NEWS: Flexibility at work is putting more pressure on the family unit

17 May 2016
Reading time3 min

A leading business mentor believes flexibility in the workplace is having the opposite effect in the home, putting a major strain on family relationships.

“Business owners in particular, who started their own venture to be their own boss spend their family time catching up on work to be done or devising new plans forward,” says Mike Irving.

“Employees who are able to leave work early to pick up children or get to doctor appointments during the day often over compensate by working longer hours at home,” he states.

“A US study on Workplace Flexibility recently found one in five employees surveyed spent over 20 hours working outside of the office in their personal time. Sixty-five percent of workers said their manager expects them to be reachable outside of the office and almost half feel they don’t have time for personal activities.

“The most common problem among business owners and employees enjoying workplace flexibility is feeling disconnected from their partner and/or children,” he says.

“Many are embarrassed, not wanting to talk about it because the isolation creeps up on them and they only realise how disconnected they are when they take a moment to see what’s really happening around them.”

Families used to sit around playing board games at night and watch their favourite shows together, chatting in the ad breaks about what’s happening, but not as much now.

“Often one or both parents will be working at their computer, others will be on one or two screens watching TV and surfing the net or social media, leaving little time for conversation and connection.

“Working at home to compensate for flexibility at work can lead to a breakdown in communication within the family unit, made worse by the distraction of technology. This can often lead to couples being disconnected from, or even resenting each other, or children feeling as though they are not important.”

Scheduling family time in your diary like you do other work appointments can help prioritise home life, but will only be of benefit if you are really present.

“This means no checking phones every five minutes to see the latest on twitter, or taking phone calls or sending a quick email.”

Mike Irving says there are a number of ways to reconnect at home: 

1. Create family diary appointments:

Schedule regular family time in the diary. By writing it down you’re more likely to keep the appointment like you would a work one.

2. Ensure technology-free time:

Ensure there is time every day to be with one another at home with no technology in sight to distract.

3. Commit to being present:

Too many times people are not really listening to what others are saying to them. Take the time to really listen and give others your full attention. It will make the time with family quality time.

4. Promise to engage:

Make it a priority to engage with and be engaged in every member of your family’s life. Communicate and be interested.   

“Workplace flexibility can be a really good thing, but flexibility in the home is just as important.”

What do you think? Has workplace flexibility made life easier or harder for you?

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Written by

Kids on the Coast/Kids in the City
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