I was rather surprised that an internet search for ‘What is a family’ brought up the definition ‘A group consisting of two parents and their children living together as a unit.’ As I contemplated this description, which to me seems rather outdated, I started to think about what I consider to be a family and how this might differ from other people’s definitions. When you consider your family who comes to mind? Perhaps your description includes relatives, children, friends or even pets.
Balancing the demands of a family with your work can be challenging; many people have caring responsibilities for adults or children. Finding work-life balance has been found to be a source of stress for 50% of parents (see the Modern Families Index summary report) and for those caring for adult family members.
Did you know?
A member of staff can take a reasonable period of time off work to deal with an emergency involving a dependant (e.g. partner, child, parent or someone who lives with the family). Up to 3 days paid leave can be given for such emergencies. See special leave policy for details.
In the 2016 Asset survey of STEM academics those who were caring for adults reported challenges that were similar to those expressed by those caring for children. The report authors concluded that “This overlap implies (i) that academics who are caring for another adult experience similar limitations as parents and should thus be awarded similar flexibility, and (ii) that the disadvantages experienced may be amplified in those academics who are caring for both another adult and children.” (Asset 2016, p90).
If you have caring responsibilities for children or adults you may want to sign up to work and family space for access to expert advice, webinars, emergency childcare, back up adult-care or elder-care. You may also want to have a look at the College’s Parents’ Network to find out more about the parent mentoring scheme for working parents and expectant parents, to use the maternity leave and pay calculator or to look at items that other parents are selling. Sometimes when you are focussed on caring for others you can neglect yourself so do stop and consider your own health and wellbeing.
In her book Unfinished Business Anne-Marie Slaughter calls for us to place more value on caring and stop considering it to be a women’s issue (for a summary see Anne-Marie’s TED talk). One step in this direction was the introduction of shared parental leave in 2014. If you are considering shared parental leave you may like to watch some short videos of real life accounts from working parents on the Working Families website. If you are a manager you can find out more about managing shared parental leave and managing family related leave on the College webpages.
How and when staff members are offered support forms part of our Athena programme and our recent Bring Your Family to Work Day provided an opportunity for NHLI staff and members of their family to get together and find out more about the work that we do. In the morning guests joined their NHLI family member at their home campus and in the afternoon everyone came together at South Kensington to explore their own heart and lung function using mechanical and digital spirometers and an ECG, carve pumpkins, do art and craft and listen to some short talks. Those aged 16 and over were also given the opportunity to go on some mini lab tours. The afternoon ended with a Halloween tea in the Queen’s Tower Rooms and the opportunity to experience the College’s Planetarium and the British Heart Foundation’s ArtBeat, a unique, personalised artwork that is entirely determined by the individual’s unique heartbeat.
NHLI Career Development Coordinator