Changing the balance between your work and family life first requires some deep thought, says Caroline Tolond

Changing the balance between your work and family life first requires some deep thought, says Caroline Tolond

Q I started a new job just over a year ago which I thought I could juggle with my family commitments. However, I’m now feeling that, in the long term, this might not be sustainable and I need to reassess my work-life balance. Can you suggest a strategy for this? 


Caroline Toland is the RSC’s careers adviser

A How you balance your work and personal life is a very individual decision. There are no templates or guidelines that I can suggest, only questions I can pose which may help guide your decision, the first question of which is: How in control of your circumstances do you feel? 

If you are in control then it is likely your work-life balance is ok, but if you have less control than you are comfortable with then it is probably a good time to reassess. A lack of control may be caused by a high workload, limited scope for personal or professional development at work, or by feeling trapped in a career, which can increase stress levels and generate tension between work and personal commitments.  

Consider also the amount of time and head-space that work takes up in your life. Does it feel right? Has it changed recently? How able are you to make time for activities outside of work? Try not to think about the number of hours you put in at work as what is right for you will depend on your circumstances, which could mean being part-time or regularly working more than 35 hours a week.  

It is useful to reflect on what is important in all areas of your life. Career choices are driven by many different factors, including career progression, income and personal time and these can change as life changes. It can be helpful to review your career drivers, consider if they have changed and assess how these fit with all the other important aspects of your life.  

One way to help focus your thoughts is to write down a list of your career and personal drivers and then try to prioritise them. For example, if you are considering moving jobs to develop your career but a change could impact on other parts of your life which have equal priority, then take time to review what is most important for your own fulfilment. Considering these questions should help to clarify your thoughts and identify your priorities.  



So, we’ve covered the ’blue sky’ thinking part of the reassessment process. The next step is to ask harder questions and think about what rebalancing your life could mean in practice. For many people this is about deciding if you need to make small or more significant changes. The larger the change the more necessary it is to consider what you can afford to do and, if necessary, the income you need to cover your essential costs and living expense.  

Some people will find making small adjustments, such as stopping thinking about work at a certain time, enough to adjust the work-life balance. For others a more substantial change, such as changing jobs or even career, is required. You could think about going part-time or, if you are in the UK and have children, you may be able to request to work flexibly. You could even start up your own business - an increasingly popular response to the need for a better work-life balance. However, it may be that you can’t afford to make changes at this stage, but you may be able to set yourself some personal goals to work towards that provide a better balance in the long term.  

There may be difficult decisions to be made along the way, but if you can take time to review, plan and seek the support you need, you will be able to take positive steps towards taking control of your life in both the short and longer term. 

Further Reading

  • Advice for working families in the UK 
  • Work-life balance and legal rights in America
  • Starting up your own business in the UK