September 2020 is like no new term in recent memory.
It signals the reopening of schools, many of which have been closed since March. Millions of UK workforce members are returning to offices that they haven't visited in six months. Hundreds of thousands of furlough schemes are winding down, and laptops in home offices are tentatively being closed.
This is always a slightly chaotic time of year, as working parents and carers stumble into the demands of a new routine - and that persistently early alarm clock!
So, how can we adapt without frying our emotional resilience?
The SAS team has compiled our best pieces of advice for maintaining your work/life balance as we all try to adapt our daily routines into the 'new normal.'
The Value of Time Management
Particularly if you're still working from home some, or all, of the time, managing your schedule is vital.
With after school clubs, the last-minute search for a missing PE kit (it's always under the bed), and trying to make sure everybody is dressed and out of the door on time, it can feel like you never have time to breathe.
If you're working fixed hours, stick to them. You don't have to be on call 24/7 in most roles and need to allow yourself the headspace to wind down and decompress.
Block out your daily routine to make sure you set aside time for simple things like eating, taking a walk, or catching up with your family.
One of the worst aspects of home working is the tendency to feel like you are 'always on' - because your work is sitting in the next room. Power down the computer, log out of your emails, and discuss working time expectations with your colleagues so there isn't an ever-present pressure to perform when you should be relaxing.
Don't log in because you have a few minutes spare; it doesn't matter if football club pick-up isn't till 5 pm, you do not HAVE to use that 45 minutes to manically try and work through just one more email in your inbox.
Set Aside One Special Night
If you work in a demanding job or run your own business, it can be far more difficult to switch off. Should evening work be essential to your role, choose one night a week where you commit that time to your family.
It could be a family movie night on a Friday evening, a Sunday dinner before the start of the new week, or a computer games night to help ease everyone over that midweek slump.
Whatever you choose, include everyone in your family, and make it a time when work is vetoed.
That special time becomes something everyone can look forward to once a week. It also takes the sting out of the impossible 'parent guilt' that we all experience when a challenging schedule means we can't spend as much time at home as we'd like.
Eat Dinner Together
Again, something that isn't always possible, but once or twice a week makes a huge difference!
Sitting down to dinner together as a family, whether it's a home-cooked feast or a takeaway pizza, is more than food. It's a time when you can all chat about your day, you can listen to what the kids did at school, and spend time talking without any pressure, or waiting for your next notification to distract you.
This is also a great way to decompress if you do work long hours.
It enforces a little relaxation, and engaging with your family means that your mind isn't trying to focus resolutely on work every hour of the day.
Once dinner has finished, and the kids are off to bed, you can crack back on with your task list knowing you've managed to fit in some quality time, and with the benefit of having given your brain some downtime to reset and recharge.
Focus On The Here and Now
Many working parents feel weighed down by expectations to be excellent at everything, all the time.
With the rise of social media, it sometimes feels that every other parent:
- Feeds their kids home cooked nutritious meals daily.
- Has a high-flying, successful career.
- Is permanently well dressed and perfectly accessorised.
- Always turns up on time, with the right uniform.
- Has sparkling holidays in exotic locations.
- Manages to squeeze in educational activities.
- Has children who never spend time looking at a screen.
The reality is; that that isn't reality!
Life is all about give and take, and you can be great at everything provided you concentrate on the task at hand one at a time.
One of the biggest problems of multitasking is that even the most organised of us do have a limit. If you're attempting a Zoom call, to cook dinner, iron tomorrow's uniform and take a wholesome family selfie at the same time, you're pushing the limits too far.
Focus on what you need to achieve right now. If it's walking the dogs, working, driving to a meeting, doing chores, anything at all, try to concentrate on that one task without letting your mind wander.
Lack of focus is detrimental to any success, and it can be mentally draining trying to fire on all cylinders when you need to take a break and have a cup of tea.
Being a working parent can be a juggling act, but it can also be tremendously rewarding.
Know that you are leading by example, and being able to have a career, and be a great parent all at the same time, is about finding what works for you, and your family.
If you run your own business, work as a freelancer or are self-employed, it is tempting to pour your energy into your work, without recognising the importance of taking time out, and allowing your brain to absorb and reset.
SAS Accounting is a full-service practice in Colchester, Essex, supporting clients large and small with every aspect of compliance. Whether you need to delegate filing your annual accounts, would benefit from a dedicated regular bookkeeping service, or would breathe a sigh of relief at taking the tax returns off of your to-do list, we are here to help.
Contact SAS Accounting today and let us take some of the strain; so you can spend more time working on that elusive, and essential, work/life balance.