Seeking Work/Life Balance? The Family Phone Tree May be the Place to Start

“Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create” ― Jana Kingsford

You are a busy person: you juggle client calls, appointments, and projects on a daily basis, sometimes simultaneously. Similarly, you field random calls and requests from family members that range from rants, venting, or general (unimportant) information. Yes, there is the occasional emergency, but the likelihood of a true emergency tends to be low.

Most often, family calls are predictable, based on plentiful past experience so when their call arrives in the middle of the work day, we’re faced with a few options:

  • Answer immediately because it’s always a joy to speak to this person.
  • Answer immediately because this particular family member rarely calls and it could be critical.
  • Cringe and decide: do we answer knowing the call is a false alarm?
  • Let the call go to voice mail because we’re working in our business.

When was the last time you pressed your way through a company’s phone tree system? These automated recordings are designed to efficiently direct us to the most knowledgeable or helpful person to handle our need. While they are an annoyance, and I’m not convinced this is efficient for us as the caller, there must be some time savings for the business. Following a recent series of distracting calls from various family members, I wondered how this system would work with the family. Would this feature simplify the work/life balance for a business owner wedged in the Sandwich Generation? Here’s how mine would sound:

Hello my dear Family Members. I’m sorry I cannot answer your urgent call at this moment, but I’m involved with clients at this time. Listen to the following options to best serve your needs. Please listen to the full menu as our options change frequently.

  • Mom/Dad, press 1
  • Spouse/partner, press 2
  • Son/Daughter, press 3
  • Sibling, press 4
  • All other family members, press 5

(You will need to personalize your family phone tree for best results.)

Beyond the first level of categories, there would be some similarities. Here is how I would define level 2:

  • Press 1 if you are calling because someone won’t eat their dinner.
  • Press 2 if the family member won’t complete their chores.
  • Press 3 if another family member is annoying you.

You’ll also need to include additional categories for each group:

For your parents (in my case, my mother), I need to include:

  • Press 4 if this is a news flash about April the Giraffe
  • Press 5 if this is regarding the latest political gossip
  • Press 6 if you are worried about something

For your partner/spouse, include:

  • Press 4 if you want to discuss what to have for dinner
  • Press 5 to compare the latest story from our children
  • Press 6 if you want to tell me details about your latest World of Warship battle

For Son/Daughter, include:

  • Press 4 if you are complaining about work
  • Press 5 if you are venting about life in general
  • Press 6 if this is a request for money
  • Press 7 if you are seeking advice which you plan to ignore

For those that receive the rare call from extended family members (cousin, aunt, estranged family member), this signifies something potentially critical, so it’s wise to answer immediately.

Regardless of which direction the person-in-question blunders through the family phone tree, they must record their message, which will then be queued in order of pre-determined urgency. Then on a break, you can address the issues in order of importance.

There are many joys to being a business owner and working from home, but dealing with family members is one of the darker sides of business ownership. It’s best to treat with love, patience, a bit of humor, and the family phone tree. Would such a system improve your quest for work/life balance?

Perhaps there’s an entrepreneur out there who recognizes this need and is building a prototype now!

Kristen Edens

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