Be a boundaries ninja and avoid the ‘work-life blur’

Lucinda Quigley, Head of Working Parents

Even in ordinary times, many parents struggle to balance work and famy commitments. Add working from home and the challenges Covid-19 has brought into the mix and these struggles are amplified, creating a real ‘work-life blur’.

Parents need to balance their conflicting and sometimes overwhelming responsibilities by setting clear boundaries, even more so in a world that’s working remotely. And in order to really be effective, you need to set limits and be realistic about how much time there is in a day.

Here are 5 practical steps you can take to becoming a boundaries ninja at home to avoid work-life blur.

  1. Work out when you can be most productive

Are you a morning person or an evening person? In any workday it’s important to make sure you get a chunk of time to focus on what you’re doing, set some clear objectives and work towards achieving them. For some people it’s scheduling work around your child’s nap times, for others its making most of the time earlier in the day before everyone else is up. Working out when in your day you can be most productive and protecting that time can be a great way of helping you to achieve the things you need to in your working day.

  1. What are your parenting must have’s in the day?

If you’re protecting time to get work done, then what about protecting parenting time? Diarise time to enjoy a leisurely lunch, prioritise the school/nursery runs or block out the early evening to enjoy a snuggle, chat and down time together. Make it clear that this is a fixed boundary that needs to be worked around. Children of any age thrive on time that is solely dedicated to them, even if that is sitting down to watch a programme together after a meal. Just make sure you leave your phone in another room.

  1. Take time to process your day and try to remove “work stuff” from where you might be parenting

Working from home means playing a number of “roles”: parent, teacher, employee all in the same space. When you finish work for the day make sure you put away all your work tech and consider a change of clothes or a mindful moment to help you process your work day and then move into your role as a parent in a positive way. Removing those visual reminders of work and taking a moment to breath before you change role will help you move into the next part of your day ready to enjoy being with your children and allowing you to be fully present.

  1. Communicate them clearly

You may have the best intentions but there will always be moments where boundaries might be violated. When the pressure is on it’s easier to say yes, than to explain why you can’t do something. Practice communicating your boundaries clearly. It will help them to stick if you talk about them proudly and let people know what your priorities are. Talk to people about your working day and use your calendar to show people how you’re managing your time.

  1. Manage your own expectations and those of others

Lastly take to time to reflect regularly on whether your boundaries are working for you. What are they enabling you to do, but also what might they be stopping you doing? If your boundaries are regularly being breached, then it might be because you’re expecting too much of yourself or you’re not clear on what others are expecting of you. Arrange a meeting with your manager to discuss and clarify expectations so you can continue working productively, safe in the knowledge that you’re doing the best you can for both you and your family.