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Strategies and Operational Excellence at Home!

Ashwini S Kumar
Ashwini S Kumar
Entrepreneur, Co – Founder and Director
Ashwini is a certified ITIL V3 Expert with strong academic and 13 years of global industry experi... more>>
Every day, we keep hearing from women employees about how they juggle to meet family and office work needs. Organizations are also factoring this by having work-life balance policies with flexi time, working from home (WFH) options to employees to extend the helping hands which are mostly useful to women employees (I am sure, our male colleagues are also more than happy to avail this benefits now-a-days as they seem to have started sharing family and parenting needs with their better halfs). Nevertheless, running an organization with key executive role, I keep wondering what actually can help contribute to promote work-life balance. Is it that we shouldnt expect a woman to extend herself for some client meeting or solving business issues after office hours or we deliberately hire only men to avoid any futuristic need for extended working hour expectation and hire women only for business hour roles? Or will it help to give them WFH option? I have seen all these policies in prior stints of my US career and India, I feel, only these changes wont actually help!

In fact, I feel very guilty if someone pings me from office when I am WFH and I just went to get a glass of water! I start visualizing, since I didnt respond, my colleagues must be thinking that I am NOT actually working but relaxing, enjoying or doing something else at home. I may be wrong, but, I feel, a manager usually suspects the actual work completed by an associate especially when they WFH. So, I prefer to work at office mostly during office hours to be available for team to reach out to me face-to-face than remote mostly. So, did WFH help me? No. Flexi time ? this is another unintelligent so called benefit to any employee. I feel this is what imbalances the entire work-life balance objective! Associate ends up working 24/7 and less/no time for "life" part of the balance! but, challenges of focusing on multiple things at any given point of time whether its professional or personal ( Who can multitask better, of course women!)and still be creative, solving issues, staying on top of many things at a time without stressing oneself needs to be solved). How to achieve this?

My life experience is that any work at office is a piece of cake when compared to personal chores back at home. Sorry, no offense anyone who thinks the other way! Somehow, I had been always comfortable being at office than at home, which after I had kids, put me in guilt and a lot if introspection! I started thinking and worked on my "strategy" of running my home with the same principles of building a business as an entrepreneur- IT WORKS ( to a greater extent)! The way we use our cultural upbringing in our personal life and we value and inculcate the same in our professional lives, my plan of running household as my work looked straight forward to me.

Being a woman myself, thought about my own life (not about just myself any more, but the rest- which otherwise is a womens responsibility after marriage ?) which I have learnt to manage after a long period of struggle - house chores, cooking meals for family, kids, parents, siblings, extended family, taking care of bills, managing expenses & savings, future plans, home/assets services, all maintenance services of equipments at home? I am running "operations" at home with a schedule of every task meticulously done, which seasonally change as per my kids academic calendar and our travel plans. I have set up selectively outsourced some services from "External support system / Supplier / resource " management to clean, cook, take care of kids, tuitions and I have a fair amount of "back up" stand by help. I have home policies, processes so that we can only worry about any deviations only and rest can run smoothly. I have points incentive system for my kids for finishing within their eating times and to avoid continuous nagging, keeping their stuff organized and behavior - which is working (They are 7 and 5 years ?). This idea came to me when kids came to me one day and told me that their friends at school get pocket money and they buy books and chocolates from that money. I realized that this is very important for kids so that they could boast with their friends on their savings, I used it to agree on mutually beneficial services and payments and we had house rules (MOU) and contract in place stuck in kids room. I have trained my mind to see only for 48 hours ahead where - my husbands or my travel plans may come up and it has to be my husband or me and never (I have tried so far to manage it, I have my in-laws or parents, who would be happy to take care of kids occasionally without much affecting their selected retired life of freedom and lifestyle). I made this change in myself not to plan for travel in the long term/short term and not to get excited on a trip which is planned long time ago to save myself and family from disappointment. Earlier I used to find myself very unhappy for the frequent changes that are expected to happen when we are promoters of business and cant have any schedule in life for the years until business venture stabilizes. Any social events and invitation are normally accepted only a couple of days before the event, so that we dont commit and embarrass ourselves when we dont show up for events and meet friends at a later point!

I used to get nervous when my cook doesnt turn up or just the thought itself would be sending a electric shock going down my spine. Now, I have learnt to relax as I have some ready made quick meal options always stocked and I have an alternate cleaning lady back up from the neighborhood. Even if I let go any maid, we walk our paths in good relationship so as to immediately reach out to them if needed on temporary basis. Every service, I avail, I have a back up strategy and I do account management on all my relationships (Believe me, I have schedules when to call whom- extended family/support system / friends).

I found out that many a times, "work-life" meaning is actually understood as "family" and "work". Nothing more in general sense where "one&s life" is not visible at all, which is the sad part. It is treated as a burden and leaves a frustrated mind as it gives you an impression that life is taking control of you and not the other way around. When you realize what all means important to you, you will start realizing to make time to prioritize and set up a time (basically organize yourself) for all the activities of your life. You can end up making time for "yourself", now since "rest" of the things are taken care of, you are no more guilty and slowly , you see that you are in control of your life. You start doing what you dreamed of as a hobby, exercise, define your life and live it fully. You start mentoring your family members and get their agreement. They seem to support you better now as you have built and restored the needed relationship by religiously invested time with each member, who are just like your team members back at work! I hope my household strategy and management might be of some help in making yours! Again, mind you, just as in business, a strategy which works for an organization might not work for the other, same is applicable in personal management as well.
Good Luck!

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