How can parents go about achieving sustainable work-life balance in today's competitive world? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
I'm a strong believer of work-life integration vs. work-life balance. While it may seem like a nuance in terminology - the key is that most of us today are more connected than we've ever been. We're also far more likely to be flexible with when we are or aren't working - unlike the traditional 9 to 5 job. Therefore, the key is focusing on how we integrate our work into our life in a way that is sustainable.
At Shortlist, our culture is based upon the pillars of Family, Flexibility and Fairness. The first states that we need to focus on our whole selves, our families and our communities as well as our Shortlist family. The second states that we are allowed to work where, when and how we want - as long as we deliver exceptional results for our customers and in partnership with our teammates. The third is that we'll ensure employees are rewarded fairly for the work they do and that we'll promote a culture of taking time to recognize one another for the great work that we do.
These guiding principles of our culture were borne out of necessity as myself and my co-founder, Martin, are both responsible for being great leaders AND great fathers (each with two children under the age of 4).
As a parent, the key to finding sustainable integration is setting really clear - and easy to follow rules that guide our behaviour. As an example, we don't have mobiles on or near us in the morning while the kids are getting up, fed and dressed for the day. The same goes for the evening routine as these are core parts of the kids' days - and a fantastic opportunity to connect with them - allowing our brains to rest and forget the work stresses for a few hours. Other simple rules are when you will / will not work and that you'll always make it a priority to be home before your kids dinner starts, even if that means working an hour after they're down for bed to make up for it. A last example, and something we've instituted at Shortlist, is Flexible Fridays. It's similar to Google's (and others) concept of developer free-time for building projects outside of their normal course of work. In our case, we promote team members taking half of every Friday to spend time reconnecting with their kids, spouse or other loved ones; spending time working on their health or a hobby; or finally, working on a project or technical skill that's interesting to them. We have a shared Slack channel where people share updates about their Flexible Friday's including photos.
Another core element of sustainably integrating your work with your life is making sure you and your partner communicate really effectively about the important things at home and work. It's important to make sure you're talking about upcoming trips to make sure the other can accommodate their own work schedule if needed. At the same time, if your partner has a lot going on at work that might require you to take on a bit more at home. Having a strong partnership with solid communication can make you much more agile and responsive to the curve-balls that both work and children can toss at you.
Lastly, it's really important not to be too hard on yourself when you have to work a late night here and there. Or when you have a week where you spend a bit less time than you want with your kids/partner. Work-life integration isn't about getting everything 100% right - none of us is perfect - but instead finding the best way to get the most joy out of our family and work life.
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