Going back to work, whether it be from maternity leave, some much needed time off or not being able to find work can be extremely tough and draining. Ciara Garvan of WorkJuggle and Tracey Gunn of Mumager chatted to GirlCrew HQ recently and gave us some great tips on how to achieve greater flexibility at work.
How to get the parent work/life balance back on track
Always set boundaries. This is vital in order to achieve greater flexibility at work. Whether you are working full time or part time, the notion of having the norm of a 9 to 5 working job, you clock in you clock out, just doesn’t exist anymore. Being really clear on what we can and can’t do. If you have to leave at a certain time because you have to do the creche pickup, then you agree that up front with your line manager. And communicate that with your colleagues as well. If you really have to do work late at night, make sure you set a timer, and give yourself a half hour to do anything that’s urgent. Then close down the laptop because you need some down time to recharge. Make time for your network. Have a support network around you that can help you if needed. A sense of community is really important.
How to get the work/life balance back on track for people who don’t have kids
Time management, scheduling. Don’t put yourself last. Schedule exercise. Invest in a timer. Set yourself a time limit of 20 minutes and get as much of that task that you’ve been putting off done and then walk away. Setting boundaries is vital in order to achieve greater flexibility at work and life.
How to approach your manager about flexi time
You have to ask first of all. You need to be really prepared when asking, show your employer how this will work for them too i.e. cost saving or learning a new skill. You need to make sure you aren’t disrupting your team and bosses life by doing this new shift. Try a trial period, like over the summer when it’s quiet and has less impact. Put a limit on it, 3 months and see if it works. If you give it an end goal, people are more likely to try it. If you don’t get what you asked for, take it as an opportunity to really think about things. Be honest at the end of the trial, did it work, did it not? You can find out more about this on WorkJuggle’s blog.
If you are successful in asking for flexi time, how do you think people should be structuring their work day?
When working from home, your environment is really important. Make sure your space can’t be disturbed too much. Take advantage of your time. The benefit of working from home is that you have more energy. You don’t need to catch the train or the bus so you have more time to really focus and do some hard work. Think about what time you personally are at your best and then plan your day around that. Close down your emails at a certain time, change your environment when doing different tasks. Having an element of trust with your boss is very important in order to achieve greater flexibility at work. There’s no need to check in all the time. As long as you are getting your work done, don’t worry. Know you are doing a good job and being productive.
How to effectively communicate with your team
When you work from home, it can be hard to avoid that call from your boss or work colleagues on a day that you don’t work. That’s where your boundaries come in. Communicate with your team that you don’t work that specific day. There’s a lot to be said with the language that we use to communicate that point. Be more assertive and say you don’t work that specific day, can we reschedule that meeting? Putting that specific language in your CV also sets the tone of your availability too e.g. digital marketer, available four days a week.
Struggles people often worry about when coming back into the workplace
When seeking to achieve greater flexibility at work, there’s always a period of adjustment. There can be the honeymoon period where you are delighted to be back in work and then as time goes on, you’ll realise, OMG I am back to work and away from my children! You can feel quite low but this is common. As time goes on however, you start to find your way, you get used to working and the flow of things. Don’t expect yourself to be the same person who were before. Don’t be too hard on yourself. There are small things you can do to adjust like parental leave, a staggered return to work so you can ease yourself back in. You can find more tips like this on the Mumager’s website.
Telling your friends, family, co workers that you are exhausted and need help
Take a step down and say can I have a bit of help? People will always help but you HAVE to ask. People aren’t mind readers. Don’t be a control freak either. If people want to help, let them. You can also be creative with your finances if you want to find some proper help. For the price of a take away meal, you can hire a cleaner. Not all of us have that support network around us so try and find other ways to utilise your free time.
Advice for people who have been out of work for a while
Take a step back, try to carve out time for yourself. Think about what skills do I have, what’s really holding me back, is it physical or emotional? What’s my support network like? How can I start to say ‘OK I’m not ready to go back now but in six months time, I think I can be ready if I put all these steps in place’. Break things down and make it a bit more manageable. Workjuggle have some workshops in place that can help you with this and you can find upcoming events here.
Taking a step back and evaluating your skillset, where to start
Talk to other people around you and ask them what they think your skills are. Ring an old colleague and ask them what did you do on a particular project. Springboard courses are very good too. You learn something new and also have something to talk about with potential employer, ‘Oh I have been doing this digital marketing course and I found it really interesting’. Don’t apologise either for being at home, your time is valuable so don’t put yourself down for it. Memory jars are something that can boost your confidence and remind you of your skills. Anytime you have accomplished something in work, write it down and put it in the memory jar.
The most important things to note is, know your value, be kind to yourself. Figure out what is important to you right now. Make decisions that are right for you and no one else.
So how do you achieve the work/life balance? What helped you achieve greater flexibility at work?Leave your tips in the comments below and if you are looking for some more posts about work and how to rock the perfect interview, you can find lots of posts on the GirlCrew website.
WorkJuggle is a curated digital platform that connects highly skilled professionals with companies that are hiring talented skilled people on a flexible basis. We connect people so if you wanted to have someone working 3 days a week or are offering a 6 month contract, or we have roles that are permanent flex, they are working for companies that are very family friendly, really support women in the workplace, we would have roles with them as well.
Mumager started over 4 years ago, set up after Tracy’s own experience of returning back to work after her children were born. After finding it quite difficult, struggling with guilt and finding the work/life balance, Tracy started with Mumager. Hosting workshops designed to help people to make the transition from maternity leave back into work. Mumager also runs workshops in organisations as well, helping managers with supporting not only working mums who have been on maternity leave but also working parents so they look after dads too.