Work and family: getting the balance right so your family doesn’t play second fiddle to your work

The goal of finding work-life balance has been the subject of much community discussion. Despite this, many families are continuing to find this balance difficult to achieve. Based on work and family statistics many families are experiencing increased pressure on family budgets with rising property prices, rising petrol prices, increases in the price of basic essentials such as food and healthcare, as well as rising education costs.

“Little wonder many parents view the likelihood of achieving work and family balance with scepticism, and feel the government or their employers should be responsible for helping them find more of it,” says Frida Kordovoulos, General Manager Development for ASG. But according to ASG achieving work and family balance requires constant fine-tuning at a very practical level with your personal and family goals top of mind.

Families form the foundation of our society. They shape the growth and development of children and care for the elderly. Statistics tell us that the nature and structure of families is changing along with Australia’s working climate and habits. But are the changes supporting or adversely affecting family life, and what can parents do to tip the balance in their families’ favour?

ASG, Australia’s largest member-based organisation with the mission of supporting children and families lends its experience to the debate and provides parents with some practical tips for gaining more work and family balance that include:

Balance is a fluid, not a static state in your life

“You don’t suddenly arrive at a feeling of balance that meets all the personal needs of the family, and the needs and wants of the family as a unit,” says Frida Kordovoulos, “balance is a moving feast that requires constant tweaking”.

Balance is personal to you and your family

One family’s sense of balance is not another’s, so resist bowing to pressure from work colleagues or relatives and friends. If you feel stressed or concerned about certain things, it’s usually a signal that you’re out of kilter.

What do you want?

When each family member articulates their personal, work, and family goals you’ll have a much better chance of supporting each other to achieve them. This is a great way of stimulating family communication about what’s important – and any compromise needed among the family unit.

The importance of planning

Families that plan for life events develop paths for how to achieve their goals in the short, medium, and long terms. For example your short-term planning for a family holiday will involve weekly savings, organising leave, coordinating travel arrangements, etc by certain dates. Using family specific planners can help you clearly manage your goals, no matter the task or timeframe.

Prioritise your values and stay true to them

When asked, most people will say that their family is their highest priority, but their actions don’t always demonstrate this. A simple non-negotiable commitment, such as spending a small chunk of time daily with your family, can realign your priorities.

Monitor your goals and priorities

Awareness and honesty are the essential ingredients to finding work and family balance. You have to be true to yourself and your family – otherwise balance will always elude you.

Allocate your time according to your goals and priorities

Creating a schedule and staying on track can be one of the most important strategies you can adopt to manage your time. The key is not to overload your schedule so you can incorporate some flexibility into your day and avoid feeling pressured. Remember that children have a different sense of time to adults, so by providing young children with short bursts of focussed time you will help develop deep connections. Everyone has a finite 24 hours a day, so watch out for time bandits such as increased television consumption and internet usage – try some exercise to get more energised instead.

Encourage your family to work as a team

Teams get greater results than an individual ever could, so if you can get your family working as a team you have resources available to gain help and share the individual load.

The changing nature of work and family – the facts:

  • The most common family type in Australia is a couple family with children.
  • Australia’s population is ageing faster than fertility rates are increasing, despite the population growing.
  • The number of women in the workforce has increased from 59 to 71 per cent (November 1980 to 2005).
  • Business is responding to Australians’ demand for changed work environments introducing leave entitlements, flexible working hours, and restructured positions in order to keep and attract staff.
  • Men spend almost twice as much time in paid work than women.
  • Women spend more time on unpaid (domestic) duties than men; although the amount of time women spend on such duties has decreased nearly an hour a week from 1997.
  • Overall, Australians spend less time on leisure activities and sport, while there has been an increase in the amount of time spent watching TV or using the Internet.
  • Twenty seven per cent of people aged 15 and over care for children.
  • Women spend more time caring for children than men; this includes their own children as well as other people’s children.
  • 1.6 million Australians aged 15 and over provide unpaid assistance to a person with a disability, long-term illness or problems related to old age.
  • Women are the major caregivers in Australia no matter their age.
  • People who are employed are more likely to volunteer; however  more than half of employed women worked part-time and of these women slightly less than half partake in voluntary work.

Resources to help plan for the cost of education

ASG supports a range of community and education initiatives as part of its commitment to supporting children’s education. Formed more than 30 years ago from a cooperative of parents, ASG is a not-for-profit friendly society specialising in children’s education benefits programs.

ASG’s Education Program offers parents a proven, effective, and convenient way to plan for their children’s future education utilising the benefits of collective mutual pooling. ASG’s Members can enjoy the benefit of a specific tax concession allowed for educational benefits under the Tax Act.

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