How parents can maintain a work-life balance once they return to the office

By Emma Ash, co-founder at YoungPlanet

Parenting, Family, Parental burnoutFor those parents who’ve been working from home during the lockdown, some will be pleased to hear that offices are starting to re-open and welcome staff back in, presenting a chance for us to catch-up with colleagues and a welcome change from the usual four walls of our home.

But for so many parents, working from home has actually given us more time, thanks to the absence of the daily commute. And that’s more free time for things we love. Whether that’s spending time with family, time spent on hobbies, exercise or just reclaiming time for life’s daily tasks.

Here Emma Ash, a mum-of-three working in tech and co-founder at YoungPlanet, reveals how parents can keep that work/life balance as they return to a physical office.

  1. Talk to your employer about flexible working options

If you find that on your return to the physical workplace that your schedule has become unmanageable or you’d like more time for family and home life, consider arranging a meeting with your line manager or employer to discuss flexible working options. This needn’t be a difficult conversation, and you shouldn’t force yourself to come up with excuses. Be honest about how it will help you.

First, think about what would benefit you the most; would it involve being able to work from home for more days per week, or perhaps reduced hours so that you can pick your children up from school on time? Have this clear in your mind ahead of your meeting. Every employee has a right to request flexible working whether it’s in your company policy or not.

  1. Create clear boundaries

In the world of work, we’re taught that being flexible is a positive attribute that we should embody in order to be successful, but when work commitments start to invade our boundaries, this can be detrimental to our mental wellbeing. Communicating boundaries at work is essential to a work/life balance. This might be as simple as stating that you don’t answer emails past 6 PM or that you can’t be contacted out of office hours unless it’s for an emergency.

Boundaries also require you to say no sometimes. Saying no at work can be difficult but it will benefit you in the long run. If someone asks you to do a task that is outside the realm of possibility then you can (and should) say no and not feel guilty about it. For example, when you’re asked to complete a project with an unrealistic deadline.

Setting boundaries will mean you can truly be present in the moment when you’re at home, and not worrying about whether you’ll finish your work tasks on time.

  1. Use all of your holiday

This might sound obvious, but using up your holiday allowance is essential to your wellbeing. One thing many working parents do is save their holiday for actual holidays away with their family and forget to use up the rest of their quota. Be aware that it’s okay to take holiday when you feel like you need it. Whether that be a midweek break or long weekend.

Even if your children are at school or attending their extracurricular groups, sometimes it’s okay to take a few hours to focus on yourself and regain clarity. This is especially important if you’re working through a stressful period at work.

  1. Don’t check emails or your work phone outside of office hours

One habit that can be tough to break as a working parent is checking your emails and work messages outside of working hours. Sometimes you can be having a perfectly pleasant evening, and suddenly you feel the urge to check your emails. Before you know it, emails are pinging back and forth that could have waited until the next day, eating up precious quality time.

Make a conscious effort to leave your work phone in a draw, only allowing notifications for emergency calls. Uninstall your work emails and apps from your personal phone if you already have them on your laptop. This will help you to avoid mindlessly checking them.

About the author

Emma AshEmma Ash is the co-founder of YoungPlanet which she co-founded with her husband, Jason Ash in 2019. YoungPlanet is a circular economy app that works by providing a ‘cashless’ platform based on a sharing economy model. Parents can list or request a range of different children’s items; from books and clothes to toys and baby equipment. If more than one person wants the same item, the app uses a gamification system to prioritise those who need them most or have donated more items in the past – incentivizing a circular system of giving. She is also a mum to three boys and has enjoyed roles in luxury goods PR and Marketing, as well as Director roles.

Are you looking to return to work after a career break? Searching for advice and tips? WeAreTheCity has a whole dedicated section to returnships and returning to work. You can find open returnship opportunities, advice for experts about returning to work and tips on flexible working

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