By Suzanne Clarkson, Communications Consultant for Generali Employee Benefits UK
Trying to separate work and home life right now is really tough. And those who tell you otherwise probably aren’t working parents! The reality needs to be shared for the sake of everyone’s mental health.
That’s not to say the kids-work juggle is impossible. Indeed, we’ve collated a number of ‘real life’ top tips for the purposes of this article. These have come from the working parents amongst Generali’s wellbeing partners, based on their own practical experiences.
1. Make virtual time for friends and family
Beverly Knops, Executive Manager & Occupational Therapist, vitality360, says: “Staff are encouraging facetime and other ways of connecting with family and friends they can’t see. Grandparents have been helping out with reading over facetime too. The kids are happy to see them, grandparents are happy to help out and the parents are happy for some time – everyone’s a winner!”
2. If the schedule doesn’t work, bin it
For those who need structure, Career Consultant Kay White advises ‘timeboxing’.
“At home, when so many things are vying for your attention right now, timeboxing the day together would be a sanity saver,” she says. “Setting out an agreed schedule for the week, which allows for parents’ working time where/when possible, play/devices time, exercise, schoolwork, lunch etc. Then everyone knows what happens when.”
But those where the nature of their work (or their kids!) doesn’t lend itself to structure, don’t even try. Please refer to the next point.
3. ‘Good enough’ is good enough
Dr Julie Denning, Managing Director at Working To Wellbeing, says: “Be kind to yourself and take no notice of those social media parents who seemingly have it all under control. Find your tribe who are ‘in it together’. Offload to them, laugh with them and share tips with them. Social support at this time is key. Plus, there’s plenty that younger children will gain from the freedom of being at home.”
4. Exercise is important for body & mind
Most people highlighted Joe Wicks’ 9am daily PE class as a way for the whole family to get in the right frame of mind for the day ahead. And, considering he’s announced that all his advertising revenue during this time will be going to support the NHS, there’s even more incentive to get active.
5. We’re not meant to be replacing the work of teachers
This is really important for all of us to understand. Phil Briffett, Partnership Director at Wagestream, asked his wife for tips. She points out: “We are not school and we are not schoolteachers, so don’t try to be that! Be their parents, helping them out with stuff.”
6. Be honest and upfront with co-workers & line managers
Evelyn Mackinnon, Head of People at Wagestream, suggests communicating time pressures and availability with your colleagues. “People need to know when to expect your undivided attention and when you’re going to be grilling fish fingers.
“Set expectations with your manager. Timelines are going to be pushed and so agree new deadlines as/when makes sense.”
7. Agree family time at the end of each day
“When you’ve finished work, finish work,” comments Alex Freeman, Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant, Absence Management Solutions. “don’t be tempted to ‘just check’. Put your work phone away. Stick to your hours.
“Agree something that is going to happen as a family at the end of your working day: a game, watching a film...”
8. Split the responsibilities with your partner
Where two parents are full time working from home, consider splitting each day or the week, so that one parent is “on duty” and other is working, says Alison Pay, Managing Director, Mental Health at Work. “I’ve said no to meetings on a Tuesday or a Friday, but can be contacted by the team by phone and email and I prioritise what needs to be done.”
Evelyn adds: “Compare diaries each evening to see where/when you need flexibility from your other half.”
9. Get the kids to help out around the house
Jeremy Chadwick, Managing Director EMEA, VSP, says encourage the kids to make a contribution to the house. “Get the kids to focus on one thing they can make better each day. It will be a good way to distract them. It ensures they contribute. Plus, it will be good for their – and your! – mental health.”
10. Finally, look after yourself
The final word comes from Alex: “Look after yourself and don’t try to be all things to all people. Have some time for you each day. Check in with friends or family. Learn something new, read, meditate, be mindful and get good sleep.”