When Work and Life Collide
Updated: Mar 14
Launching the Work Life Journal Blog
Transcript for Episode 1:
Welcome to Work Life Journal – a careers, business and lifestyle blog which is now also a podcast! The goal of this platform is to empower women achieve their potential in work and life, to build the life you love living.
My name is Maria. I am the founder of Work Life Journal and I will be your host today.
I started my blog over five years ago, when I first started my PhD in Business. I wanted a creative outlet to share my progress and research findings along my journey of thesis writing. I was and still am so passionate about my thesis topic, which was around working flexibly for reaping benefits such as better work/life balance but also for organisational gains such as productivity, higher employee engagement and satisfaction.
During my child-rearing days, what I wanted most at that point in life was to be home with my child – to be the mother that I wanted to be. Yet, like many mums, it was not financially sustainable for me to choose not to work. The predicament I faced was real, and it was unsettling. What I really wanted at that point in my life was some better way of managing my personal and professional lives – which really, at that time, seemed to be worlds wide apart.
I remember so vividly, booking my five-month-old baby into childcare so that I could make arrangements to work. The night before I had not slept a wink, my mind was in turmoil – I was not ready to leave my son in the care of strangers. I wanted to be the one who nurtured and reared him. I wanted to be the mum I wanted to be – which meant that I was home looking after him, the way I wanted to. I didn’t want to be time-bound between attending work and pick-ups at child care. Realistically, yes, this was the way my life needed to head towards, but I wasn’t ready at that point in time.
I remember, I got up out of bed the next morning, not a wink of sleep through the night, and called the child care centre. I told them I was not bringing him in and I cancelled his place. However, a month later, I went through the whole rigmarole again, and guess what the outcome was? Yep, I couldn’t go through with it.
At that point, I pledged to myself that I would somehow earn a living working from home. And you know what? I did.
But before I got to that point, and started the motions of searching for work, I looked for part-time jobs near me. I was a professional with research and strategy experience. However, there were not jobs near me that were suited to me. There were plenty of hospitality jobs, sales jobs and there were lots of casual jobs with no security, with no guarantee of minimum wages. Now, not that I was shunning these types of jobs – to be honest, I was open to anything that was going to actually allow me to better manage my work and family commitments. The fact is, I called up for any kind of job near me that seemed flexible enough. Yet, I was told I was overqualified or had no experience in that particular line of work.
So, between the lack of sleep, teething and mounting pressure to earn an income, I came up with an idea. I knew I had great skills, I had qualifications, I had amazing experience. Therefore, I decided to package up my skills and sell them to companies as a freelancer. I picked up work straight away through online freelancing sites and through online networking…. And before you know it, I was actually generating more income in my 2 days of working from home than I was working full-time at my employer’s offices that took almost two hours of commuting time each day! So, in the end I found myself knocking back work as I couldn’t keep up with the demand – and in reality, I wanted to contain my working time so that I could enjoy being a mother.
It wasn’t long before all the mums in my circle of friends wanted to know how I did it, how I was able to live this flexible life entailed working for a decent income as well as being home to just be the mum I always wanted to be to my son. The enormous interest and passion for this actually prompted me to write a book about working from home for mums and how they can leverage the learnings I gained through my experience. The book was called Teleworking Mum: The essential work from home guide for parents. That was way back in 2009. Now, I am actually in the throes of revising this book and updating it for release in the coming months. So, keep your eye on the Work Life Journal blog for news of a release date.
So, from those humble beginnings I went on to research and write a PhD on workplace flexibility. That experience gave me the opportunity to teach at universities on a range of business topics such as the Future of Work, Business Communications and International Human Resource Management.
I am as passionate as ever about the benefits of working flexibly and see that the future of work is all about flexibility – I see our workforces opting to take their careers into their own hands and designing their work and skills around their passions, their strengths and their lifestyle needs. The ubiquity of the internet and advancements of technology allows us to do that right now. So, why would you strap yourself to an office chair and stare at the same screen from 9 to 5, five days a week, doing work that is perhaps not that fulfilling? Our leaders of tomorrow see that. They are being creative and highly entrepreneurial with their futures and want to give their aspirations a go. Have you noticed that career aspirations for today’s youth are, well, let’s say somewhat different to the career aspirations of earlier generations?
Take a look at the school kids of today that are not only starting their own YouTube channels or websites, some are in fact earning more income than their well-paid parents. The number of parents I have seen ditch their careers to support their children in their seven-figure income-generating pastime has been eye-opening to say the least!
We really are living in changing times, and dare I say that work and the traditional notion of work has really not kept pace. Employers are struggling to balance flexibility demands from employees with their operational needs. There is clearly some level of comfort for employers in seeing their employees at their desks. This phenomenon is called “face time”, as in the scholarly term, not the iPad app! It’s about measuring employee performance by the amount of time they spend in the workplace. So, face-time is associated with what’s called the “ideal worker” syndrome, - it is actually a conceptual theory, but I prefer to call it a syndrome. It rests on the assumption or preference of employers to hire employees with few or no commitments outside of work so that they may spend as much time as needed at the workplace. Therefore, this concept suggests that employers favour male employees over females for this reason. According to this theory, employment, becomes highly gendered and highly discriminates against women.
So, in countries such as Australia, the US and UK we’ve seen great strides to combat such inequalities in our workplaces, and one of the ways they have done this is through the introduction of policies which aim to break down the work and care divide through workplace flexibility. That is, enabling carers (e.g., mothers) better balance their caring responsibilities with work commitments through flexible working arrangements. Now, flexibility comes in a range of practices, and could be anything from working part-time, working flexible start or finish times, to working from home.
But there are problems with working flexibly. For example, there is still a fear or mistrust of workers who work from home. There is a stigma associated with working from home if you are in a traditional role or career, and unfortunately that stigma does not bode well for our careers. People who work from home may be seen as non-committed, unable to cope with the demands of the job, or they may be seen as untrustworthy or simply lazy. Yet on the contrary, research has shown time and time again that employees are more likely to put in more effort and be far more productive working from home, with fewer interruptions and greater focus. So, the culture around working from home and other flexible modes of work, really need to change. And that will take some time.
So, through all my work and life experiences, together with my career hurdles and academic endeavours, there is one thing that is very clear to me: work and life go hand in hand. You need to be able to nurture and balance both aspects in order to live a more harmonious and satisfied life in both domains. When one domain is in flux, this stress will surely flow into the other domain. Therefore, keeping both free from strain or worries, is what we all ultimately strive for.
So, there you have it – a snapshot of how the Work Life Journal came into being and all of the drivers and passion that has fueled it into existence. I hope you enjoyed listening to this podcast and look forward to having you join the next one. Thank you for listening!
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