The school summer holidays are fast approaching, and for many of us this means a summer of chaos as we try to juggle quality family time with work commitments. These 10 work-life balance tips are perfect for reducing that chaos just a little bit - so you can enjoy some time off this summer too!
1. Keep a Diary
Time management skills are of the utmost importance for working mums and dads. Keeping a diary that details clubs and lessons that continue over the summer, as well as appointments and important dates, will ensure that nothing is missed off or forgotten.
This is one of the best work-life balance tips to help you stick to a calmer routine, and it will also make planning childcare, lifts, presents and time off much easier. Just make sure that the diary or calendar is kept up to date!
2. Use Tax Credits
Whether you work from home or elsewhere, childcare is often unavoidable during the summer holidays. Unfortunately it can also be extremely expensive. It is however possible to claim up to 70% of your weekly childcare costs back via tax credits provided you work over sixteen hours a week if a single parent, or twenty-four jointly if a couple, and are eligible for working tax credits.
To find out whether you could claim get in touch with the tax credit office. Childcare costs include child minders, summer play schemes and nurseries provided they are properly registered.
3. Free childcare
Where ever possible use free childcare. Family can help during busy times and although they may not accept payment of any kind you can repay the favour by doing some gardening or similar.
It is important to remember that you won’t be the only mum working and desperately looking for some work-life balance tips! Why not see if you can arrange an informal arrangement with another parent where you alternately look after each other’s children or have play dates which leaves everyone with valuable free time for work and catching up.
4. Keeping children occupied
For those who work from home and have children to look after at the same time, it can entail a major juggling act to be able to work productively during the school summer holidays.
On days where childcare isn’t an option, find ways to keep the kids happy and amused so that that you can get on with work. For rainy days ,videos and dvds, arts and crafts, games and indoor activities are a must. Set fun challenges or quests that will capture the imagination and allow you to tick more items off the to-do list.
5. Work outside
Weather and Wi-Fi access permitting, there's no reason why you have to work at home unless you require specialist tools or equipment. Provided the children are safe and having fun, you can work just as well on your laptop for a couple of hours in a field or park while the kids play with kites or kick a ball around - or sit in the garden at home.
6. Organise your house to free up time
Even the smallest of children can help around the house, tidying rooms, wiping things down, and putting toys away. Older children can take on a variety of jobs that can free up time for working and to ensure that when you have finished paid work you don’t have an evening or weekend full of housework to start.
Star charts or house schedules that show who is responsible for what will clear up any confusion and help run the home more smoothly.
During the school holidays, whether you work from home or at another site it may be necessary to delegate more than you usually would, regardless of how well-honed your time management skills are.
Delegation is a skill in itself, not a weakness and remembering that will help you work at your most effective throughout the holidays.
8. Set a routine
The week is more relaxed during the school holidays - as it should be - but it's still essential to have a routine in place to manage the busier times. Children generally thrive on routine and having one in place to take care of meals times, bath times, play times and more will ensure that everyone knows what they are doing.
Again this will free up time for a productive work day at home or for you to be able to leave for work on time, knowing that everything is taken care of.
9. Use your holidays!
If you have holiday entitlement to take, save some of this to cover the holiday times. Mums who work who are self-employed or not entitled to holiday for whatever reason would be wise to put aside small sums throughout the year to compensate for time taken off over the summer if possible.
10. Be realistic
Above all, be realistic. The best laid plans, routines and the most complex of diary systems do sometimes fail when it comes to being a family. People get ill, childcare falls through and the weather changes. Have alternatives in place where possible, but accept that mums who work do sometimes just have to drop everything and go home or switch off the computer to look after the children.
You will enjoy the summer holidays much more if you can effectively juggle work and home without causing yourself or the rest of the family undue stress, so take a moment to think about these work-life balance tips when putting your plans in place.