What does work-life balance look like for driving instructors?
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Everyone’s interested in work-life balance, but most of the tips and interventions we hear about are targeted at office workers on a nine-to-five schedule. According to research, though, not having enough time for family and spending too much time on the job are the top work-life balance worries for all workers, regardless of their schedule. The good news is that research also shows that being able to plan and schedule your own work leads to better work-life balance, and this is where driving instructors have a clear advantage over a lot of other workers. So here are four ideas for creating – and maintaining – work-life balance on a nonstandard schedule:
Your work-life balance doesn’t look like everyone else’s work-life balance. Having a good work-life balance doesn’t always mean finishing work in time to collect your children from school and having evenings and weekends off. When you work nonstandard hours, you’re more likely to have mornings and early afternoons free, and this can be a gift. Breakfast with your family, bringing the children to school or to medical appointments, and attending daytime school events are all activities that office workers on a standard schedule struggle to fit in. Running errands on a weekday morning is less stressful than navigating busy shops during rush hour or on weekends. For the fitness-minded, being able to exercise outdoors in daylight hours or use an off-peak membership at the gym is a more rewarding experience than pounding the pavement in the dark, or sweating it out with the post-5:00 p.m. crowds on the treadmill.
Flexibility is important, but sometimes you need to be inflexible. We tend to set boundaries around our work hours to make sure nothing interferes with them. Doing the same thing for your personal life means you won’t miss out on the important things. Ring-fence top priorities (family events, important leisure activities) and protect that time the same way you would an important work appointment. You’re your own boss – make sure you treat yourself with the same courtesy you would extend to anyone else working for you.
Priorities change. Revisit yours every few months and do a work-life balance audit. This is a good way to notice if work hours keep creeping up on you, or if your ring-fencing tactics aren’t working; you can reassess your strategy and try something new. For instance, it can be useful to ask a friend or family member to ‘police’ you and gently point out when your priorities and your actions don’t match up; other people can sometimes see us more clearly than we can see ourselves.
Work-life balance isn’t just about the negatives. There are two sides to work-life balance: conflict, and enrichment. We tend to focus on reducing conflict between our work and non-work activities, and we forget to think about all the ways in which our jobs and our personal lives have a positive impact on each other. Does finishing off the work day on a high note send you home in a good mood? Does raising children or caring for elderly parents help you to be more patient with your clients? When you help a client acquire a key life skill and boost their self-confidence in the process, does that carry over to your interactions with friends or family members? We all build up sets of skills, resources, and support in our work and our personal lives, and often they can be transferred across the two without our even realising it.
Dr Alexandra Beauregard is a lecturer in Employment Relations and Organisational Behaviour at the London School of Economics. Her research interests are centred on the interface between paid work and home life. To date, her work has focused on the causes and consequences of conflict between these two domains, as well as the organisational and legislative contexts in which work-related and personal responsibilities interact. Works in progress include an examination of the effects of family adjustment on turnover among truck drivers working away from home for long periods of time.