5 ways to manage work/life balance during the summer holidays
16 August 2021 | written by Dr Julia Dabrowski
Juggling the summer holidays and your work has always been a challenge, but since 2020 it's become an even bigger one because so many of us are working from home.
As we discovered when the schools were shut for lockdown, that adds a whole bunch of extra stress: not only do we have to worry about work, but we have to field endless interruptions while worrying about our kids' mental well-being too.
But while lockdowns weren't exactly fun, we do have some hard-won wisdom that'll help you cope during the summer holidays.
1. Manage the kids
We mean that in the nicest possible way, of course.
It takes a bit of forward planning but there are lots of summertime activities ranging from one-off events to week-long summer camps, many of which have similar schedules to full-time schooling.
If that's too much of a stretch financially or there's just nothing suitable at times that suit your family, it's worth asking favours of relatives or linking up with other parents to take it in turns for things like day trips, cinema visits and so on.
And of course if you have a partner, they have to do their bit too.
2. Keep your work and your life separate
If possible, create a working area that you can leave at the end of your shift or working day.
In an ideal situation that would be a completely separate room, but of course not everybody has the space to spare.
Corner desks and hide-away desks can be really useful, because they can sit in a corner such as in the dining room without intruding too much on your living and social space.
When you finish for the day, don't go back and don't be tempted to take the laptop to bed either. You need to leave room in your life for your life.
3. Do something when you're done
In a normal working environment there's a buffer zone between your work and your home: you might leave work and go to the gym, or have a wander around the shops, or just catch up on podcasts on the commute home.
That's a bit harder to do when your commute is from the kitchen to the dining room, but you can still create a similar buffer by doing a transitional activity at the end of each working day: walking the dog, going for a swim or anything else that helps your brain switch gears from work mode to home mode.
4. Take breaks
Make sure you take regular breaks during the day too.
That's particularly important if you use a computer – overuse can lead to physical problems such as eye strain and repetitive strain injuries – but it's important for everyone.
Have regular breaks when you leave your working environment completely, don't eat lunch at your work desk and set boundaries.
For example, you might decide not to check work emails outside of office hours on weekdays, or you might remove your work email account from your phone so you only get work email when you're in front of your computer.
Healthy boundaries help your mental well-being.
5. Divide your day
You can't be in two places at once.
It's really important that your brain is in work mode when you're working and that you're fully present when you're with the kids: if your work role allows it, have a think about the hours you actually need for work and the hours you can spend with your family and divide your days as best you can.
Spending time with the kids doesn't count if you're on your phone the whole time; similarly you can't really work if you're constantly being interrupted with demands for biscuits.