”

Try and express why this is so important to you as well as what it means for other people. Friedman gives the example; “By my devoting this effort now I’ll be able to ____, which is important to us because it’ll help us to ____.”

3.“Ask about consequences”

Find out what impact your increased commitment to work is going to have on them – will they have to give up something they love doing to look after the kids when you’re at work? Will your friend have to find someone else to take your spot on a sports team?

4.“Express genuine remorse”

Your actions are having a negative impact on their life – show that you haven’t lost touch with how they feel but remind them that it’s only temporary.

5.“Explore possible alternatives”

Ask if they have any ideas for how you could improve the situation, suggests Friedman, and find out what they expect of you and what situations they prefer.
“Maybe driving your daughter to school is more important to her than your being home for dinner. Your spouse might be happy to meet you in town for dinner, even if you have to return to the office while he or she heads home afterward. Maybe they don’t care so much if your travel increases or the length of your workday increases, as long as they have your undivided attention when you are at home,” he explains. “You won’t know until you ask.”

When things finally ease off at work, Friendman suggests marking the end of a difficult period with some sort of celebration – you made it though, after all.

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