Dubai: Residents’ lives are being stretched thin between work on one side and family time on the other, a random poll by Gulf News shows. Only a few residents seem to be in control of — and at peace with — the balance between their professional and personal lives.

Most people confessed to facing a challenge to achieve a healthy work-family balance. For some, it was the nature of their work commitments that overshadowed the demands of their personal life, while for others, it seemed to be an issue with time management and discipline — both at work and at home.

Experts in human behaviour say a lack of time management skills can lead to problems at work spilling over into family life and vice versa. As one specialist pointed out, work-life balance is not simply a matter of ensuring that you spend adequate quantity of time at work; it also means you make enough time to enjoy life outside of work.

The pace and pressures of urban lifestyles have set many residents down a path of internal conflict, a predicament especially experienced by mothers of young children, working couples, highly career-driven people, and by employees in the private sector, says Dr Mary John, a Dubai-based clinical psychologist.

In the case of people who are more susceptible to a work-life imbalance, this internal conflict leads to a sense of guilt of underperforming at work, or even seeming to underperform at work. This guilt is carried home and can lead to rifts in relationships, says Dr John.

“Certain types of personality, who have difficulty organising, planning and prioritising their tasks, are the ones who suffer the most,” she says. “They are never happy at home or at work as they struggle with time management on both fronts. People who procrastinate and are highly self-critical also suffer a great deal of guilt when they are unable to satisfy the demands of their family and their job. Also, people who are predisposed to being anxious tend to suffer from intense guilt when under pressure from work,” she adds.

The situation, if not brought under control, can spiral, looping on itself.

“Family bonding and spending time with the family is very important,” says Dr John. Lack of time and pressured lifestyles can have a negative impact on relationships, especially between parents and children. It is important for working couples or even the main breadwinner to make time to spend with his family members.

“When parents express love and concern for each other, children feel wanted and secure. Spouses who tend to fight often due to work issues and take refuge in the ‘wanted at work’ theory, can affect the marriage and family ties.” It can rupture marital ties, she says, resulting in break-ups and other mental health issues. “Things that matter the most in life must never be at the mercy of things that matter less,” she says.

However, despite the hectic pace of life, there are simple steps everyone can take to untangle themselves from the knotty situations a work-life imbalance can thrust them into.

First, the power of staying positive must be a part of everyone’s thinking when it comes to balancing personal and professional priorities, she says. The power of this habit cannot be understated as studies have shown that a can-do attitude actually results in a positive change in lifestyle and behaviour.

“The truth is, you don’t have to give up your work life for your family life, or your family life for your work,” says Dr John. “Be proactive, and seek to become an agent of change at work and in your family. Keep communication lines open between you and your family [to resolve any issues that can crop up].”

It is also important to voice your concerns to your boss and seek his cooperation in devising ways to help you deal with the situation in a more fruitful way, she says.