Majority of parents want clear boundaries between work and family life

New poll shows most parents would prefer a demarcation line between work and family life.

Work life balance


While 57% of mums try to keep work and family life separate, over three quarters [78%] would like to, according to a poll.

The poll found 43% merge work and family life, for instance, checking emails in their spare time at home, but only 22% would prefer not to have a demarcation line between work and family.

The issue of merging family and work life has grown alongside flexible working with technology being the big enabler. On the one hand, technology has enabled many to work more flexibly – from anywhere at any time, but it has also led to the phenomenon known as being ‘always on’ where it is difficult to switch off from work issues.

One researcher who is looking at this is the psychologist Gail Kinman. Her research has found that technology can lead to ‘time-based’ conflict between work and personal life as people commonly work longer and harder at home than when they are in the office and their colleagues and managers may see them as being more available.

She says: “Switching between work and family tasks (that is often considered an advantage of working flexibly) can engender role conflict, further extend working hours and reduce effectiveness in each role.”

She thinks employers need to do more to support workers to build boundaries between work and personal life so they have time to recharge. She argues that this would benefit employers and avoid burnout.

Acas has come up with several recommendations to avoid burnout. For individuals, it recommends:

  • processing and clearing email whenever it is checked can avoid the inbox clutter that can make people feel overloaded;
  • switching off alerts but logging on regularly can help to stay on top of email;
  • using the ‘delay send’ function so that the recipient isn’t disturbed, when sending email outside of the recipient’s contact hours; – and reviewing personal email strategies.

For organisations it recommends:

  1. developing ‘email etiquette’ guidance to facilitate a culture of trust;
  2. removing response time recommendations for replying/dealing with work email messages;
  3. putting contingencies in place to deal with high work email volumes – e.g. team inboxes and out-of-office expectation setting; providing extra time-allocation in workloads for those with proportionately higher volumes (e.g. managers and part-time workers);
  4. providing email training – in systems and strategies – and ensuring that managers model best practice;
  5. and considering alternative systems available such as Slack to help workers navigate modern work communication.

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