What you need to know:
- As more people work from home, the pressure to do it all is immense on women.
- It helps not to beat yourself down say, experts.
The now popular work-from-home formula has been part of the government and the corporate world's attempt to nip the spread of Covid-19. But for the majority of women, working from home, this new way of doing business has complicated the work versus life arithmetic.
Most women would wish for a better work-life balance. But getting this balance is never an easy task. For example, says Isis Nyong'o, the co-founder of Women Work Kenya, coronavirus has amplified the prevailing imbalance. "If you have kids and you're at home working with your husband, you're more likely to suffer more disruptions," she said during a webinar that was hosted by Absa Bank Kenya and the Graca Machel Trust.
Ms. Nyong'o first got a taste of the hard work that juggling and balancing motherhood, marriage and work entails when she left her corporate job five years ago. "I was a new mother and a new wife. But I didn't want these new identities to interfere with what I set out to do when I quit my job to venture into entrepreneurship," she said. She found a way to be both presents at all her networking ventures and in her baby's life. "I would travel with the nanny and my baby. That way, if a meeting took longer than expected, I could just excuse myself briefly, walk out and nurse my baby then get back without really losing a potential client or a growth opportunity," she said.
It takes a deliberate desire for a work-life balance to be realised. This means that as an entrepreneur or career woman, you must take the initiative to set targets that will get you closer to the sort of family, social, and professional life you want. "Prioritise the most significant things first. This entails planning and writing critical to-do items down. For example, you can select three things which will guide you in your daily roles in both life and business," says Ms. Nyong'o. Having a plan will ensure that you avoid the imbalance of overworking without results. At the same time, utilising digital platforms to network and build your brand can spare you adequate time for your social and family life. Digital channels will also help you to maintain visibility in the market.
The swinging pendulum
Asha Mweru, a co-founder at Women Work Kenya, says that you are likely to get it all wrong if you expect all things in your life to align at the same level. "I have come to realise that I cannot have all things at the same level. A proper balance will always swing up and down like a pendulum. There are days I feel gratified with my work, and other days when I feel guilty for missing out on my child," she says. Ms. Mweru says that this can easily elicit self-doubt on how good you are as a parent or spouse? "The trick is to realise that different responsibilities require different levels of attention." She adds that you could be getting the best results, but find that you always end up with a burnout. "Renewing your energy must be a common denominator in your quest for more balance," says Mweru. This is what has worked for Kerry Goyette, an entrepreneur and the author of The Non-Obvious Guide to Emotional Intelligence. She views her work as a sport and her role as an athlete. "I work hard in small bursts then take time off to relax. For example, if I work intensely over the weekend, I will take time off during the week or over the following weekend," she said.
The employer factor
One of the biggest hurdles women face in the quest for more balance is the social and corporate dynamics. For instance, some employers and parts of the society are not conditioned into easing the imbalance. As a result, women often have the worst difficulties in managing their work and life balance within career settings where there is little to no formal support from the employer. However, Dr. Geneva Musau, the People Function Director at Absa Bank Kenya, says that supporting women to achieve a proper work-life balance is an element of a value proposition. "With employers adopting the work from home formula, it is now becoming a prerequisite for both employers and employees to integrate a work-life balance," she said.
Balancing work and life could be similar to making a sacrifice that might cost you financially or career-wise, especially if you are in a demanding field. But instead of going after balance, you could pursue harmony instead. Harmonising your work and life rhythm will require you to be flexible and schedule things such as workouts and wellness, friends, and family. For example, what work routine will work best and still have minimal effects on your role as a parent or spouse? View your responsibilities like a musical set. No instrument is equal to the other, but with harmony, the result could be a musical masterpiece. Dr. Musau adds that you shouldn't be too hard on yourself. "Give yourself room for error without regret if you don't achieve equilibrium," she says.
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