Balancing the demands of career and family is one of the major issues people face during their working years. Women are often most affected, in part because fewer women than men have stay-at-home spouses or partners. For example, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 23% of married men who work full-time and have children under age 15 have stay-at-home spouses, in contrast with fewer than 1% of married women in the same circumstances.4 It’s not surprising that without someone at home to handle family and household responsibilities, women who work full-time often face the paradox of having to be their family’s “CEO” while also striving to be seen as CEO material at work.
Fortunately, the traditional workplace is changing. Employers are increasingly recognizing that providing work-life balance programs are key to having a diverse, gender-neutral workforce. All workers, women and men, single or married, with or without children, can benefit from flexible scheduling such as telecommuting or a compressed work week that can help them meet personal needs and responsibilities. Here are some tips that can help you make a flexible arrangement work:
- Make sure expectations are clear both at home and at work. If you’re working off-site, will you be expected to work during certain hours? Will you need to be available for meetings? Does your family understand your work routine?
- Be proactive in communications with your boss and colleagues. Consider how they might be affected by your arrangement, but don’t hesitate to ask for what you need to be successful.
- Stay flexible. Your needs and your employer’s needs may change over time, and the terms of your arrangement may need to be adjusted.
While workplace flexibility is gaining momentum, some employers have not yet embraced the concept, and some jobs or industries aren’t well-suited to it. But you can still strive to better integrate your home and work lives. As a starting point, enlist support from others. At home, ask your family members for help with household responsibilities-you really can’t do it all yourself–or if you can afford it, consider hiring someone to help out. At work, look for opportunities to network with women who have faced similar challenges, and help support them by sharing your experiences and tips. And don’t expect perfection. Balancing career and family is always a work in progress.