Work-life balance. It’s something everyone seeks, but achieving it can seem an impossible task. Not only does the ideal balance vary from person to person, it can change frequently throughout life. If your wheel of life has developed a wobble, it might be time to do some repairs to regain stability for the journey ahead.
What’s the problem?
The source of your imbalance may be clear. Too many hours in the office; too long spent commuting; or maybe you need to support elderly parents or to care for young children. Sometimes it’s more subtle – the desire to unleash your inner artist; a yearning to find more meaning in your life; or to simply have enough time to “get everything done”. Once you’ve identified the source of your wobble you’ll be in a better position to fix it.
What are some options?
The available options will depend on the problem, the type of job you have, and the attitude of your employer. Here are some thoughts:
Is the daily commute getting you down, or do you need to help care for young children? Maybe you can work from home one or more days a week.
Are you looking for some time to start writing that best-selling novel, or just some breathing space for yourself? Working nine days a fortnight might be the solution.
Too busy to keep up with household chores? Consider hiring a domestic cleaner or gardener.
Frazzled business owners or managers might consider hiring additional staff. Or perhaps the solution is simpler, such as improving time management skills, or turning off electronic devices when not at work.
Empathetic employers actively help employees achieve a better balance. It helps to retain good staff, and happy workers are more productive. Once you know what you want, it’s time to talk to the boss. He or she may even suggest solutions you haven’t thought of. If your boss is uncooperative you may need to revise your plan. Maybe start looking for a new, more accommodating job.
What’s the financial impact?
If you are working excessive hours and headed for a burnout, a sensible boss will encourage you to cut back to a sustainable level of effort without financial penalty. However, anything that reduces your working hours and productivity below the norm is likely to result in a reduction in income, which raises a number of questions.
- Can you afford it and for how long?
- Does cutting back your hours allow a spouse or partner to increase theirs?
- What are the implications for tax and childcare benefits?
- How will it affect the growth of your superannuation?
- If you are over 55, can you use a transition-to-retirement pension to offset a drop in employment income?
- These are all questions your financial advisor can help you address.
Historically it has been women who interrupted their careers to care for young children, often finding it difficult to regain footing on the career ladder. With more men seeking a better balance between work and family, career progression is a key consideration. The long-term financial impacts of lingering on lower pay rungs may be substantial and cause issues in later life.
Getting the work-life balance right can deliver many rewards: greater contentment, improved health, and better relationships with the people you love. Finances may suffer a bit, but what’s the price of happiness? Still, if you plan any big changes in your life, talk to your licensed financial planner to make sure there aren’t any consequences you haven’t thought of.