By Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

"STRONGER TOGETHER" IS A WEEKLY COLUMN WHERE TANYA EXPLORES KEY ISSUES. TODAY TANYA OUTLINES WHAT LEADERSHIP LOOKS LIKE BOTH IN THE WORKPLACE AND AT HOME.

Our region recently hosted the ATECH Sunshine Women in Business event held at The Generator. The event, hosted by female tech entrepreneur Sarah-Jane Peterschlingmann, was an incredible opportunity to listen and learn from local businesswomen with broad ranging expertise and representing a range of business and industry.

Being invited to participate as a panel member with such talented and inspirational local women was a privilege, and also a great reminder of the important leadership role that women hold in today’s society. Those in attendance had the opportunity to ask questions of the panel during the session, with one question particularly resonating ‘How do you manage the constant juggle between work and family?’

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Today, it is not only women who must manage this juggle. Flexible work arrangements have impacted many families and have started to blur the line between work and family life. Many people talk about achieving a work-life balance like it is something that can easily coexist by compartmentalising life into work time and personal time. The reality however is that trying to achieve this balance is like walking a tightrope and the slightest mistake could send us over the edge. In a world where smart phones ensure that we are always ‘on’ and the popularity of working from home has increased to a third of the Australian population since COVID-19, achieving work-life balance is no longer attainable.

The initial inspiration for writing this article was to share how working women manage the constant juggle between work and family life, however the reality is that most of the population need to find a way to acknowledge that the elements of their work and life do not need to compete or be evenly distributed. We need to acknowledge that the juggle will always be there, and instead find ways to make it feel a little less overwhelming.

  1. Leadership starts at home. People think of leadership as work-related only, however being an effective leader in our home lives can be much more rewarding for ourselves and for our families. It seems strange that striving to set a good example for others would be limited to our work lives. Instead our leadership skills should flow over to effect those who matter to us most to ensure that we get the small stuff right. Be accountable, be realistic and fair, learn how to self-regulate, do not aim to win trivial arguments and instead save your energy for the things that really matter, set boundaries and recognise that when we experience frustration with others our frustration is usually a result of us failing to set and adhere to boundaries that we have set for ourselves. Be the best version of yourself for the most important people in your lives.
  2. Create a third space. Dr Adam Fraser created the concept of using the Third Space, ‘that moment of transition between a first activity and the second that follows it.’ Using this space to mentally show up in the right frame of mind ensures that we will consistently be at our best. For those working from home, consider rituals that enable a transition from work to home life. You may choose to do this mentally by reflecting on your day, resetting your day to mentally transition from work to home life, and refocusing your attention and preparing to mentally transition and refocus on what is about to happen next. For those who prefer a physical transition, consider changing your clothes from work attire to casual or physically walk through a space in your home that reminds you that you are now transitioning to home mode.
  3. Check in. Have you ever arrived home exhausted and just wanted to curl up on the lounge and have a nap? My family have created a practice of reminding each other how much fuel we have left in the tank when we get home at the end of the day. Some days I have only got 10% energy left by the time I get home, so I let them know to ensure that they are aware that they need to step in and assist with some of the night-time chores. On other days, my husband’s energy levels are depleted, and it is my turn to step up. Being transparent about where we are at when we show up at home is important as it removes the frustration that we put ourselves when we perceive our partner or children are ‘letting us down’ and don’t step in and help when we need it. The people in our lives are not mind readers. Let your family know when your energy levels are depleted. Have a way of communicating this with your family so they know when they need to step in and do a little bit extra.
  4. Manage your screen time. People are not always aware of how much time they spend on their phone and how this time impacts on the time they spend with their family. Find ways to manage this time, including app’s like Moment that are designed to promote a healthier balance between life and time spent on small screens on digital devices. Moment will even give you a nudge when you are approaching your screen time limit!
  5. Be in control of one thing in your day. Make time in your day to do something for yourself that is a non-negotiable. Make sure that it is something that is important to you. It could be reading a book for 30 mins, going for a walk, hitting the gym, writing in your journal. Put that one thing in your calendar each day and keep yourself accountable to doing it. Every day.

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Learning to manage the juggle between work and home life is important. There is no silver bullet and instead, we need to find a way to successfully integrate both of these important parts of our life to ensure that the way that we show up is intentional, deliberate and brings the best version of ourselves. Life is full of obstacles and challenges. The key is finding ways to manage them. Dr Fraser reminds us that there are two types of people in life, those who light up a room when they walk in and those who light up a room when they walk out. Which one do you choose to be?