I learned how to manage time and how to get stuff done.

It was being a mother that taught me how to be a multitasking academic. I was quite time wasteful before that, and certainly not as focused.

Managing home-work challenges 


Our lives are comprised of many different roles. When our roles are out of balance with each other, our personal wellbeing can suffer [1]. Work-family spill over [2] describes the impact that work roles can have on family roles and vice versa. For example, being excessively preoccupied and involved with work can have a negative impact on your personal, home, and family life [3].  


What are some of the ways that your work and family spheres may collide? Some workers suffer from sleep problems [4], irregular work hours, high job demands and stress, all of which can contribute to fatigue [5]. Fatigue [6] can have a negative impact on productivity, job satisfaction, and quality of work. But it can also impact on life outside of work, including your mood at home, physical health, family life, hobbies, interests and social life.  


Another way that your work can impact your home life is through your workplace implicitly expecting you to work long hours. This can be detrimental to your desire to be an engaged parent [7]. People who commit significant time and energy to their work may have limited resources to adequately excel at both work and family-related responsibilities. Having your individual resources stretched in this way can result in work-family conflict [8]


How does work-family conflict impact women?  

Work-family conflicts can be intensified for women by cultural contradictions of motherhood. But it can also be exacerbated by corporate barriers preventing mothers returning to ambitious growth roles [9]. Although women are encouraged to pursue careers, there is a social expectation that they will make sacrifices for their children to provide intensive parenting [10]. This pressure is especially strong for parents – both men and women – who are socioeconomically well-off and highly-educated [11], who are more likely to be in dual-income relationships, have established careers, and enjoy higher employment rates. This expectation persists despite research showing that, compared to previous generations, parents now spend more time with their children [12]. Although this benefits children, through improved academic achievement, language acquisition, behaviour, and more [12], parents are increasingly stressed by social pressures to engage with their children constantly [13], whilst also maintaining high standards in the workplace.  


Research has shown that women in dual income couples feel high levels of work-family conflict. One study examined work-family conflict in a sample of 239 female production operators, all of whom were in dual-income families [14]. Nearly two thirds of these women indicated that they intended to leave their job upon having another child. Furthermore, success in the workplace as a mother is tempered by the high cost of stress and burnout [15]. Mothers also face the ‘motherhood penalty’ [16], a form of discrimination whereby, due to their parental status, they are perceived as less competent, less committed, and are recommended a lower starting salary [17]. On the flipside, men who are fathers typically earn more than their single male counterparts; a phenomenon termed the ‘fatherhood premium’ or ‘daddy bonus’ [18].  

Why is balancing home and work important? 


A plethora of research shows the value of work-life balance [19].

Participative (democratic)[4]

Individual Benefits

Employee Benefits

Organisational Benefits

Strategies for achieving work life balance  


There are a range of ways to manage your work-life balance to improve your overall wellbeing. Women, compared than men, are more likely to use strategies such as self-employment to improve their control over work and better integrate work and family demands [24]. They also employ coping strategies such as working fewer hours, finding support from partners or other family members, or outsourcing care. Women might also reconcile work and care psychologically by, for example, rationalizing their need to work on economic grounds [25].  


However, women should not be solely responsible for solving this problem. Workplaces can help women by supporting paid paternity leave and putting in place other gender equality measures for men, allowing a more equal division of domestic and childcare responsibilities. Such support is beneficial for women and also for organisations.


A UK study found that companies that incorporated programs that were designed to support working parents showed higher employee retention and job satisfaction [26]. This study also showed that it is important not just to have work-life policies in place, but to ensure they are actually supported and their use is not stigmatised. Factors that affect whether fathers felt comfortable taking paternity leave include: support and use of entitlements by their colleagues, the presence of a supportive manager, and the workplace culture itself.  


Organizations can also implement additional means of empowering women. This includes ensuring distributive justice in reward and compensation management. In other words, when female employees compare themselves with their male colleagues, they should perceive fairness in outcomes such as pay, promotions, and other organizational benefits). Internal training can also be an effective “eye-opener” to create better awareness of gender issues and the impact they have on office dynamics [27]. Furthermore, performance management is a crucial component of ensuring that promotion within the organization is based on achievements and not influenced by the employee’s gender [27].  

Many successful researchers have found that effective time management is critical for achieving work-life balance. Time management can promote work effectiveness [28], improve productivity, reduce stress, and increase energy. Below are ten strategies for better time management [29]

  1. Know how you spend time 

    Fill out your own ‘wheel of productivity’ here

  2. Set priorities  

    Define your priorities using the three-list method: Create a weekly calendar, a daily “things to do”, and a monthly list that includes goals and achievements.  

  3. Use a planning tool 

    Make use of online applications, such as project management tool Trello

  4. Get organized  

    Download online applications such as Habit List or Things 3, a task management app.  

  5. Schedule your time appropriately 

    Use online applications such as RescueTime to improve your time management. 

  6. Delegate: get help from others 

    Identify clear constraints and boundaries and play to your worker’s strengths. 

  7. Stop procrastinating 

    Download an online application such as Procraster to help you get back to working. 

  8. Manage external time wasters 

    Click here to read 20 tips to reduce time wasters. 

  9. Avoid multi-tasking 

    Working on multiple tasks at once is inefficient. Work on tasks sequentially instead.  

  10. Stay healthy

More recommendations 


Project Manager interviewed multiple CEOs, business leaders and entrepreneurs and asked them what their process is to achieve work-life balance. They identified 17 ways in total that companies can use to encourage employees to achieve and maintain a healthy work-life balance [30]

  1. Set boundaries with clients (for academics, this means setting boundaries with students, colleagues, and staff)

  2. Encourage reasonable employee hours 

  3. Allow flexibility for overtime 

  4. Institute flexibility for working parents 

  5. Allow people to work remotely 

  6. Conduct daily stand up meetings (stand up meetings tend to be faster!)

  7. Lead by example 

  8. Work outside the office 

  9. Test out office half-days 

  10. Trust your employees 

  11. Encourage vacation time 

  12. Encourage people to get physical 

  13. Support flexibility 

  14. Lose the office 

  15. Empower employees 

  16. Bring your family to work 

  17. Stick to what works (don’t fix what’s not broken) 

Staying Sane Whilst Managing Home-Work Challenges

Women in Research "Small Wins" Webinar series

with ARC Laureate Fellows Professor Sharon Parker, Professor Lisa Kewley and Professor Jolanda Jetten


Suggested videos 

Suggested videos 

See also Jennifer Martin's video: Go to 3.20 minutes for her helpful tips on housework!