Category: LIFESTYLE

How to Balance Work and Childcare at Home

The coronavirus lockdown has been especially challenging for parents. With schools closed, they have had to pull off the fine balancing act of looking after their children at the same time as fulfilling their usual work duties from home.

Even in ordinary times, it’s difficult enough for parents to juggle both commitments at once. Working from home can make this easier to manage – less time is spent commuting to the office, and there’s less of a need to constantly be in two places at once. Out of necessity, working from home has become widespread during lockdown. In fact, according to recent research, 32% of working Australians have been working from home over the past couple of months due to coronavirus. But will this change in work culture last once life returns to normal? A study from Direct Line suggests that working from home could be here to stay – with HR directors expecting a 45% increase in the number of flexible workers in future. 

Although working from home offers greater work-life balance, it does also come with its own pitfalls.There is less of a clear distinction between work and family life. Because of this, it’s possible that neither sphere receives the full attention it needs.

With that in mind, here are some strategies that may be able to untangle the difficult knot of working from home and being a parent at the same time. 

Set clear boundaries

It’s certainly easier said than done, but setting clear boundaries is one of the key issues that needs to be addressed. Constant distractions are not conducive to either a productive work day or effective parenting. Instead, our minds need clearly defined and separated tasks to focus on. Although it can be tempting to try to multitask, studies have shown that this could actually reduce productivity by 40%. Our brains can trick us into thinking we are multitasking well, when the reality is quite different.

A definite structure and timetable for the day can help with this. It lets us carve out separate hours for work and family responsibilities. Life is messy, and so it’s inevitable that it won’t be perfectly successful. But, having a clear plan and direction can help to calm the mind; bringing a sense of order to the chaos. 

Share the load

When children are at home full time, however, separating home and work life can become almost impossible. If you have a partner who’s also working from home, the solution would be to rotate family responsibilities during the day. This means one parent is always there for the children, and the other has the freedom to fully concentrate on their work. 

Childcare is also a potential solution, but this has become problematic with the current coronavirus situation. For many families, too, childcare is simply too costly an option to be considered. 

Go part-time or job share

Another solution that’s worth considering (if it’s possible for you) is to reduce your work hours. This will take more of the load off your shoulders. This in turn will allow you to dedicate more time to your family life during the week (among other benefits). If you have a flexible home working arrangement, with no specific hours, it becomes even easier to shape your work hours around the demands of life at home. 

It may seem scary to ask for reduced hours at work, but communication is key here. Your work colleagues will be sure to understand your situation when it’s explained to them. It IS possible that a job-share solution can be found. You won’t be the only working parent seeking part-time hours, and so it may be more feasible than you think to share your job with a like-minded colleague.

Juggling working from home with family life is certainly a challenge, and the coronavirus has made this even more difficult. There may not be a perfect solution. However, a combination of some of the strategies above may be able to bring balance back to your life. Hopefully, it will allow you to give each of your responsibilities the attention it deserves. 

Read ‘work-life balance tips for parents’ here


About the Author

Ross is a freelance researcher and content producer from Kent. He is finalising his post graduate research papers on modern day parenting and technology effects on children’s behaviour. His recent work includes Lockdown, School response, and Children’s Boredom. 

 

 

 

Raising Your Child with Faith and Values

Regardless of an individual’s or family’s religious beliefs, we all want to raise our children with a strong moral foundation. Parenting is a tough job. You can trust it’s going to be a little ‘trial and error’. There’s also a whole lot of ‘leading by example’ to help your child learn to become a responsible, caring, resilient and happy adult. We know children are sponges and soak in everything they are exposed to; whether positive or negative. Helping children identify the difference between the positive and negative influences they encounter in the media, online, at school, from friends etc, will enable them to choose people and experiences that will benefit them and their future selves. Developing a moral compass takes time. It’s the result of the outcome or consequences of the choices made every single day, no matter how small those decisions may seem. Each small act, is part of the larger picture and becomes part of their moral fibre. Reinforcing how important making the right decision is – is so important, because each of them, will ultimately determine the person they will become.This is where faith and values can help. 

How does teaching my child about faith and values help?

In a recent McCrindle survey, “99% of Australians believe it is important to teach values to Australian school students’”. Additionally, more than four in five (84%) believe that Christian heritage has been influential in shaping the values that we teach children. 

I was born into a religious family, so I knelt in personal prayer morning and night. We prayed at the dinner table and we went to church on Sunday. I also attended scripture study classes daily and attended conferences, camps and events with the church community I was part of. Even though I’m no longer active in the practice of my faith, I would still consider myself a spiritual person. I am very grateful for the lessons I learned, the faith and values I was raised with, and the friends and examples I had throughout my childhood and adolescence.

After being assigned numerous talks in Sunday meetings, I learned public speaking. I also learned it through reading the scriptures aloud in a group setting, becoming a Sunday school teacher and preparing lessons for my class.

There was also a camping program I participated in and could ace ‘Survivor’ with the skills I picked up. On top of this, I participated in a personal development program in my youth which centred around the values of faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works and integrity. Undertaking service projects and activities to develop these qualities in myself has shaped who I am today.

I remember one ANZAC Day, as a teenager, I was serving a returned serviceman during a diggers breakfast. He said he wanted to meet my parents, “because they must be pretty special considering how I turned out. They did a good job of raising you”. This meant the world to me. There is no better feeling than knowing ‘you are doing life right’. It was also a reminder that my actions were a reflection not just of ourselves, but our families.

What is spirituality and what are the benefits of Faith?

Regardless of whether you practice religion or not, we can all be ‘people of love’, ‘people of faith’ and ‘people of values’.  Your children may ask why their friends attend church and you don’t? Be open in your response, you could explain that ‘churches, synagogues and mosques are places where people are able to worship formally. It’s a place to do this with a community of other people who believe the same things they do. Some people feel you can find ‘God’ anywhere – in nature or even in your bedroom! That’s what prayers are for.’ But it’s also important to remind our children that every family is different. Remind them that is okay and all choices are equally valid.

Associate professor of psychology Lisa Miller states; “when it comes to spirituality, we parents are just our kids’ ambassadors. We can show them around, but we don’t need to know everything.”

In her research she found that children who develop a sense of a “loving higher power or a guiding force – whether they call it God, the creator, Allah or simply ‘universe’ – are 50 percent less likely to suffer from substance abuse as teens and 80 percent less likely to suffer major depression. Another study found that children who are ‘spiritual’, tend to be happier individuals overall.  Having a sense of something greater than themselves, enhanced their personal sense of meaning and purpose. It also reinforced their connections to other people and their community.

What is a Value?

Values are both what you hold dear and what you think it’s important to be. Family, education, democracy and equal rights are examples of things you may ‘hold dear’. Compassion, honesty, hard-working and kind are all important qualities ‘to be.’ Overall, parents are the primary source for children’s values. So, if you haven’t thought about what your values are, it may be time to identify them for yourself and also for your family.

Teaching Children Values

Every day presents opportunities to teach children about values. When you notice a desirable value in action – point it out. Do this whether your child is the person doing it, or someone you are observing. The funny thing about having a quality is – you also learn how to recognise it in others. Helping children discern the kinds of people they want to have in their lives. The most important lesson though is being the kind of person that you would want to spend time with.

Start young

Values are present in even the fairy tales/ stories you read with your children. Ask your child what they ‘learned’ in the book. It could be that the good guy won, but only after a few hardships or failures. Or the principle of ‘reaping what you sow’- or in other words, ‘getting what you give.’ Another valuable lesson and running theme is that of the need for love in a person’s life (giving and receiving.)

Psychologist, Sherrie Campbell identified seven values to raising exceptional children. You may like to take these on as your values, or add a few of your own. Her list included teamwork, self-care, seeing possibilities where others see problems, motivation, time management, accepting responsibility and kindness.

Helping children believe in something ‘bigger than themselves’, and live up to – helps them ‘think big’ for themselves and become the best version of who they are.

It also helps them believe there is something ‘very powerful’ in their corner. This in turn gives them greater faith in their own abilities, and power when they feel vulnerable. Leaning into that in times of crisis has indeed, helped many people overcome great hardships, myself included. Yes. our values and beliefs may change throughout our lives, but the foundation for who we will become starts when we are born, and with you.

Story By Bec Dent 

Read more parenting blogs here. 

 

 

 

 

Shave Dollars Off Your Energy Bill with Smart Household Appliances

With many Aussies still working from home on a full-time or part-time basis, looming bill shock may be anticipated. For those mindful of the spike in energy usage, everyday household appliances may be the power-draining items to look out for. With around 30 per cent of total household energy consumption coming from appliances, it can pay to check the energy star rating.

You might think you are saving money by not purchasing new appliances. However, an old fridge in the garage or dated washing machine may be using more energy than you think – and eating a hole through your wallet along the way.

If you are wondering how much you can save on your energy bill by having a more efficient appliance, we have calculated the amount saved on a five-star model compared with a three-star model using the Energy Rating Calculator.

For example, a three-star rated, two-door 400L fridge and freezer costs $106.44 annually to run, while a similar model with a five-star energy rating costs $63.11. This could see you save $43.33 annually and more than $400 over ten years.

Appliance
Star rating
Annual running cost
Annual savings by using five-star model

Fridge

3 stars

$106.44

$43.33

5 stars

$63.11

Television

3 stars

$73.85

$26.59

5 stars

$47.26

Washing machine

3 stars

$121.64

$56.82

5 stars

$64.82

Dishwasher

3 stars

$73.74

$37.61

5stars

$36.13

Dryer

3 stars

$50.16

$13.92

5 stars

$36.24

*All savings are indicative, based on an average Queensland electricity rate of 26.2 c/kWh and using the default sizes and number of uses as set by the Energy Rating Calculator for each appliance.

= $178.27 in total

 

To avoid throwing unnecessary dollars toward your energy bill, be sure to check the star rating on your common household items. It’s a good idea to understand how the energy usage works on appliances. If you find you need an upgrade, it pays to know how the energy rating system works and what’s behind each of the stars on the label so you can make informed purchases. Most appliances are rated out of six stars, with the most advanced models being rated out of 10. Each star indicates how much energy the appliance uses, which can then be compared with other models of the same size or similar capacity.

To help Aussies reduce their power bill, below are four tips for reducing energy consumption on common household appliances.

  1. Set your fridge between three and four degrees Celsius to conserve energy. By keeping your fridge at this optimal temperature, it will not have to work as hard to stay cool. Anything below this mark will use an extra five per cent of energy. The same scale applies to freezers, which should be set between -15 and -18 degrees Celsius.
  2. Wash with cold water and use the clothesline. Depending on what model of washing machine you have, a hot water cycle uses approximately 50-80 per cent more energy than cold water. Instead of using the dryer, use the clothesline where possible for zero energy cost – particularly in the warmer months where clothes can dry naturally in just a few hours.
  3. Use the dishwasher sparingly. Reduce the number of times that you run your dishwasher each week by only doing a load when it is full. To further conserve energy, open the door to let utensils dry instead of using the drying cycle. Hot water is also a major energy-sucker, so make sure you set the temperature to as low as possible and use cold water if you are pre-rinsing your dishes.
  4. Downsize your TV screen. With the average Aussie home having two or more televisions,[4] choosing a smaller model that is more energy-efficient can help reduce household bills. The type of screen also contributes to energy consumption, with LED and LCDs using less electricity than plasma screens.

It is recommended that Aussies compare energy providers to double-check whether they are on the best plan from their energy provider or if they can cut costs even further by switching. To find a plan that suits your needs the most, free online comparison websites like this compare usage rates and plans from the country’s top providers.


About the Author

Abigail Koch is a household savings expert at Compare the Market. Abigail provides her expertise on various ways Aussies can reduce their bills and household expenses. Having a young family herself, Abigail is passionate about empowering consumers to seek out the best providers and insurance policies to suit their lifestyle and needs. For more information about how to compare and switch energy plans, banking products and insurance policies, visit comparethemarket.com.au.

 

Learn more ways to save money here. 

 

 

Work-life Balance Tips for Parents

During lockdown, it might have felt harder than ever to achieve that elusive work-life balance – especially for parents working at home. Trying to get a productive day’s work while homeschooling children is challenging. While things may be slightly returning to normal, it’s likely the coronavirus may continue to impact our working routines.

Although we cannot predict the future, it’s always worth taking a moment to pause and discover what we’ve learnt during this difficult time.  Here in Australia, workers are supported by Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act). However, this is not the case with other countries like in the United Kingdom. Recent research shows that the majority of parents there get less than an hour a day to themselves. So, to help those who are still struggling with their changes in work environment, we’re going to take a look at how parents can create a better balance. Here are our top tips:

Recognise the importance of scheduling 

It sounds boring, but it’s essential as a family. You need a daily schedule, including your working hours and any activities the kids are doing each week. It doesn’t have to be really strict, as things may change from week to week, but do keep it up to date. As a parent, you may also need to actively schedule in time to spend doing the things you’d like. It’s natural to prioritise what the kids are doing, but make sure you give yourself some time too. 

With a schedule, you can set expectations with younger children around when you’ll be able to help with school work, when you need to focus on your work, and when it’s time for some family fun. You can also make sure that you have enough time to take a break for yourself. 

Scheduling resources: 

Weekly and monthly overview planner downloadable 

My daily tasks downloadable 

My habit tracker downloadable 

Play to your strengths 

Within that schedule, make sure it’s allowing you to play to your strengths. When do you feel your most productive? If you’re a morning person, give yourself time to do those important tasks first thing. Don’t put them off until the afternoon, when you may feel in a bit of a slump. If you work best later in the day, just flip this round. To make sure this works for you in the long term, communicate with your colleagues and employers.

Learn to switch off from work 

When working from home, the lines between your work and home life can blur. In fact, a study showed that 22% of remote workers found unplugging from their work the biggest challenge. It’s easy to just reply to an email after you’ve finished for the day, or work through lunch, and it can slowly take up more of your quality time as a family. 

You need to make sure you have a clear start and finish to the working day.  Break the habit of checking your emails outside of these times. Make sure you still get up and ready for the working day in a dedicated, comfortable space. Don’t be tempted to skip a shower and work from the sofa – it’s just not a good idea. Some people even find a walk round the block useful to replicate the sense of a commute to work.

Prioritise time to exercise

You could exercise as a family, or choose to do your exercise alone for some time to yourself. But it’s important to get some exercise into your weekly schedule and encourage your kids to do the same.

Exercise is good for us, with plenty of studies showing how exercise helps to reduce stress. Adding another activity to your daily routine may seem counterintuitive, as it’s just something else to try and remember to fit in. But one study found that individuals who exercised regularly were more confident they could handle the interaction of their work and home life. They were less likely to be stressed at work, so it’s definitely one thing worth finding the time for. 

Get your kids to help around the house

Where possible, encourage your kids to help out with some chores. It might be a bit of a challenge at the start convincing them, but it can mean a few less things for you to do. Depending on their age, you could consider recognising when they’ve helped with some kind of reward chart. After all, trying to achieve a work-life balance as a parent will be a bit of a family effort. 

Resources for getting your kids to help out: 

My monkey dollars reward system downloadable 

 


About the Author

Ross is a freelance researcher and content producer from Kent. He is finalising his post graduate research papers on modern day parenting and technology effects on children’s behaviour. His recent work includes Lockdown, School response, and Children’s Boredom. 

 

 

 

This Heater Will Keep You Warm This Winter for the Lowest Cost

It’s winter in Far North Queensland. Some can handle the mercury dropping below 20 degrees, but if you’re like me – once it drops below 25… I’m freezing. We have had some cold nights and needed to whip out the trusty heater to combat the chill factor. In fact, data shows that households are using about 16 per cent more electricity overall during this pandemic than at the same time last year, due to working from home. But with using a heater comes the issue of the cost to run it. These costs can deter people from turning it on or even buying one in the first place.

One of our favourite Australian companies, Andatech, has decided to offer a solution to the problem of staying warm and cosy without the high cost.

Their Ionmax Ray Heater is almost half the cost of reverse cycle air conditioners. They’re also one third of the operating cost of space heaters!

Heaters that use Far Infrared thermal waves (like the Ray Heater) are very economical to run, but they’re also healthier. It does not circulate or produce hot or warm air, so it will not dry out the indoor air or reduce humidity and oxygen. It also won’t spread allergens, add anything to the air in general, or create static electricity.

How do they work? Let’s get into the science.

First let’s establish why Far Infrared Radiation waves are important for heating. In summer, windows let these waves from the sun enter our rooms. Floors, objects, walls, you name it, warm up and emit FIR waves that our body feels as heat. In winter there is less FIR radiation from the Sun, so the floors, walls, objects etc are colder and do not give off the same amount FIR radiation.

To put it in a different way: FIR radiation is what makes rooms feel much warmer in summer than they do in winter, even though the rooms could be the exact same temperature.

The key to this heater is that it emits FIR radiation, replacing the heat that is normally missed in winter. It heats objects, not the air, like other heaters do. The minute you turn on the Ionmax Ray Heater, you will feel the warmth. There’s no standing eagerly right next to the heater to feel warm, no waiting half an hour or more to be able to walk around the room and remain warm. And THAT’S why we recommend this heater.

Jaka Exstrada, product specialist at Andatech, puts it well when he says, “When working at a table or desk in one room or part of a room, it’s the people who need to keep warm, not the whole air mass.”

Other types of common heaters are not as cost effective because they heat up the space and not the people. More heat is required to do so, therefore more electricity is required, and this results in the higher costs to run them.

Some other features we love:

  • The heater is portable and has a handle so you can pick it up and put it right down wherever you want. Want it by the couch? Easy! Want to put it next to the crib so your little one can stay nice and cosy? No problem!
  • The design of the heater allows for it to move downwards 10 degrees and 30 degree upwards if you choose. It also has an auto swing of 70 degrees and a 60-degree manual rotation.
  • Parents don’t have to worry about the safety of this heater as it comes with an in-built child lock, overheat cut-off, tilt-off protection. Not to mention the 10 hour auto switch off, letting you go to sleep without needing to wake up and turn it off yourself.
  • The control panel lets you set a timer (one hour increments up to nine hours) and choose your desired level of heat with setting from 200W up to 1200W.

You can learn more about this awesome heater and even order it on the Andatech website. Here you can view a comparison between costs of running a standard heater versus the Ionmax Ray Heater per year.

Check out our blog on The Benefits of Air Purifiers here and why we love the Andatech ones (you can even get a discount code!).


About Andatech:

Andatech is a 100% Australian owned company that designs, supplies, supports and services safety and wellness products including high quality alcohol and drug testing equipment, and air quality products. The company has the widest range of Australian Standard-certified breathalysers in Australia, which are designed for personal use, in workplaces, at hospitality venues (wall mounted) and as car interlock devices. Drug testing kits cover saliva and urine testing of 7 drug groups providing error-free results. Air quality products include dehumidifiers, air purifiers, humidifiers and aroma diffusers. Other safety products include dash cams and vehicle jump starter power banks. andatech.com.au and andatechdistribution.com.au

 

 

 

How Do Our Homes Impact Our Wellbeing and the Environment?

Home is the place where we sleep, eat, relax, grow and play. In high-income countries we spend 70 per cent of our time at home. That number is even higher where unemployment rates are high. Additionally, it’s high where local industries employ a lot of people. Obviously, any positive action we take such as saving energy or making our homes more meaningful will have a massive impact on our health and financials. On top of this it, it will address one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century: climate change.

If you feel the need to improve on those directions, Smart Home Need can support you. They  are a social Start up helping people to reconnect with their inner needs (ex. sleep, work from home, security, healthy environment). We do so to help you live a better life, focusing on well-being and sustainability, because we know how much homes can impact your health and the environment.v

The impact of homes on health.

Most people, when asked about the things that they do to stay healthy, answer about nutrition and physical activity. This shows that few people are aware of the impact that a variety of factors of wellbeing have on our health. Even more so, they’re unaware of the role that our houses and housing environment plays on our overall physical, mental and social wellbeing.

Every person’s genetics and behaviour play an important role on their health and wellbeing. However, so do things such as the indoor air quality, the light, the noise, the moisture, the temperature, the amount of space and ability to move.

For example, high indoor temperatures can increase deaths to do with the heart (like cardiac arrest). The indoor air pollution can cause allergic or other reactions such as asthma. And on top of this, living in a dark home can worsen our health by 50 per cent. Worsening health is often translated into headaches, insomnia or depression.

These are just some examples of health issues that Meaningful Smart Home can help reduce or help you avoid. As a result, the costs for the global economy should decrease. Research affirms that the world lost 5.5 million lives in 2013. These deaths were due to diseases associated with outdoor and household air pollution.

The impact of homes on the environment.

The International Energy Agency states that the energy demand from buildings and building construction continues to rise. The buildings and buildings construction sectors combined are responsible for 36 per cent of global final energy consumption. They’re also responsible for nearly 40 per cent of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions!  

Increasing the use of daylight, preventing leaks, using proper home insulation and making better use of the energy are just some of the things you can do to decrease your environmental footprint.

Visit Smart Home Need and join one of our plans to change the way you approach life, starting from home. By subscribing to our plans, you will learn why human needs are important for your well-being and how to satisfy them through new habits and smart home technology. We will support you to take informed decisions and to live your life meaningfully.

 

Read more PakMag health blogs here.