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.
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:
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.