Wednesday 23 February 2022

Managing parenthood and full-time employment

Gone are the days when women were expected to stay at home to look after the children while the man went out to work. Not only is the nuclear family no longer the ‘norm’, but many parents aspire to being successful in both their career and parenthood.

Whether you’re a single parent or in a relationship, juggling parenthood and full-time employment can certainly be tricky, and exhausting, at times. If you continue to struggle with the pressures of work, household chores, and looking after young children, you might start to suffer from anxiety, overwhelm and stress, which will eventually lead to burnout.

Not everyone finds the pressures of managing a successful career and parenthood a walk in the park. Juggling all the responsibilities of full-time employment and raising children can leave very little time for relaxation or social activities.

Because many of us want to appear that we have everything under control and we worry what our boss or colleagues might think of us if we show any signs of struggling, we continue in silence and avoid asking for help.

Nowadays, companies have a responsibility to assist working parents and offer alternatives for their work situation. Being unable to work overtime due to parental responsibilities, for example, shouldn’t mean that you can’t do your job properly during normal working hours.

Ways you can lighten the load

  • Ask your manager for flexible working hours. If you discuss your situation with management, they may be able to suggest some options that will assist you, such as working from home a couple of days a week or working your hours in four days rather than five. Working from home can be helpful by freeing up valuable commuting time which can be used for work, chores or relaxation. 
  • If your workload is unmanageable and it starts to eat into your home life, speak to your boss about how they can help. Maybe they can allocate some of it to a colleague or extend deadlines.
  • If you’re in a relationship, ensure you share parental responsibilities. Perhaps one of you can focus on the morning routine while the other takes care of the evening routine. That way it can relieve some of the pressure for both of you. 
  • Be more organised. We often get stressed because we don’t have any plans in place so the morning rush seeing to the kids and yourself and getting to work can seem frenzied. Make a plan the night before of what you need to do, or even prepare things such as packed lunches, P.E. kit, changing bag, etc. You could even make meals in a slow cooker to save time when you get home from work.
  • Don’t set yourself unrealistic goals. Try not to compete with other parents who might have more free time than you. There’s no pressure to bake the best cakes for the school fayre or volunteer for the parent’s committee! Although they might be nice to do, decide whether or not they are priorities and don't beat yourself up if you can't/choose not to do them.
  • Make time for yourself either alone or as a family. When you do more of what you enjoy your mental wellbeing will be in much better shape, meaning you’re more able to cope with any challenges and tasks that lie ahead. If needs be, recruit a childminder, friend or family member so that you enjoy some much-needed time off.

Wednesday 9 February 2022

Why managers should make themselves a priority

In most industries, the role of management can be very demanding owing to the extra responsibilities not only for the company itself, but also the employees within the company. It might mean working additional hours, undertaking courses to improve, or hitting demanding targets. Often we forget that managers face difficult challenges on a daily basis and that they are still humans who may also experience mental health issues.

People in management positions can also feel intense pressure to appear strong, resilient, decisive and trustworthy at all times so that employees respect them. So, what happens when someone in management experiences anxiety, stress or even depression? They might feel that they can’t be seen to be ‘weak’ or buckling under pressure, which in turn could make any mental health issues they have more intensified.

“Put your own oxygen mask on before you help others”

You’ve probably heard this saying many times before if you’ve ever travelled on a plane, but the same philosophy can also be applied in this situation. While managers must take on the responsibility for employees’ wellbeing, it’s vital that they make themselves a priority before helping others. If they themselves are feeling drained and exhausted, then they’re unable to perform their role to the best of their abilities, which includes supporting others.

Ways managers can prioritise their mental wellbeing

1. Increase their skills and knowledge on mental wellbeing in the workplace. Not only will this equip managers to assist their employees. but it will also help them understand what they can do to look after themselves.

2. Recognise their own symptoms. Leaders are sometimes so busy trying to ensure everyone else is okay that they forget to notice when they themselves experience mental health issues. By looking out for signs of stress and reaching out to someone outside the workplace, they can better recognise when they're struggling and put practices into place. Early warning signs can include anxiety, poor sleep, weight change and intensified emotions. 

3. Make time for exercise. Although most managers have a busy schedule, they should always make time for some form of physical exercise. Whether it’s going to the gym for an hour before work, taking a walk outside at lunchtime or even cycling to and from work, exercise can help stave off insomnia and symptoms of stress and depression. A study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, which is published online by Science Direct concluded that “stress and the social situation at work are strongly linked to disturbed sleep and impaired wakening…and the inability to stop worrying about work during free time may be an important link in the relation between stress and sleep.”

4. Confide in others. Managers should ensure they have someone they can confide in about their worries whether it’s a trusted friend, family member, coach or mental health professional.

5. Maintain a healthy diet. Working longer hours often causes people to neglect their diet, so they snack on convenience foods and spend less time preparing healthy meals. But the extra pressure of a busy schedule is even more reason to look after your physical health as well as your mental health. There are plenty of websites that feature healthy recipes that can be rustled up in no time, and foods such as fruit, nuts, raw vegetables and yoghurts are great for snacking on during work hours.