Fathers that are working from home can use these tips to mark the end of their workday, for better work-life navigation and a healthier family life.
Fathers everywhere, especially during lock-downs (recently during the pandemic) and previously when remote working, can attest to the challenging of navigating an easier work-life balance.
Some sources claim that work-life balance is dead, that everyone should get used to the ‘always on’ constant and frequent interruptions and demands for time because the demands of business requires immediate attention.
For fathers, the balance (or integration) is critical. Studies, here and here, state that fathers are important for a child’s development and that paternal involvement benefits the psychosocial and behavioral development of their children. These benefits are different from and complementary to maternal involvement.
With science stacked firmly on the father’s side to be more involved in raising their children, how can fathers negotiate their career and parental responsibilities?
One common area to stake out a line – when it comes to working from home – is in the management of the ending of a typical workday, five days a week.
Previously, in a traditional office setting, the end of the workday happens when one leaves the office. The routine of commuting home from the office helps set up a mental close to the workday.
However, when working from home, the commuting routine has stopped. There is hardly any time to ‘put work down’ when all it takes is opening the home office door or closing the laptop.
Mentally, it is also difficult to disengage given that work responsibilities shared through the laptop, smartphone and mobile applications exist together in the same space as partner, child, and even parents.
How can a father mentally and emotionally navigate the grey area when work is also home?
One way is to recreate a routine that can achieve the same effect as commuting home from the physical office. The rationale is similar to starting and maintaining a new habit.
A father should have a goal and purpose in mind, a clear reason as to why the need for the routine, start small and build milestones to the goal and be ready to inform all parties necessary to either be aware of or to be a cheerleader and support the goal.
Here are 5 recommendations for fathers to incorporate into their new working from home routine, and to leave work out of the family life.
This is the art of planning out a workday in advance and committing several blocks towards dedicated activities. Start by making a daily appointment at the designated ending time daily. Add a buffer or 15 or 30 minutes prior to that appointment slot to handle any last-minute urgent or critical matters. Support the time block with an alarm on your smartphone to complement the appointment making. This way, there are 2 (or even 3 – set a calendar notification to pop up) notifications and reminders to pull you away from the screen.
Create a to-do list for the next day that serves as a brain clearing exercise
One of the best ways to clear the brain of work for the day is to create a to-do list. It is a win-win for the father. Clearing the brain creates more space to be present for family and children. Creating a to-do list helps a father kick off the next day with more speed and possibly become more productive.
Inform your colleagues and team members
Similar to saying goodbye at the office as you head for the door, give a virtual wave or sign-off on chat applications (or the company equivalent for example, Slack). If you are a manger or supervisor, this sends a positive message to your team that it is a positive thing for everyone to have balance. If you are a team member, it signals that you are prioritising your mental and emotional health in order to recharge and come back with more energy the following day.
Tidy up and declutter the workspace at home
Once the appointment alarm or alarms sound off, it becomes time to tidy up the workspace. This applies regardless of whether it is a dedicated desk, the bed or the dining table, or if you are using a laptop, tablet or computer. The act of decluttering the space daily serves as the beginning of the “time to end work today” routine.
Play a game, write in a journal or listen to a song
The last idea is to do an action that is fun and can be repeated daily. This will further reinforce mentally that it is time to switch to another operating model – that for family and parents. Studies also show that some games played on a regular basis can help with better cognitive skills such as better memory, hand-eye coordination and more.