The Workplace Quid Pro Quo

Even the best workers need help sometimes. Studies show that employees who have flexibility in their schedules feel less overworked than those who don't, even if the hours worked would be the same [source: Families and Work Institute]. Emphasize ways in which flexible scheduling will benefit your company and say that you feel like you're an asset, which implies that it's worthwhile to keep you happy.

Focus while you're at the office, and you're less likely to be perceived as lacking commitment to the job (even if you're cutting back on your overtime). Dr. Frankel cautions against sharing excessive personal information at work, like your commitments and a busy schedule, which might make others think you can't handle stress. Cherish the privacy you can achieve simply by keeping your family's business to yourself.

If you question whether you're spending too much time at work, Frankel's guideline is this: "You owe the company an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. You owe the company a reasonable amount of overtime (with or without pay, but always without complaint). You don't owe the company your soul" [source: Frankel].

Tips for Balancing Work and Home Life

To get started, keep track of your schedule for a week. Then, analyze it and cut out unfulfilling, time-consuming activities. This is the time to figure out your obligations and define your other priorities [source: Mayo Clinic]. Be honest with yourself, and figure out what your priorities actually are, not what you think they should be. Shedding baggage is difficult, but experts agree it can be done.

Even if you become a model of efficiency, you've got to cope with disruptions and distractions, especially if you're a working parent. Since you've got all this newfound time, others will think you can organize the school bake sale or run the holiday party committee. Learn to say no, politely but firmly, and don't let yourself get roped into extra projects that you aren't interested in or that aren't necessary. Your time is precious. Don't let others steal it from you.

If you feel like you spend all your time cleaning whenever you're home, consider lowering your expectations a little:

  • Learn to ignore minor messes that aren't a health or safety hazard.
  • Practice communicating clearly. You'll save time if you give and receive accurate instructions and tasks are done correctly the first time.
  • Don't fall prey to the myth that work performance is best measured by hours worked.
  • Recognize that a happier home life will result in you being more eager to take on work challenges which should give you the confidence to ask your boss about scheduling options.
  • Use your commute to mentally transition, defining the boundary between work and home.
  • Turn off your phone and computer, and put off work-related problems until tomorrow.
  • Plan a little daily time to unwind, and set aside time every week for a favorite activity. Focus on communicating with yourself, your friends and your family. When you develop relationships with your circle, you can lean on them for help -- and, of course, reciprocate in kind during their tough times. To get that all-important private time, try trading babysitting duties with friends and neighbors to get a night off and reduce the costs of child care [source: Rauh].

Are you committed to the challenge of finding balance? Take the next steps with the links on the next page.