Work-life balance: Make time for you
Flexible working is meant to help us achieve a better work-life balance. But sometimes the lines can get blurred, or we simply prioritise everyone and everything else around us. Do you spend any time in the week on you?
The main benefit of flexible working is that you don’t have to be in the office Monday to Friday, 9-5. If you’re working part-time, then in theory, you get a bit of free time in the week. For parents of young children, this is usually time spent with them, but when they reach school age, you may find you have a bit more of that flexible time for yourself during the day (term-time at least). But do you make the most of your time away from the office?
Studies show that when women have a flexible working agreement they take up more of the domestic duties than if they worked full-time. More concerning is the finding that women are working longer hours than if they were full-time and continue to work on their days off.
For most of us, one or two days a week where we are not working tend to be consumed by housework or running life-admin tasks. Achieving the much desired but elusive work-life balance is difficult for most. When you’re working any flexible arrangement, you may find that losing the defined structure of office hours, combined with how technology makes it very easy to stay connected, the lines start to blur. A much quoted Betsy Jacobson provides some perspective:
“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices."
As it seems most of us are spending the flexible part of our time either checking emails or doing the laundry, we need to stop and start doing the things that we enjoy. Here are some suggestions to make the most of your time:
1. Avoid being the cleaner
Sure it’s nice to have a clean house and your day off seems the ideal time to get all the washing done but before you know it, you’re working an extra job as the unpaid housemaid. If you must clean on your day off, limit yourself to an hour and make sure have a reward afterwards for your efforts.
2. Set some boundaries
Smartphones, wifi, accessing work emails from home all make it difficult to switch off from those urgent things that need doing. Replying to urgent emails from the park is never a good idea. Set an out of office reminding people of your working hours and redirect them to a colleague. Turn off any phone alerts on your day off so you’re not tempted to quickly check-in.
3. Treat yourself to an event in the daytime
One of the best things about having a day off mid-week is that you don’t have to battle the weekend crowds to see that film, exhibition, or show. You can go when it is quieter, and quite often cheaper. Is there a better way to see a film than in an accidental private viewing at 11am on a Wednesday? And if you’ve booked your ticket in advance, you are committed to going and won’t end up quickly checking your emails instead.
4. Have a no-plan day
Whether it’s a duvet day or a more therapeutic mental health day, seeing where the day takes you can be like pressing the reset button. A third of UK employees have taken a duvet day as a result of stress, and the same amount reports that it has a positive impact on their wellbeing.
It leaves you feeling revived and ready to take on your next day at work. And when Joan in Accounts makes her weekly joke about you watching daytime tv in your pyjamas all day, you can tell her just how glorious it was while you swagger past her desk with all your improved resilience.
5. Learn a new skill
If caring for a family member is no longer the focus of your day off, then do something you’ve always wanted. Whether that’s take up a sport, learn a craft, or study. Using a few hours of your day for an activity that brings you joy is the best act of self-care that you can do. Or take the opportunity to upskill in a way that will further your career.
6. Take a trip
This is especially fun if you have small children but can be done around the school day, too. Select a place you’ve never been before and take a train or drive. If you’re on a budget, take a packed lunch or treat yourself to a coffee in another town.
You find out if that place on the map with the funny name is worth the detour, discover new beauty spots, and all without the weekend traffic.
7. Get outdoors
For those of you whose flexible working means you need to pack all of your life’s admin tasks into those few hours, then make sure you take some time to go outdoors at least once. A walk to the shop to get biscuits definitely counts. A run or hike is better. Any outdoor activity is great for our wellbeing.
Making the most of your time off
Making the most of your time off is about doing something for you as much as it is getting on top of your to-do list. Putting yourself first for a few hours each week can benefit you, your family and your workplace.
The next day off you have from work, make sure the first thing you do is something for you.