Working parents and caregivers, we salute you! Your caregiving responsibilities have taught you some powerful productivity lessons at home, and now that you’re just back at work you’re taking it to the workplace. We’ve put together our 10 best ever tips (and a bonus one right at the end of this article) to help get you back into the groove at work, so you can get in, get the job done, and get home to your loved ones.
1. Block out breaks in your calendar
Schedule an hour for lunch every day (even if you don’t take the full hour, colleagues will quickly learn not to book meetings during this time). Set aside half an hour at your desk at the start and end of each working day to check emails and get organized. Avoid any crazy panic!
2. Work from home one day a week
A lifesaver if you can arrange it! Ditch that commute for added productivity, plow through tasks without distractions, and put on that load of washing.
Tip: Check flexible working legislation in your region. For example, Department of Labor in US or Fair Work in Australia.
3. Use your out of office and email signature
Add your workdays to the bottom of your email signature or Slack profile so others know exactly when to catch you. Set up an out-of-office message if you work on flexible arrangement to clarify when others can expect to hear back from you.
Adding a email signature is also really easy. If you are using Gmail all you need to do is
- Enter your email
- Hit the settings icon in the top right corner
- Open the Signature section where you will find a signature box where you can add and modify your text.
Here’s one working days email signature example we prepared earlier! Go ahead… copy and paste:
Thank you for your email.
Please note my work days are [enter your ‘in office’ and/or ‘at desk’ days]. For anything urgent, please contact [insert your manager/supervisor’s contact details]. Otherwise, I will respond to your email as soon as possible when I am back in the office.
Thank you, [insert your name]
Tip: This is also important for all part-time or contract workers. Using your signature to inform your co-workers but also your clients about your part-time working schedule is going to make your and their life much easier.
4. Have two phones
If you’re working on a flexible arrangement and have a work phone, you may want to weigh up the cost of getting a second, personal phone. It’s an easy way to compartmentalize work and family time. On days at home with your kids, time is less likely to be interrupted by a work call or a sneaky check of your emails.
Check out our article about requesting flexible working arrangements with some example templates that are sure to help your case.
5. Hold firm on your workdays and hours
We know first-hand that working on a flexible arrangement means you might be tempted to compromise days with your kids with a ‘little bit of work’ or the work call you’re not being paid for. We’ve seen a lot of working parents fall into this trap because they feel grateful to work flexibly, and over-compensate by being available on days off. Remember, once you start this behavior, it can be hard to go back.
6. Take days in lieu
If you do end up working additional hours regularly or have to go into the office on a day off, talk to your manager about taking a day in lieu. It’s only fair.
7. Purchase extra leave
Some organizations will let you buy additional leave (generally one or two weeks a year) as a flexible way to help you manage work and personal commitments. The value of the annual leave is deducted from your pre-tax monthly salary in equal amounts over a 12-month period. It’s a good way to give you more flexibility and family time. Check out your work’s intranet or speak to your human resources department for policy details.
8. Do what you can the night before
Somebody give this tip its own Top 10! Being organized will make the morning rush and the witching hour way easier. Don’t wait till morning to lay out kids’ clothes, your clothes, back bags, and pre-prepare dinner, or pull something out from the freezer; get organized the night, day, weekend before.
9. Have a childcare backup plan
Because all it takes is one sick child to turn your world upside down! Have a discussion with your manager early about how you’ll manage sick days, be clear with your partner or support network about how you’ll juggle it, and try to secure emergency childcare/caregiver.
Tip: You might be eligible for a Childcare Finance Assistance that your government might be offering. Make sure to check sites such as the US Childare Finance Assistance website or the Australian Childare Subsidy program.
10. Make time for exercise
Regular exercise often falls by the wayside for busy working parents and caregivers. See it as an investment for the health of your body and your mind, and prioritize it. Get creative. Can you alternate morning duties with your partner before work so you can hit a 6am gym class or go for a run? Find a personal trainer who will go to your workplace for a lunchtime group training session. Take a walk during your break. Every bit counts.
11. Set your working days and hours in Google Calendar (BONUS TIP)
Most businesses use Google calendar for arranging meetings internally or even externally. Make sure to set up your Google calendar in a way that shows people the days and hours that you are working and automatically block them from adding meetings in the hours you are not available.
You can allocate the hours, days and even your location by going inside Google Calendar, tapping the settings wheel at the top right corner and going into “Working hours & location” option within the General Settings tab.
Being a working parent or caregiver is a constant juggle but, take it from us, it gets easier with experience. In no time you’ll not only have your routine down but you’ll be holding the hand of other recently returned working parents, guiding them through.
Written by the Circle In team.