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The balance between career and family

02/02/2021 2021/02

The balance between career and family

How many roles do you currently want to fulfill? The compatibility of work and private life has been on our minds not only since we currently experience both areas of life so intensively in a restricted space.

Our colleague Milana Schreiber has been working 100% from her home office for almost 2 years. This was already the case before Corona. She is our expert for the compatibility of work and family.

Hi Milana, great that you could take the time to answer my questions. We are curious about your experiences and tips. So that our readers can get a picture of you, let's clarify a few basic things.

  • When you were a child or teenager, did you have a Gameboy or rather a tablet?

My parents had an NES. But that wasn't my thing, so I only played with it every now and then with a friend.

  • Walkman or Mp3 player?

Walkman! With self-recorded cassettes, for which I recorded songs from the radio for hours.

  • Playing outside or sitting in front of the computer?

As a child I played a lot outside. There was a very big playground, a lot of kids of the same age in our street and when I was a bit older, I was out a lot with my inline skates. From the age of about 12 I also had my own computer.

  • What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to learn a trade as a teenager. Working with my hands and with different materials was important to me, I couldn't imagine a pure office job. It was only during the course of my vocational training that I developed an interest in commercial backgrounds.

I can think of 5 questions that we will have to discuss in more detail another time. Back to our topic, what is cognitive hygiene for you?

In essence, for me it's about giving the brain the opportunity to recover through conscious breaks. This brain recovery has a positive effect on brain performance through the recovery effect. Without these breaks, it leads to mental overload in the long run. Errors, concentration difficulties, impaired memory and problem-solving ability are only some of the possible consequences.

A beautiful comparison and so obvious. If we find ourselves in a spiral of negative thoughts, what's your advice on how to get out of it?

It helps immensely to give the brain a break from the stressful topic. It is conceivable, for example, through sports, playing with your own children, gardening or handicrafts, to give your mind a new focus that distracts it from the topic for the moment, but does not provide any new additional input that the brain has to process. Active simple activities make it easier for the brain to create space for new solution strategies and promote satisfaction through the self-efficacy experience of the activity.

To get positive thoughts, it is therefore not advisable to watch TV or click on the smartphone. Because the resulting new input makes the head even fuller.

It's true that social media is known for not really making you feel better after consumption. But what do you think it takes to stay mentally healthy?

I think it's important that we learn to focus again. The fast decreasing actuality of information provides a flood of information that hits us every day. At work as well as in our private lives. Here we have to help our perception to focus on the important, for us necessary information and create our own strategies, how we can keep the unimportant information, for our own relief, away from us. 

For example 

  • Read only the news that is actually of interest, 
  • avoid advertising as much as possible, 
  • in social media, only follow profiles that bring real added value to our own interests,
  • Turn off push notifications,
  • Mute Whatsapp groups if memes and videos are forwarded there on a daily basis.

Everyone is sure to find other examples of this kind, which eat up time and attention in their own everyday life and do not bring any personal added value.

We already reported at the beginning that you work 100% from home, and not just recently. What do you see as the particular challenge for cognitive hygiene when combining home office and family?

It's harder to separate work and personal life in the home office. When you work at a company, you close the door behind you in the afternoon and are quickly in after-work mode due to the change in environment. In the home office, there is no physical separation, which increases accessibility and makes it more difficult to really switch off. This has a corresponding effect on the family if one (or both) parents do not switch off properly and thus do not offer the children their full attention and mental presence. Constant attention puts a strain on brain recovery and, in the long run, on family life.

And what everyday tips do you give your clients on cognitive hygiene, e.g. in the home office, based on this experience?

  • Consistently turn off your work cell phone and use your private cell phone more consciously.
  • Clear away the workstation/close the door to create a spatial separation
  • Take real breaks (not just to clean out the dishwasher)
  • Arrange to video chat with colleagues to take a break together, talking as little as possible about work
  • Use time with family to be active together.

If we look at the side of employers, what do you think companies can do for their employees in terms of mental health?

Above all, companies should act as role models for mindful interaction with one another and set an example of health-promoting measures, such as adherence to break times, and actively promote them within the team.

Many companies already have great health promotion programs. These should support not only physical but also mental health. For example, they can provide assistance in accessing therapeutic support, coaching, mindfulness training, etc.

Key points. Perhaps in closing, let's go back to you. How do you manage to recharge your batteries?

In everyday life, it's the small, quiet moments with my two-year-old son, for example when we look at a book together or go for a walk and see what there is to discover in the surroundings. 

For me, craft activities are a real source of energy. That's where the passion for my profession is still clearly reflected. I like to work with different materials when building lamps, smaller pieces of furniture or household objects. I can lose myself in this and get completely involved in the work with my hands. The great feeling of satisfaction when you have created something new is then added as a bonus.

Maybe there will be an ARTS desk lamp soon :-). For me, mental health also has something to do with enjoying. You've already given us a little insight, but can you take us into your world again? What is enjoyment for you?

For me, enjoyment is getting involved in something and consciously perceiving the moment. It can be a relaxing moment in nature, a delicious meal or the company of loved ones. 

And what do you do when there is no moment of enjoyment, but rather stress? How do you deal with problems?

I first look at problems from all sides. When I have answered these questions for myself, I am usually very close to solving the problem.

  • How and why did the problem arise? 
  • To what extent are other people involved and what are their positions or needs in this case?
  • What exactly is MY problem?

However, I have also made the experience that not every problem has to be solved. If you give the situation a little time, it often solves itself.

Finally, a little outlook. What are your goals / desires in terms of your cognitive hygiene? Respectively those of your clients?

More digital detox, i.e. a break in dealing with digital media, would do me good. I plan to put my cell phone aside more often, especially in the evening, to help my brain recover and be more receptive the next day. 

When talking to clients or colleagues, I notice that there is a particular need for a stricter separation of work and family time. On the one hand, there is the desire for more consideration by the employer and, on the other hand, the desire to act more consistently.

Thank you very much for these great tips and the insight into how you deal with the issue of work-life balance.

We invite you to be part of our mental workout. On 11. 02.2021 is the time to sign up here. Starting next week, we invite you to join our ARTS #cognitiveHygieneChallenge in February. Win a coaching session with our career expert or our work-life balance expert

Finally, here's a question: How many roles have they acted out of today?

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