Achieving a healthy work-life balance can be a delicate juggling act for most people. But when you’re a working parent, balancing the demands of your work and home life can seem like keeping half a dozen plates spinning all at once.
You must arrange and pay for childcare, manage after-school activities, make school holiday arrangements, find time to spend with your partner – and fit all this in around work.
But, while the press will often major on the time-struggling working mums, the spotlight is rarely shone on what it’s like to be a working dad.
Working dads with young families struggle to have quality time with their children, and this is exacerbated when that man is an MD, with so many calls on his time and an over-subscribed diary.
These challenges are increased for an MD of a growing SME, as he will have to invest time attending networking events and new business opportunities, which are often in the evenings.
Brady George, 32, and Managing Director of Bristol-based facilities management firm Almeda, knows only too well the constant struggle faced to get that work-life balance right. And he is not alone when it comes to being a young man with a young family – and with ambitious business growth aspirations.
“Trying to run a successful business and find time to spend with your family can be very challenging and, at times, quite stressful,” said Brady. “In fact, many very successful professionals I know, whether they’re MDs or owner/managers like me, have spoken about their constant feelings of guilt because they’re not spending enough time with their children.”
There are around 13 million working parents in the UK and stats suggest that half of these see their work-life balance as a source of stress. The same stats also suggest that only a third of UK working parents go home on time every day, with almost half often working extra hours.
Other research has revealed that eight out of 10 working parents are using up annual holiday entitlement to do everyday tasks such as getting a doctor’s appointment, taking their car for an MOT and going to the bank.
Brady said: “As an employer it’s important to help my staff if they need to find a better balance between responsibilities at home and in the workplace.
“I’m confident that my management team are approachable and receptive to conversations with staff about how we can adapt their working practices if they’re struggling in the short term.
“But, of course, being an MD I don’t have a manager I can talk to if my workload is getting slightly out of control or I’m experiencing the pressure of juggling work with home.
“I’m lucky, Almeda’s Chairman is my dad and I do use him as a sounding board for all sorts of areas of the business, but I can’t expect him to ‘line manage’ me in the conventional sense. Which is why I’ve come up with some techniques for managing my home time.”
Lines of communication – My Executive Assistant sends my partner an email every Friday with my two-week schedule, so she knows in advance if/when I’m going to be away for an evening. And my partner is kept in the loop if the schedule changes.
Family day – Once a month I book out a day which I can dedicate to family time. It’s important to stick to this, although very occasionally business critical activities may have to take preference.
‘Close Door’ time – I give myself ‘Closed Door’ time and off-site planning days. This is to ensure I have time to do prep and any time-consuming documentation that can easily slip into an evening and impact on family time.
De-stress – Once a week I’ll have some sort of wellbeing appointment. It’s important not to go home with the weight of your company’s responsibility on your shoulders. After all, it’s as important for me as it is for my family that I’m not Mr Grumpy when I get home!
Diary Gate Keeper – Do not under-estimate how useful it can be to have somebody else managing your diary for you. This prevents personal appointments from being over-written with business meetings.
Look after yourself – With so much going on it can be easy to always put yourself last, but it’s important to treat yourself well. I eat healthily and I try (but don’t always succeed!) to go to the gym twice a week. I strongly believe that I’m obligated to look after myself so I can be around and be a fit, active dad for my two children.
“Thanks to technology it’s far too easy to be available 24/7 today,” added Brady. “But if you’re in a habit of checking work texts and emails after office hours then it’s important to limit yourself and put the phone or tablet away.
“Managing to fit in running a successful company and seeing family and my partner is not easy, but if you take the right steps you will find that you will start getting the balance right – and get the benefit from both worlds.”