Finding the balance between your work family and your real one

We’ve all known and loved a work spouse – that special person in the office who’s always there with support, ideas or a listening ear. But it’s vital to keep a healthy balance between your work spouse, and your real one. Here’s how.

Keep work and home issues separate

“My work spouse is my co-founder, Shanine,” says Paul Russell, director and co-founder at Luxury Academy. “We are quite different, and like real spouses, we’ll often disagree about the best strategy for a particular decision. But the important thing is that we are communicating and utilising our complementary skills to determine the best way forward.”

Having this strong relationship at work, and being able to communicate in this way, helps to provide space between work and home life. You’re less likely to go home with unresolved work baggage. So make this work in reverse, and resist the temptation to take family troubles to your work spouse. Some discussion about your home life with your work spouse is inevitable – it’s part and parcel of being friends. But try not to muddy the waters, so that your conversation starts to resolve around personal issues rather than professional ones.”

Value your two roles

“Sometimes a person may undervalue their role at home as husband or wife, because they may feel they don't get the respect they do at work,” says Sophie Coulthard, principal consultant at the Judgement Index, an assessment that measures judgement and behaviours in both the working world and the personal world. “If a person has a positive value of their role at work, it may be because they are respected and valued. To that I would say: what is missing? What could enhance your value of your role at home? Make a list of why you're fulfilled and what makes you feel fulfilled at work – and do the same for home.”

Make time to offload

“Your business spouse can be the salvation of your real family dynamics,” says Lee Lam, consultant and expert in team dynamics and navigating workplace culture. “Relationships can get strained if you are dealing with stresses or struggles in your business and your spouse cannot understand the context of what you are dealing with. Tensions increase, because you don’t feel heard and therefore supported from somebody who you feel should.

“Having a work partner who provides that contextualised support and understanding allows your real family to be more concerned with how you are doing overall, and your place in the family unit. So if you can, set a time at the end of the day where you and your work spouse offload the frustrations of the day, the specific challenges and discussions. Summing up the day, letting you release that stress before going back home and reconnecting with your real family.”

Read: Encourage your team to bring their family to work

Greet your real spouse with a smile

“We spend a long time at work, and it’s inevitable that strong relationships will develop,” points out wellbeing expert Nicky Marshall, author, speaker and mentor and founder of Discover Your Bounce. “This relationship means that on a challenging day you don't stomp through your front door, throw off your coat and download your trials and tribulations on your partner. If there is support at work, it means you can use your journey home to unwind and concern yourself with living your home life! Of course, there are elements of work that need sharing, but a day-by-day run down can prove challenging! How would you like your arrival home to be? A jovial greeting, a big hug and sharing a cuppa can be a wonderful experience!”

Set your boundaries

“Boundaries make us feel safe and protected,” says hypnotherapist Dipti Tait. “As long as there is clarity and mutual understanding of those boundaries which have been decided on, then our mind feels secure and everyone operates from a place of safety. Even when the boundaries are unusual, they have to be flexible and organic enough to adapt to the situation. For example, setting rules about conversations about work related issues that are acceptable at home, and vice versa.

Human interaction can be a complicated dynamic. But with some effective lines of communication and sensible but fluid boundaries in place, we should all be able to interact with ease and grace as well as respect.”

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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