How to achieve the perfect work-life balance

It's time to set your goals for that elusive workplace holy grail, walking the fine line between finding career success and enjoying quality family time.

A mother sitting at a laptop with her baby
  • Alexandra Carlton
  • February 2020

More than 12 per cent of the ads placed on the Australian version of the job search site include words such as “family friendly” or “flexible conditions” – a higher rate than any other OECD country. On the face of it, Australia seems to be doing pretty well in the work/parenting balance stakes but data can be deceiving. The 2019 Working Families Survey from advocacy group Parents At Work showed that many parents felt that while employers might talk the family-friendly talk, the reality didn’t always match. In fact two-thirds of respondents reported feeling too emotionally and physically drained from their jobs to contribute to family life. But some parents and employers are figuring out how to harmonise career and home life – in ways that benefit everyone.

A family sitting down having a meal together
Many Australians prioritise a work-life balance when job hunting.

Is job sharing the secret to success?

Elle Ritson and Beth Holden have created a job-sharing success story. Both 35, they are also both mums to daughters around three years old and – incredibly – are both pregnant with little ones who are due on the exact same day. They also share their job as Senior Executive, Experiential Marketing, at Audi Australia. Each works two days solo, then together on Wednesdays. “Because we bring two sets of experiences and two brains to one role, I think we get more done than one person would,” Elle says. “And when I’m at home with my daughter I can be fully present for her, knowing Beth is taking care of things.”

How to hack the career-family balance

To make it work, post-baby, here are a few essential tips. Firstly, if you want to turn your full-time role into a part-time one, start the conversation before you go on parental leave to give everyone some certainty. Then, when you and your boss are in agreement, write a memo outlining exactly what your tasks are. If your work begins spilling into your days off, refer to the memo and ask to re-prioritise your workload or be paid more. Finally, agree to a trial before locking anything in. That way both parties can reassess if it’s not working out.