What do we mean by going home 'on time'?

This blog was originally published by Working Families for their National ‘Go Home on Time’ day campaign. Working Families is a charity that helps working parents, carers, and employers to find a better balance between responsibilities at home and in the workplace - please check them out here to find out more about what they do.

This year, 21st June was National Go Home on Time Day, the charity Working Families’ campaign to raise awareness of the importance of work-life balance on a national scale. It made the headlines and lots of people managed to get home on time that day. But are we still managing to make this the norm rather than the exception?

Choosing or making a judgment on how we spend our time is challenging. We often talk about ‘juggling’ commitments because having various competing demands on our time, and trying to manage those effectively, can feel like a very precarious balancing act.

Not achieving the right balance with how we spend our time can be stressful, resulting in us feeling physically and mentally exhausted.

What can we do to find the right balance? And how can employers support us in balancing work with our other commitments?

This year’s Modern Families Index, produced by Working Families and Bright Horizons, reported that there is an unmet demand for flexible working: 86% of working parents in the Index want to work flexibly but just under half (49%) of parents do. Additionally, the Index reported that:

  • 60% of all parents surveyed for the Index said that they had to work extra hours to deal with their workload;

  • almost half of parents (47%) said that work gets in the way of spending time reading or playing with their children or taking them to activities; and

  • parents working part-time are only half as likely to be promoted as parents working full-time.

So as a starter for ten, employers can maximise the opportunities people have to choose how best to strike the balance when it comes to work and non-work commitments. They can do this by, where possible:

  • allowing workers to work remotely or from home so that time spent commuting can instead be spent with their families;

  • avoiding constant work ‘overload’ so that people don’t always have an unrealistic ‘to do’ list which is impossible to fit within contracted hours;

  • carefully considering flexible working requests, trialling things that haven’t been done before, and being creative in a way that benefits both the worker and the business;

  • recognising ‘time well spent’, rather than assuming that full-time is the default gold-standard in terms of productivity.

As well as supporting workers make the ‘physical’ shift to get home on time, employers can also help support the mental shift by:

  • being aware of how they impact the time that people are not at work, and

  • supporting and encouraging people to mentally ‘switch off’ from work.

If we leave our job on time every day but then spend the entire evening either glued to our work e-mails, or even just worrying about work, then how much of our time have we really given to our families or friends that evening? The quality of the time we have spent with someone outside of work has been severely impacted. And how happy does this make us?

The responsibility to provide each other with the necessary ‘headspace’ for commitments outside work does, to a certain extent, lie with all of us. I’m absolutely as guilty as the next person (and I hope I’m not the only person!) who feels a certain satisfaction after clearing their inbox on a Friday afternoon by firing off a load of emails: it feels liberating before the weekend. But then I also know how it feels to be on the receiving end of an email at 5:29 pm on a Friday asking you to respond to something by ‘early next week’. Maybe we all need to be a little more aware of how we communicate with each other in that respect. But employers need to lead the way on this.

So maybe we can interpret ‘going home on time’ day in a way that takes account of both our physical and mental needs. Time is our most precious commodity, yet it is something we give away so easily. There is, in my opinion, no greater gesture than giving somebody your time and undivided attention, so let’s try and support each other in being able to achieve that more with those that we care about.

Thank you reading this blog - I’d love to know your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. And if you would like to read or hear more from me, you can follow me on twitter @calmcitymum and @calmcitymind or on facebook at www.facebook.com/calmcitymind