Work Time Versus Family Time

The cover story in the August issue of Wired magazine considers how people now regard Steve Jobs, after reading Walter Issacson’s biography of Jobs. Some say the book, with its inside look at Jobs’ shortcomings as a father, has caused them to reassess the ratio of time spent on work versus the time spent with family.

The issue of work time versus family time has been addressed before and will be discussed again and again. It’s a popular topic for morning TV news shows, lifestyle magazines, even the Wall Street Journal. I personally believe that each individual situation is unique. But here are some ideas that may help your put your own work/family conflict into perspective:

  1. Getting your spouse and other family members to understand that your work may sometimes require more of your time and attention than usual is vital. Meetings happen. Last minute phone calls come at 4:59 p.m. Projects have deadlines.
  2. Tell the family if yours is a job that may require more time now, but will allow more family time in a few years. (But only tell them that if you presume it to be true.)
  3. Take time to share your workplace experiences. It’s good for you to have your spouse/partner’s full attention for at least a few minutes every night. Listening to your spouse/partner’s stories of her/his day’s activities is equally necessary. This should be a time to offer support and encouragement, not to second-guess one’s workplace actions.
  4. Talk about your family life with your co-workers. Don’t just tell you supervisor about your family members, bring them in to visit you at work. When your boss has actually met your 6-year-old son, she may be less hesitant to allow you to leave work early for a school conference.
  5. In 2012, realize that family time can also be work time. Have you ever left the dinner table to take an important work-related call? Have you ever responded to an email at your kid’s ballgame? Have you ever run an idea past your family members to get their input? It’s not like it was when my dad, a factory worker, would put his work behind him when he came home.
  6. If yours is work that you are passionate about—as was most of Steve Jobs’ work—share that passion with your family. If they are aware of the gratification you receive from your work, they will be more likely to appreciate your efforts. And less likely to be upset when you come home to dinner at 9:00 p.m.

The best way to keep the work/family conflict under control is with good communication. Share information freely and frequently and in a timely manner.


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