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4 simple ideas to bring family and work closer together

worklife balanceWork-life balance.

It’s is a strange expression, isn’t it? It sounds as if your work and your life were two completely separate arenas. The moment you start working, you also stop living your life.

I know, I know… of course what we really mean by this expression is the balance between somebody’s work and private life, where balance traditionally means that you should be able to have enough time for your non-work-related things (such as your family, friends, hobbies, etc.).

Sure enough, more and more companies have embraced the notions of flexible working hours, job sharing and other “unorthodox” practices, so that their employees have enough time for their private life.

This approach, however, still fails to acknowledge the fact that all of us have got ONE LIFE that can’t be artificially split into two distinct areas: work and life.

A new approach: integration of work and private life

The interaction between our work and private life is much more complex than just simply a time equation that that states the more you work, the less you can spend on your private life, and vice versa.

Some wise organisations have recognised this and started to think about integration rather than separation and “balance”. New questions are being addressed, questions like:

  • How can we help our employees integrate their work and their private life in a more harmonious way?
  • How can a workplace embrace their employees’ private life (and not just tolerate it!) and use this integration to make work itself even more rewarding?

Managers and HR practitioners have shared with us some creative solutions to these questions.

“Bring your child to work day”

One HR director shared with us one of their company’s best practice. Every year the company organises an interactive day when employees’ children are welcomed to their offices so that they may look around and to see what mum and dad do, where they spend their working day, what they do for a living. A simple idea, easy to organise and yet it has a great positive effect. It brings workplace and families closer together, it facilitates empathy and tolerance on both sides. Ever since we first published this story in our Best of HR Project, several other organisations have caught on and launched similar projects. (If you would like to read more best practices  from HR managers participating in our Best of HR Project, click here.)

Thank you letter to the partner

We are all familiar with the following scenario: The deadline of a big project is drawing closer, everybody is working really hard. Early start, late finish. And often a very frustrated partner at home.

In many organisations those extra hours are taken for granted; people don’t even get a thank you for their efforts. Some managers remember to celebrate the team after the work has been completed successfully and thank them for the extra hours put in on the project. Few of them remember, however, that all that overtime also meant a big sacrifice on the part of employees’ families.

One manager we spoke to did recognise this, though. And as a gesture towards the project members’ families he sent a personal thank you note and a box of chocolate to the partners of each member of the project team. It was a personal touch to show that the company appreciates the employees’ partners’ sacrifices as well.

Keep young mothers in the loop

Several companies have recognised that while they are on maternity leave young mothers often lose touch with what is happening at their workplace. Interaction with their colleagues become less and less frequent until those left at home often feel left out altogether. This emotional distance between the young mums and the organisation makes coming back to work all the more difficult for all parties.

This is why more and more organisations are making efforts to keep in touch with those colleagues on maternity leave, so that they may be kept in the loop.

“We invite them to many of our company events; we send them our newsletter. We’ve even formed a Facebook group for them. It is important to show that we still regard them as members of our community,” said one HR manager

“Our experience shows that this extra care pays off. Our young mothers feel more welcome in the company, and many of them get involved in various organisational activities well before they officially come back from maternity leave.”

Have a party after work

But what about those employees who are young, free and single? Ones who don’t have children to bring to work or partners to send chocolates to? Does this integration of work and private life only apply to employees with families?

Not at all.

One company that mostly employs people in their 20s decided that while their office floor is a workplace during the day it can be easily turned into a party venue for the evening. Employees are allowed and even encouraged to organise evening get-togethers for themselves in the office. They can stay there and have fun as long as they want. They can also invite their friends. The facility is free to use for all the company’s employees. The company provides an excellent opportunity for their employees to socialize and have fun.


So, isn’t it time you asked yourself how you can help your colleagues better integrate their private life with their work life?