My Family Care asks Paula: With the increase of flexible working - and the increase in technological advancements - the lines between work and family time can become blurry. Do you successfully keep work inside work hours so you can concentrate on family time, or do you run both in parallel, in successful ways? And if so, how?
Useful tool or technological onslaught?
Work defines us whether we mean it to or not. It seeps into all areas of life, gives us the Friday feeling, allows us to complain, to celebrate and it gives us the means to, quite literally, live. With all that in mind, how can we even begin to separate work from home or vice versa?
The answer is not straightforward, if indeed one exists. With internet usage at an all time high (46% of the global population) and social media not far behind (27% of the global population), we can't escape it and we'd be silly to try.
Sure there are some traditionalists out there (myself being a pretty big proponent), who struggle with the rapid onslaught of technology and question its benefits - they can be hard to see the value of.
Utilising free time
Often, it's easier to see its ugly, all encompassing side. You only have to look at your average teenager stuck to a screen or a tube full of commuters never more than a hair's breath from a device of one sort or another, to realise this is a world firmly ensconced in a technological minefield.
That said, when it's 5pm and you need to dash off to collect the children in time, having the chance to catch up - remotely, a little later or en route - is a very attractive option and one not to be taken lightly.
My work never really finishes at 5pm and having the chance to check in on an email at 8pm or 9pm is really quite a good way of ensuring that I pick up my son earlier and have some proper, relaxed time with him before he goes to bed.
My partner, too, as head of an English department in a large secondary school, uses time at home to catch up on a multitude of things.
A balance, but not as we know it...
As I write this, I am forced to ponder the true benefits of this. Are we slaves to work and securing the exact opposite to any sort of freedom or balance? Perhaps technology really does provide a feeling of entrapment and, more so, a feeling of guilt if we try to release ourselves from that.
Unfortunately, I don't have the answer to this. But I do believe that a tighter working day away from the home, means a longer time at home and if - like me - that is something that appeals, then working remotely, outside of the designated work time, is a blessing of sorts. And besides all that, it's not forever. We have to remind ourselves that work is a perpetually changing landscape. Busy times lead to quiet times and so on and so forth.
And with this in mind, I am eternally grateful to technology for allowing me to maintain a balance, even if it's not quite the expected one.
Paula Hughes, Community Engagement Officer, Contributing Writer and Mother to Frey