BossWoman ENews |
Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
My goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life.
In this issue, you'll find:
- Honoring Our Parents – Work-life Balance for Moms and Dads
- BossWoman coaching
- Up and coming workshops
1. Honoring Our Parents – Work-life Balance for Moms and Dads
In the US we traditionally honor our parents with special
holidays, Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June. It is
a time of cards, flowers, gifts, cookouts, and family
celebrations. These holidays remind us that parenting is one
of the hardest jobs in the world and it is not even a paid job.
The biggest struggle for today’s parents is how to combine a
productive work life with a satisfying family life.
An explosion of research on this challenge in the last five
years on work-life balance points to two groups of success
factors in balancing work and home roles. One group are those
factors that individuals usually have control over and that
other includes those factors in the workplace such as policy
that affect workers’ satisfaction.
Work-Life Balance – the Individual Side
- The definition of work-life balance is complex an
individual. No one formula will work for everyone. Instead
of thinking you are the only one who questions whether
there is a better way, define what that better way would
- What would your best life be like?
- What kind of work life is ideal for you to manage the rest
of your life?
- What kind of home life is what you desire?
- Even if you have developed a work-life balance formula, is
it still working for you particularly if you are in a new
stage of life?
Until you have a concrete definition of what you want, you
will feel like you are wandering in the dark looking for
- Time management skills contribute to overall life
satisfaction. Kevin Green of the University of Minnesota
family science department says that these include the
ability to identify long and short term goals and to set
appropriate priorities. Those goals and priorities can
only be established from your own definition of balance –
not from comparing yourself to other families or to
- From your answer to question # 1, what are the top three
things you need to be doing to put yourself closer to your
- Some work-life choices are incompatible with balance.
For example, a job requiring extensive travel away from
home responsibilities make those responsibilities
difficult to fulfill. How much is extensive? Dr. Anisa
Zvonkovic found a “travel saturation point” averaging
more than 46 nights per year away. People with that many
travel days found it impossible to clear out the backlog
of home and work responsibilities once they returned. In
spite of being allowed to take a day off from work after
their trips, they often did not feel that they could
allow themselves to do so because of the huge work
backlog. While people in high traveling occupations yield
high financial rewards they soon report feeling that these
rewards were offset by the time demands of their jobs.
- How much travel can you handle and still meet your home
- Is travel that may have fit your single life still
viable at new stages of life, perhaps when you are married
with small children?
- Does your mate travel also? What effect does that have on
the family balance?
- Stress can spill over from “work to home” and from
“home to work.” One summer during college, I worked in a
corporate accounting office and found that the office
ground to a halt around the time that the school age
children got home from their day camps. Conversations
went like this: “Well tell him to give your toy back.”
“Put her on the phone.” “Just wait until I (or your
father) get home.” These women (and they were all women
accountants in this corporation) were experiencing the
“home to work” stress of having unsupervised children
home alone. Their stress levels would have lowered if
they (or their spouses) could have had flex time so that
a parent was home for the children or if they would have
found reliable childcare during those transitions hours
between the end of the camp day and the end of the work
However, Dr. Debra Berke and her research colleagues
found that academic professionals reported their highest
stress was from work spilling over to home. The college
faculty and administrators reported worrying about work
while trying to fulfill their home responsibilities and
therefore not being wholly present to their family
Stopping the stress spillover is often one of changing a
mindset rather than of quitting a job. Here is what a
participant in a recent work-life balance workshop said
in her thank- you note to me:
“The first day of your workshop featured a true "a-ha!"
moment for me--it was the "envision your perfect day"
exercise. Something so simple...I realized that
really need to concentrate on work AT work, but give all
of myself to home when I'm at home. I "knew" this,
somewhat, before, but I wasn't practicing it. I'm sure
I won't be able to achieve this completely, given my
career choice, but at least now I know what ideal I am
working toward. That alone gave me peace of mind and
renewed peace in my soul!”
- So one way to stop work to home is to keep work at work
and aim at being fully present at home. This may require
a transition activity such as making a list of all the
loose ends before you walk out of the office.
- Balance gets eroded by having no boundaries between
home and work. Our constant, simultaneous availability
at both home and work via cell phones, computers, and
beepers adds to the stress spill over. Dr. Noelle
Chesley of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found
that the use of cell phones has increased psychological
distress and decreased family satisfaction. However,
people who used these devices intermittently with
self-imposed restrictions did not suffer from the
lowered satisfaction. So unless you are a neurosurgeon
waiting for a call about the next head trauma at the
emergency room, turn off the cell phone when you are
not using it.
Work-Life Balance – the Workplace Side
Institutional factors such as salary scales and family
friendly policies influence employees to attain better
work-life balance. If we really want to honor parents,
we can do two things: insist that workers get paid
based on experience, education, talents, and
contributions in the workplace and use our influence
to examine and improve family friendly policies in our
- Use your power to examine salary gender
differentials. Many of my readers – business owners,
professionals, and executives - are in aposition of
power to influence the salaries of others who work
for them. Have you examined the policies of your
company or organization? The US Department of Labor
reports that the gender salary differential has
increased, from $.76 for every dollar male workers
earned last year to $.74 this year.
- Be a savvy worker by knowing what your industry pays
people in your job category. When the time comes for
your annual renewal or raise time, bring that data to
the meeting. Ask for what your work is worth.
Sometimes the only thing between your current salary
and the one you deserve is your reluctance to stand
up for yourself. While sexism in the workplace
accounts for some of this differential, part of the
problem is that women are afraid to ask for what
their work is worth. When I coach women business
owners, they often fail to price their services
competitively in the market. Women employees are
frequently shocked to find out when they leave a job
that a male who replaces them gets a higher salary
because he asks for it.
- Help your workplace take a look at the family
friendly policies in place. Family leave for the
birth of a child is a great innovation but it has
only a temporary effect on the overall satisfaction
of the parents. A more potent variable is the
number of hours that workers are obligated to work.
The magic tipping point for better work-life
balance seems to be the 35 hour work week. When
France introduced the 35 hour week in 1998, 60% of
employees found it helped them have more ease in
combining work and family life. Those who did not
have such an improvement complained about the lack
of flexibility as their work hours were set by
- Rather than move to France you could consider
decreasing your hours to 35 hours a week.
- You might be in a position to help others do the
- Part time work is a great option for workers
but only when it has satisfying work associated with
it, in other words, an opportunity to use one’s
talents to make a contribution to the organization.
Part time work also needs to have comparable benefits
so that the option does not include loss of some of
the things important to satisfying family life such
as accessible health care. Preliminary studies are
suggesting that part time work benefits the
organization by increasing productivity rather
than decreasing it. Happy workers are productive
- Organizational culture is another example of how
a small change can make a big difference. When the
organization makes one’s commitment to family a
reason to question the worker’s work ethic,
satisfaction goes down and ironically so does
engagement in the work. So the individual loses and
so does the organization. When organizations value
family life by making part time work and flex time
available, workers stay engaged in their jobs an
d give a return beyond the cost to the organization.
- Family friendly organizations do not just benefit
parents with children but also workers with eldercare
responsibilities. Most people are aware of the
research showing that women provide the
most eldercare in their families and in the
families of their husbands. However, most people
are not aware (as Dr. Shelley MacDermid’s research
at the Center for Families at Purdue University
shows) that the gender difference disappeared for
men and women with similar jobs. Sexism in hiring
and promotion practices can trap women into lower
paying, less autonomous work and so that the work
of eldercare falls to the one in the marriage who
has the least to lose by missing work days.
According to MacDermid, in places where more equal
opportunities are available, gender differences
drop out: both men and women take care of the
elders in the family. Similar differences in
meeting parenting responsibilities also fall out
when similar job opportunities are available to
both genders. Similar, when comparable
opportunities are available to both men and women,
gender differences in meeting parenting
responsibilities narrow or disappear.
Examine your own skills for balancing your
personal and professional roles. Support family
friendly policies in your workplace.
See resources cited above. I read the
professional journals so you don’t have to.
2. BossWoman coaching
About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a
professional coach, speaker, author and seminar
leader. She loves to coach women who want
- work-life balance,
- career transitions,
- building your business or practice,
- time management,
- increasing productivity.
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal
life, give Susan a call for a complementary
half-hour coaching session.
She provides keynotes and seminars to business
and organizations on the topics of:
- leadership strategies for women,
- work-life balance,
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching
session because she knows that workshops don’t
Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or
seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at
3. Up and coming workshops
I have booked a number of work/life balance workshops
for the winter that are not open to the public.
Contact me if your group needs a speaker on any of the
topics listed above.
Title: “Staying Sane in Insane Places: Managing
Diverse Faculty Responsibilities with Clarity,
Balance and Ease.”
Date: October 25-29, 2006
Place: Professional and Organizational Development
Network Conference; Portland, OR
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© Copyright 2006 Susan Robison. All rights reserved.
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