Integrating work and life
Stephen F. Duncan, Ph.D., Family and Human Development Specialist
job takes you away from home several times each month. You've
noticed that nearly each time you return home, you and your spouse
have a fight and say mean things to each other. You're beginning to
dread coming home.
are struggling to care for your dependent father and his farm, while
attending to your own job and family needs. Your father needs the
farm income to pay for his medications. Time on the farm has begun
to take its toll on your employment, and you are beginning to worry
about job security.
volunteered for a church social. You have two children at home and
one in school. As you are preparing to leave, the youngest child
dirties his clothes and the phone rings. The child at school has
forgotten her lunch and you'll soon be late for your appointment.
working adults, we have two very important areas of our lives that
require a delicate balance our work life and our family life. When
unmanaged conflicts occur between these two areas, both our family
and work life may suffer. All of us need some skill to successfully
juggle demands placed upon us.
most families today, all the adults in the family are employed
outside the home. This has the potential for increasing work-family
stress. This guide is designed to help working adults manage the
stressors and strike a better balance between work and family.
principles about the work/family connection
often results from a conflict between work and family
responsibilities. Research has identified three principles that
underlie this conflict:
# 1 : Work and family settings have a built-in potential for conflict.
needs of your job and the needs of your family may often interfere
with one another. For example, your boss may want you to finish a
work project, but your child wants you to attend her school play. You
may feel overloaded by the roles you must play at work and at home.
At times, you may feel you have too little time or energy to do all
that needs to be done to care for your children, be employed and have
any time for yourself or friends.
# 2 : Work and family environments influence each other.
carry negative and positive feelings home from work or to work from
home. For example, you might feel so exhausted after work that you
lack the time and energy to spend with your family, or come home
ready for an argument. Or you might be so preoccupied with a problem
at home that you have difficulty focusing on your job. On the
positive side, you may have had a great day at work and come home
ready for fun and games, or go to work satisfied that things on the
home front are going well.
# 3 : Stress is minimized when there is harmony between work and family
harmony probably isn't possible. But harmony is greater between work
and family life when your job helps you reach your family goals, and
vice versa. For example, the job will use your abilities and help you
achieve the goal of paying your bills, and still allow you time to
nurture family relationships. What you bring to work benefits your
employer; what you take home from work helps your family.
and strategies for balancing work and family
ability to cope successfully with work-family stress depends on three
resources (such as income, education, intelligence, determination),
coping strategies (or, how
you use your resources), and
point of view or perception (for example, thinking: It's
normal for me to feel this way)
more resources you have and use well, and the healthier your
attitude, the more successful you will be at coping with stress.
are some suggestions for balancing work and family.
resources and strategies
Decide what tasks are important and which are less important. This
means more than saying your family comes before work. It means
deciding what activities come first. Review your priorities every
month. Ask yourself whether you are accomplishing your goals.
time to shift from work to family.
It usually takes 15 to 20 minutes to shift gears from work to
family. Use time on the way home to clear your head. Try making
tomorrow's "to do" list at the close of the work day.
Listen to music you enjoy as you travel. Use the drive home to
forget about work and concentrate on family. Try to avoid bringing
work home. Take a 15 minute break to change clothes and make the
care of your physical health.
This makes you better able to withstand emotional and physical
Decide to see stressful situations in a different way. For instance,
tell yourself "It
could be worse,"
is a normal reaction."
Emphasize positive parts of a stressful situation. Recognize that
work-family stressors will occur and that the advantages of your
current situation outweigh the disadvantages.
and work efficiently.
Use schedules for planning specific times for family, work and other
activities. Make the most of the time spent together with your
family, for instance, by working together to accomplish tasks around
the house. By doing the dishes with a family member, for example,
you'll get a job done and
Work-family stress is likely to be greater if there is a wide gap
between what you expect of yourself and what you achieve. For most
of us, there is always more to do than time available. Discover what
do. Perhaps the house doesn't have to be dusted once a week. Maybe
you don't have to work an extra hour. This doesn't mean sacrificing
your dreams; rather it means developing realistic expectations of
resources and strategies
If you have a partner, take time to nurture the relationship you
have with him or her. Support one another in family and job
responsibilities. Be willing to listen to each other's concerns
about work and family. Take time to nurture your other family
responsibility for family work.
There is much work to be done at home: parenting, housework, dealing
with emotions, and managing schedules. Sharing the family work load
contributes to feelings of fairness and equity among family members.
willing to talk about conflicts and negotiate.
Some conflict between schedules is unavoidable. Be willing to
discuss concerns and compromise. You might want to set up a regular
time to talk about schedules and concerns under positive
conditions.Take turns speaking and listening to one another. Once
you've each understood the concern, come up with as many solutions
to the problem as you can. Choose the one that you each feel good
about and try it out. You may find that you need to try out
difference schedules, different ways to do household tasks, or
reduce some of your less important activities.
about your work and family life and identify the resources and
strategies that would help you achieve the best balance. Talk to
family and friends about how work and family conflict can increase
stress, and about ways to deal with it. Establish a support group at
work to share resources and ideas with co-workers. Create your own
"Balancing Plan" designed to bring you the fullest benefits
of both work and family life.