In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about managing your work and family life to create better balance.
Hello and welcome to episode 63 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.
Happy New Year and welcome to the first podcast of 2019. I hope you all had a wonderful new year celebration and are ready to hit 2019 with all your energy and enthusiasm to make it the best year you’ve ever had.
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Okay, onto this week’s question which means it’s now time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice, for this week’s question.
This week’s question comes from Netanel. Netanel asks:
I don't have much time in my day-to-day, I take a subway to work and vice versa (100-120 minutes each way) working in Hi-tech (9-10 hours a day), I'm married and also a father to 2 kids so I want to invest in my family some quality time. How can I achieve my personal tasks?
A wonderful question, Netanel, and a very difficult question to answer to kick off 2019.
This question is really about creating a balanced work and personal life. Now, I am not a great believer in what is commonly called “work/life balance”—in today’s world with us being connected pretty much 24 hours a day, it’s almost impossible to build strict barriers between our working lives and our personal lives. To me, the stress involved in trying to maintain strict barriers between our work and our personal lives is just not worth it. It’s far better to accept that sometimes our work is going to encroach into our personal time and likewise our personal lives will encroach occasionally into our work time. Have you ever had to take time away from your work to visit your dentist or have to pick your kids up from school early? I’m sure you have.
Now in your case, Netanel, you have a number of unique challenges. The first is your travel time. You are commuting 3 to 4 hours a day! That’s a tremendous amount of time to be travelling to and from work. Tie that to working up to 10 hours a day, you are leaving yourself with very little time for your family. In fact, if you are getting six hours of sleep, then you have pretty much no time for your family. Something is going to have to give.
There are two options here. The first and the better one of the two is to have a conversation with your boss. Ask your boss if you could work from home two days a week.
Working in hi-tech presumably means most of your work is done by computer and therefore having to be in the office every day of the working week is unlikely. It might be a convention to be in the office every day, but if you were to be honest with yourself, do you really need to be in the office for 5 or 6 days a week? Of course, you may have to attend meetings, but you could arrange it so your meetings were only on certain days of the week. And if there was a situation where you were required for a meeting, you could always attend digitally via tele or video conference.
Now I do understand that between countries there are different cultures at play. I live and work in South Korea and only in the last year or so has the idea of flexible working arrangements come here. But more and more of the people I work with are now enjoying more flexible working arrangements. Coming in to work a little later in the morning so parents can take care of their children. Being able to work from home a couple of days a week etc. This is, after all, the twenty-first century.
The thing is in your situation, Netanel, if you want to spend a little more time with your family, then you are going to have to have the conversation with your boss. The great thing here is what’s the worst that could happen? Your boss saying no. So that leads me on to the second and third options for you.
Either you are going to have to move closer to your workplace or you are going to have to find another job closer to your home.
You see the biggest problem here is your commuting time. If you could reduce your travel time by two hours a day, you would get those two extra hours a day to spend with your family. Now, finding a home closer to work may be your best option, but in today’s working environment where a job is not necessarily for life—we tend to change jobs more frequently than our parents did—that might not necessarily be a practical solution.
Another question to ask is is there a faster way to get to and from work? In my case for many of the clients I visit each week, there are a number of ways I could get there. I could drive—often the longest way because of the traffic in Seoul, I could take a bus, not usually the fastest way really or I could take the subway. Usually, the subway is the fastest but not always. One of the clients I visit each week is just a ten-minute taxi ride away from my home, yet if I took the subway (the cheaper option) it would take me at least 45 minutes. Sure, the taxi is more expensive than the subway, but if I look at the time cost involved, then, in reality, the taxi is the cheapest option. So research your travel options. See if there is a faster way to get to your workplace and then do a time/cost analysis. How much is your desire to spend more time with your family worth to you? A good company would support the extra travel cost be giving you a travel allowance—another possibility for your boss to help you.
Finally, you could begin the process of finding another job either closer to your home or one that will allow you more flexible working arrangements. The truth is, if I had a conversation with my boss about being able to work from home a couple of days a week and my boss gave a flat no, then that would be an indication to me to change my job for a more modern, out looking company. A company that respects family time and the need to allow employees to work in an environment that works for them.
Like I said at the beginning, your question is unique, Natanel because it does not involve changing the way that you work, it involves changing the way your company works. Working 9 to 10 hours a day is not unreasonable—a little excessive, but not unreasonable—but travelling 3 to 4 hours a day just to get to your work each day is unreasonable. That is where I would focus my attention. Find ways to change that.
To me, your best option is to have that conversation with your boss. That will be the least disruptive and offers the best solution all around. Being able to work from home a couple of times a week would allow you more quality time with your family.
The next best option would be to review your travelling arrangements. Is there a faster way to get to your office? If so, how much more will it cost you? If it is a lot more, then perhaps your company would be willing to pay you an allowance to cover the extra cost. Again, you will need to have the conversation with your boss on that one.
Finally, the two most disruptive options. Either you move closer to your work, or you change your job. Again, this is something only you can decide.
Reducing your commuting time needs to be your priority. That is where you can save time that can be better spent with your family. Review all your options, how you travel, moving house or moving jobs.
Jobs come and go, families do not. Prioritising your family over your company is always the right thing to do. Of course, we do have to make compromises. Part of our family arrangements is we need to provide an income, but that income should not be provided at the expense of your family, and the quality time you have to watch your children grow and quality time spent with your wife. That is why I would always advise you to put family first, not your company and if your company is not going to allow you to spend more time with your family, then it’s time to change your company.
I hope that has helped, Natanel. I know the choices you are going to have to make are not easy, but your family is worth it. Go talk to your boss, see if you can find a way to work from home a few days a week and failing that, see if you can find a faster way to get to your office.
Best of luck.
Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like me to answer, then please email me at email@example.com or DM me on Facebook or Twitter.
It just remains for me now to wish you all very very productive week.