You’ve been back at work following your parental leave for 4 weeks. You’ve just about got used to the daily battle of drop offs and pick ups and packing the nursery bag and getting yourself organised the night before. Things are going OK…
This week is a tough one, though. Your son has been off nursery for 2 days with a high temperature and your partner is travelling. You worked from home for 2 days and you now have just 2 days left of your working week to catch up on work and meet the deadline for your client work. Your manager asks to meet with you and your heart sinks as you hear the words ‘I can’t make the department drinks tomorrow night – can you go in my place?’
One-off networking events, away days and trips abroad are a juggle to arrange at the best times, but we usually somehow manage to cobble together a last-minute plan of childcare. But what if your job or your manager expects you to commit to these out of hours activities on a very regular basis? Do you go along or do you say no and make it home for bath time?
Here are the 5 top tips on balancing out of hours work activities with your home life:
- Plan in advance – most of us know already how central these events are to the future success of our roles so it’s sensible to discuss with your partner, your childcare provider and your manager to get a logistical plan in place
- Set your work/family boundaries – this is crucial. Decide what you can and can’t cope with – before children you may have travelled once a week – now you may decide that you can only do it once a month without it impacting negatively on your personal capacity for work and energy levels. Communicate these boundaries clearly to your team and your manager and then stick to them most of the time
- Pick the most important out-of-hours events. Base your decision on 2 factors – 1. how much value it will bring to your relationships, your productivity and your team/organisation; 2. how much you will enjoy it! Lots of people forget about this second point but as a working parent you need to enjoy what you do so if drinks after work with your team is something you would really enjoy – do it!
- Maximise the time you have when you do attend that networking event, dinner, breakfast or trip. Set out your objectives in advance – for example it could be that there’s one particular person you want to chat to – plan what you will say and what a successful outcome could be. The worst thing you can do is attend an event reluctantly and resentfully and then come away with no value add and no enjoyment (we’ve all been there!)
- Learn how and when to say no – without actually needing to say no. If you’ve weighed up the pros and the cons and you just don’t see the value of attending, think through the alternatives – who else could go? What else could you do instead? For example, if your boss needs you travel somewhere to meet with someone, is a Skype meeting a do-able alternative?