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Combining family and career through flexible ways of working

In order to be able to combine work and family life you need a flexible employer. Here's how to achieve that!

Quick problem-solving skills, adapting to constant change, negotiating skills, managing people, ability to collaborate, creativity, and flexibility. These skills are a real asset in today’s job market, but this is no job advert – these are the thoughts of a mother on the subject of combining work and family.

This is a hot topic, and rightly so. After all, we are talking about two of the most important areas of life, and many of us struggle to combine them and find a balance between them. I think that the best result achieved by combining these two areas of life is that they enrich each other. They do not rule each other out, but instead they bring meaning to life and provide energy, trust me!

Knowledge work and advancements in technology have blurred the lines between work and family; there are now many tasks that can be performed independently of time and place. When there is a lot to do and deadlines are tight it is easy to think that we can go on working between and after picking up the children from nursery, cooking their dinner and taking them to their hobbies. I feel that the signals given out by the employer have a huge impact on what kinds of choices people make in their everyday lives.

If, for example, a manager sends out emails late at night, this can quickly make the team members think that they are expected to work all hours. An unconscious message can lead to undesirable consequences, such as excessively long working days, which can also turn into a feeling of contradiction in terms of combining work and family.

Basing life on the 8+8+8 model

I favour the 8+8+8 model of our former Prime Minister, which provides enough time for work, leisure time, and rest. There will always be exceptions, but the general rule should be to aim to put the same amount of time into both work and free time with the family, and not forgetting sleep. Unfortunately, people will often compromise on sleep when life is busy.

Plan it well and you are half-way there, as the Finnish saying goes. This saying applies particularly well to combining work and family life. It is true that sometimes life is like a game of Tetris, and at those times it helps when you know that you do not need to remember everything as you have already planned the week ahead and written everything in your diary. Who is driving whom where, what time are the hobbies and parents’ evenings, who will walk the dog? I also plan and schedule in my own activities in advance. Sometimes it means going for a run at 5:30 am, but I have never regretted this afterwards!

Flexitime helps you manage a busy life

It is obviously demanding to combine life with young children and work. These days employers can offer excellent support for managing the Tetris of everyday life, and many employers do. Remote working can give you at least an extra hour a day in this challenging scheduling exercise that is life, when commuting is taken out of the equation.

Flexible working hours and the opportunity to, for example, go for a run during your working day gives you energy. Flexible conditions offered by your employer are a very important kind of support, and they acknowledge the importance of the employee’s holistic wellbeing. It is true that a person’s contentment with their life outside work also reflects on how happy they are at work. The life outside work cannot be disconnected from a person’s performance at work.

For many people with families, part-time work is an excellent way of working, especially during more challenging times in the family’s life, such as when the children are very young.

The opportunity to take on irregular work as an agency worker can be a particularly good option, for example, when you start trying to combine family life and work after parental leave. The employee gets to decide when to take on a shift and can increase their working hours little by little according to what suits their family life.

Enabling part-time work? An employer can also make life with young children easier for their employees by being flexible and meeting them halfway in regard to working hours.

I think we can safely say that modern working life and the varied ways of working that it offers enables people to combine work and family in a more balanced way than ever before.

The writer works as Development Director at StaffPoint