Ideas to Blend Work and Family
Baxter Labs recently completed a long term global study in which they found that what their employees worldwide wanted most was “to be respected as whole human beings with a life outside of work.” With all the changes in today’s workplaces, it seems that most of us are constantly struggling to balance work and family. People are working longer hours, doing more with less, and finding themselves stretched to their very limits by the demands of their jobs. Little time and energy is left for family, and the organizations which encourage and support work/life initiatives are still few and far betw.
One of the answers to this crisis is to find creative ways to bleeennd work and family. In my book CARE Packages for the Home–Dozens of Ways to Regenerate Spirit Where You Live, I have shared hundreds of ideas of ways individuals and families all over the world are creating more caring, joyful places to live whether they are single people, single parents, blended families, extended families, or retired families. Here are some tips and ideas for ways to combine your work and home lives.
Share your work with your family.
Research shows that one of the things employees want is a “feeling of being in on things.” Family members want the same thing–to be a part of one another’s lives outside of the home. That is why parents often annoy their children by constantly asking, “What happened at school today?” The exciting news is that there are many fun and interesting ways to involve your family in your work, and when that happens, you’ll be surprised at how much more willing they are to include you in their whole lives as well.
- Videotape the place where you work. Do a “walking tour” showing the reception area if you have one, the cafeteria or breakout room, and most importantly, your office, cubicle, or work area. (Make sure you have a family picture and family mementos VISIBLE in your workspace.) Include “hello’s” from some of your colleagues if you feel comfortable.
- Invite your family members, perhaps one at a time, to join you for lunch. Some parents allow their children to each have a special “Dad or Mom” (or Grandpa/Grandma, Aunt/Uncle) day when they get to take a day off from school to visit their family member’s workplace.
- Help to organize a “Bring your Family to Work” day or an Openhouse, Expo, or Fair in which families come to learn more about what their relatives do. Make sure that different activities are planned for different age groups, and always serve some kind of food to create an atmosphere of celebration.
- Give your family members logo gifts from your organization so that they feel like they are a part of your worklife. By creating a feeling of partnership with your family, you are helping to stop feelings of jealousy that you care more about your job than you do about them. Also they will enjoy the pride that comes from advertising “their” favorite organization.
- Ask your family members to help you with a work project. It may be as simple as stuffing envelopes, or stapling papers, or filing and sorting; however, if it is done as a family, it brings closeness rather than separation. Then plan some sort of celebration as a reward at the finish of the task. My family members are very involved in my work. My daughter Erin creates all the bright-colored, laminated flip charts I post around the room or ballroom whenever I speak. My daughter Gretchen creates the wonderful slides I use in my presentations. My son Garrett has been involved in selling my books, and my husband Charlie often travels with me and keeps my financial records. It has become “our” business!
- Start contests at your workplace that involve families. The DMV in Virginia sponsored a wonderful contest in which they asked family members to draw pictures of what their Mom/Dad/Grandpa/Grandma/Aunt/Uncle did at work all day. The pictures were so delightful that they had them framed, and their hallways and reception areas are filled with the children’s drawings. Not only do their customers enjoy them and the atmosphere they create, but the children love to come in and see THEIR drawing hanging where their family member works!
- Bring home articles about your work, pictures of your boss and co-workers, and samples of your marketing materials. If you help to create a product, bring home examples to show your family. Children also love the fun little “gimmicky” things we often get at trade shows or from vendors. When you bring these things home, they know that you were thinking of them.
- When you receive an award at work, make sure you share it with your family. Invite them to the ceremonies if possible. If you receive a monetary reward, find a way to do something to share it with each family member such as an outing of some kind or a gift that you have all been wanting. You might even have a family conference to make that decision and let each family member have a vote. Let them really know that you couldn’t have done this without their support.
- Invite colleagues to your home, particularly the person to whom you report, so that your family members can get to know them. If you are a manager, one of the most memorable things you could do would be to invite the families of your employees to your home. When I worked at Kaset International, a Times Mirror training company, the owners of the company once a year invited all the families to their home. That gesture created more loyalty to the company and harmony at home than any monetary bonus they could have given!
- When you are involved in a long project, give your family a calendar so that they know exactly the extent of your commitment. Each night at the dinner table they can check off a day, and you can report on your progress. This way, even if it is spread over several months, they can see an end in sight and also feel a part of the process. (This idea works especially well if you have to travel. Color code the travel days on the calendar, so that everyone knows what to expect and can plan around your schedule. They can also check off the days to visually “see” how long it will be until you return.) Use fun stickers to mark special points of progress or accomplishments along the way. And don’t forget to celebrate THE END!
Find special ways to include your family when you travel.
If your work involves travel, you will need to try especially hard to involve your family. Whether a trip is for business or pleasure, the more ways you can find to share it with your family, the closer you will be and the more you will learn and grow together. Here are some creative ways to include your family in your business trips:
- Start a shadow box for each family member. When I began traveling in my speaking and consulting business, my sister gave each of my children a printer’s drawer. (We call it a “shadow box.”) I did not want to get in the habit of bringing them a big, expensive present every time I was gone, so I carried on a family tradition that my sister had started on her travels. Each time I travel, I bring each of my children some little thing that is a symbol of the city or country I visited–a miniature cable car from San Francisco, a little basket of tiny crabs from Maryland, a totem pole from British Columbia, a miniature bottle of Coke from Atlanta, a gavel from the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., a little pineapple from Hawaii, a lighthouse from Rhode Island, a miniature jazz player from New Orleans, a tiny record from Nashville, a milk can from Wisconsin, a cowbell from Liechtenstein, a miniature St. Bernard from Switzerland, a panda bear from San Diego, a duck from Memphis, and a small container of Vegemite from New Zealand! These gifts are fun to find, inexpensive, and easy to tuck into the corner of a suitcase AND the children are learning special things about other cultures and parts of the country. Now my children are bringing souvenirs for the shadow box from their own trips!
- Give each family member a “Things to Tell Mom/Dad/Grandpa/ Grandma” notebook. To help keep in close touch with my children when I had to travel, I gave them a “Things to Tell Mom” notebook. I picked a special notebook for each of the girls which I knew they would like (our son was away for his first year of college). Then I told them to keep that notebook with them every day and write down anything they wanted to tell me. Every night when I called home, they would have their notebook lists as a reminder of what had happened during the day. I think they told me more because of those notebooks than they would have if I had been at home!
- Purchase a large map and buy pins with colored heads. Place pins in the cities you will be visiting on your trips so the children can see where you will be. This is also a wonderful way for them to learn geography. When you return, share with them special things about the area you visited (even if YOU never got out of a hotel room or an office!)
- Surprise family members with little things to let them know you are thinking about them. Bonnie Michaels, the President of Managing Work and Family in Evanston, Illinois, shares a new family ritual she and her husband have created to help them feel close to each other even when traveling: “When I go away, I leave a special note for him under his pillow. When he goes away, I leave a special note for him in his suitcase. He does the same for me. In addition, he has left poems on my e-mail or special messages on my voice mail. All these little gestures help the traveler to feel special and connected, appreciated and cared for.”
- Create an audiotape to leave for your family or perhaps record a message for each day to be played at breakfast or at the dinner table. With email you can also send them a personal message every day you are gone. These could be printed out and placed in a memory book for each child–“Letters from Mom/Dad/Grandpa/Grandma.” You are also creating a legacy for them with anything that can be saved and reread as time goes on
- Always carry your family member’s pictures with you. Place them on the dresser of your hotel room and let them know that you have them there. One of my colleagues always travels with a small stuffed teddy bear that his children have given him so that he won’t get lonely! When my children were younger, it was very important to them to know if I had “shown their picture” to my audiences.
- Save your frequent traveler miles and use them for family travel. We were able to bring each of our children home for Thanksgiving when they were in college with my frequent flyer miles, a trip we could not have afforded otherwise. One of my colleagues lets each of her children choose one business trip a year to accompany her using her frequent flyer miles. It provides a special sharing time for both of them and memories that are irreplaceable! Another friend was able to take his whole family to Hawaii as a result of all the business travel he had done.
Eat dinner together as a family.
Although most of these ideas are quite simple, they will make a huge difference in how your family feels about your job because you have made them a sharing participant in your work. Perhaps the most important idea of all is to try at least four nights a week to have dinner as a family. Do not just let dinner happen, but plan it so that it truly becomes a sharing time. One idea is to begin each week with a family commitment such as:
We will each give five compliments to someone a day. OR
We will each do something kind for someone else every day. OR
We will each choose a new book to read this week. OR
We will each write a note to thank someone this week. OR
We will each find one funny thing that happened to us to share this week.
Then at dinner each night discuss your progress. One of the things we always shared in our family was what we had learned that day. If you gently plan and guide family conversation, you will indirectly be providing opportunities to share one another’s lives in a special way. All these activities will create memories, sharing, and the blending of work and family we so desperately need in our world today.
© Barbara Glanz Communications. All Rights Reserved.
Barbara Glanz Biography
A member of the prestigious Speaker Hall of Fame and one of fewer than 700 Certified Speaking Professionals worldwide, Barbara Glanz, CSP, CPAE, works with organizations to improve morale, retention and service and with people who want to rediscover the joy in their work and in their lives. She is the first speaker on record to have spoken on all 7 continents and in all 50 states. Known as "the business speaker who speaks to your heart as well as to your head," Barbara is the author of twelve books including The Simple Truths of Service Inspired by Johnny the Bagger®, CARE Packages for the Workplace, and 180 Ways to Spread Contagious Enthusiasm™. Voted "best keynote presenter you have heard or used" by Meetings & Conventions Magazine, Barbara uses her Master’s degree in Adult Learning to design programs that cause behavior change. She lives and breathes her personal motto: “Spreading Contagious Enthusiasm™” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.barbaraglanz.com.