I was walking out of the Vibe hotel in North Sydney when my mobile phone rang. The voice on the end of the line was a very familiar one, it was the voice of a friend who is an SAS soldier. What was unfamiliar was his tone of voice because it was one of fear, uncertainty, and panic.
I asked, “Man are you ok? You sound terrible!”
“No Ad’s I am not ok, I have a situation and I’m freaking out, I don’t know what to do, I think I am having a break down!”
Then, I started to panic. I quickly said “Calm down mate, tell me what is going on?” He took a deep breath and said.
“The problem is Raquel has gone back to work and I’m looking after the three kids… It is the hardest thing I have ever done”.
I burst out laughing.
He yelled “No man it is relentless, there is no down time, there is no time out, I joined a mothers group… they picked on me so much I had to leave. Look I have been calling around some private security companies to see if I can go back to Baghdad for some time out.”
I walked away from this conversation thinking how can someone so strong, so mentally tough, someone who has been pushed beyond the brink of what humans can handle, can come home to a seemingly easier situation (I use that term very loosely) and fall apart. I started to do my research and I found that soldiers really struggle to transition home. The reason is that the mindset that they need as a soldier is very different to the mindset they need as a parent, partner or civilian. They struggle to alter their mindset so abruptly.
After reflecting on this I realised that the average person goes through the same thing on a micro level when we move from work to home. Our research found that people often took the mindset of the day home with them and that they tried to run their home like they ran their offices. This mindset led to poor behaviour in the home and a lack of connection with the people they lived with. Single people also complained about struggling with this transition. They talked about how they would spend the night obsessing and worrying about the day rather than turning off and socialising with friends.
When we looked at the research around work/life balance, most of the strategies revolved around time and how organised we were. From here we did two unique things in our research. We asked people, ‘why do you want balance?’ The two most common responses we heard were; to be happier and to have better relationships. These two things are not about time but rather about behaviour.
The second thing we did was interview families and asked them why they want their father/mother/partner to have balance. Their answers were startling. They said ‘We understand the long hours, the emails at night and the phone calls at all hours. What we won’t tolerate is you coming through that door and behaving poorly, coming in and taking your day out on us or ignoring us and treating us like we are getting in the way.” They didn’t mention time, what they wanted was to have that person come through the door in a good mood and be interested in them.
This led us to ask the question – could what we do in the transitional space (which we called the Third Space) have an impact on behaviour in the home?
To test our theory I partnered with Deakin University on a research project whereby we took 250 small business owners and measured their mood and behaviour in the home. The initial survey did not paint a pretty picture. Only 29 percent said that they came home in a good mood, with a positive mindset and exhibiting constructive behaviour. We then asked them to perform three simple behaviours in the Third Space between work and home.
Reflect: This is where they reflected on and analysed the day. They were encouraged however, to only focus on what they had achieved and what had gone well for them. This process helped to increase optimism and self esteem.
Rest: They then took time to relax and unwind. Being calm and present allowed their physiology to recover from the stressful day. In addition, the relaxation altered their brain chemistry to facilitate calmer and more constructive behaviours.
Reset: This is where they became clear about their intention for the home space and articulated the specific behaviours they wanted to exhibit. In other words, how they wanted to ‘show up’ when they walked through the door. This last one was the most important as we found that most people came home with their mindset focused on money and tasks. This becomes the filter through which they measure the world. However, interactions in the home do not give them money or tick things off their ‘to do’ list. Because of this, they see the interaction in the home as an annoyance and a waste of time. The result is poor behaviour in the home.
After a month of the participants applying these principles, we saw a whopping 41 percent improvement in behaviour in the home. When interviewed, they conveyed that the improved interactions they had with friends and family led to a greater feeling of overall balance.
If you want more balance focus on how you transition from work to home and ensure that you Reflect, Rest and Reset.
For more information about “The Third Space” visit the website: www.thethirdspace.com.au
About the Author
Dr Adam Fraser is a leading educator and researcher in the area of human performance. He has worked with elite level athletes, the armed forces and business professionals of all levels. He is a regular presenter on TV and has his own regular spot on Sky News. He has presented on Channel 7’s Sunrise, Koshie’s Business Builders, Channel 9’s Today show, “What’s good for you” and Close Up in Auckland.
Dr Adam is also CEO of “The Glucose Club” a company that guides and supports individuals into a lifestyle that will improve their quality of life and amplify their mental and physical wellbeing. Each day “The Glucose Club” works with some of Australia’s most influential business leaders to keep them at the top of their game.
Photo credit: ©Leah-Anne Thompson – Fotolia.com