Work life balance articles

It is essential you divide your time and energy between your career and private life, so that neither falls off from your list of priorities.

Careers Development

The programme manager on my master’s programme reminded me recently how important the ‘down’ time is and how beneficial it is to support long term study and focus. As we are coming towards the end of summer time (albeit having experienced rain, wind, storms and some sun) and begin to consider another term and year of study and education it is important to place an emphasis now on ‘self-care’ and serious rest and relaxation. What does that mean for you? Self-care comes back to minding yourself, physically, mentally and emotionally.  As our worlds get busier and expectations on us grow and becoming increasingly demanding reminding yourself that your health is your wealth can help to set you up for a mentally and physically strong 2019/2020 academic year. Physically Take a break from work, home, commute, routine, etc. Any or all of the above help to break the cycle of what you’ve considered routine throughout the year.  If you haven’t had a chance to holiday or get away even changing the commute route can be a breath of fresh air. If you walk or cycle get a bus, if you bus it normally perhaps get off a stop earlier and wander through town or through a different route. Often it can be the little changes that make a difference more or different activity can offer us opportunities for exercise or walking where we might not have normally taken it. Combined with healthy eating can make a huge difference or if you’ve become bored with your diet and food choices - make new ones! Enjoy your food again and remind yourself of what you loved growing up - it’s okay to make it interesting and fun again – the only one concerned about it should be you. Mentally Change the radio or podcast for a week or so from your normal sound track to shake up your commute.  If you regularly listen to debate or news on the radio, swap it for a feel good exercise track, a funny podcast or classical music  - try it and see what new ideas or thoughts come to mind.  If you take lunch with the same crowd and find the conversation becoming repetitive or realise that you don’t always feel upbeat after it then perhaps shake it up, try somewhere new with someone new and change that conversation.  There are lots of lunchtime gigs for example National Gallery tours or National Concert Hall or talks on Eventbrite that you could tune into.   Emotionally Caring about work, our colleagues, our organisations, our families our friends and loved ones can all take its toll.   Often you don’t realise it has until something small has the knack of totally grounding us or stopping us in our tracks.  If you feel overwhelmed or stressed or emotional, take time out for you, mute the What’s App group chat, switch off notifications, try to avoid checking mails or calls from home and really begin to value you and to notice times and triggers for emotional upheaval. If your organisation has an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) use it! It’s anonymous - your organisation doesn’t know who has used it - only that it is being paid for monthly so to know that employees are benefiting from it is what they want to hear.   Remind yourself of your ‘circle of influence’ the areas that you can influence in your life but more importantly the areas that your stress and mental toll has absolutely no influence at all on and try to bring it back to those it can.  ‘Where your mind goes, so to does your energy’ – use it wisely. I hope that you can take some tips from this piece, we can hear the same message and feel it’s a pie in the sky notion until it actually means something so take things day by day to strengthen your resolve and to set you up for another academic year of focus, fun and fitness (physically, mentally and emotionally) The Institute through its many services is here to support you to realise your true potential – the best of luck with it all. Ciara Tallon is a Career Coach and Recruitment Specialist with Chartered Accountants Ireland, working with newly qualified members.

Aug 21, 2019

For many of us the idea of a career break is invigorating. But it can be daunting too. What about our family commitments, the financial considerations or the impact on our careers? Here we take a look at the types of career breaks, and explode a few well-worn myths that could be keeping us from taking the plunge. Types of career breaks A career break is defined as someone who takes time out from their professional career with the intention of returning. And there’s no hard and fast rule about the length of time people can take. Career breaks typically last from between 1 month and 2 years, although many people take longer – if they’re raising a family, for example. A career break can be planned or unplanned, some of the reasons may include: Redundancy Travel Voluntary work Studying/training Caring Maternity/paternity/adoption leave Raising children Sickness- this is applicable to both physical and mental illness Myths about career breaks When you’re considering a career break there are some myths and barriers that may deter you. “I can’t afford it”  This is one of the biggest concerns. Being without regular pay for a period of time, and the implications this may have on your personal situation, can certainly cause sleepless nights. How much will it cost per month? Do I have enough set aside? Sufficient planning should reduce the impact of being unpaid for a length of time, but sometimes this isn’t always possible. If your career break hasn’t been planned then the financial implications can be more than a little daunting. CA Support can help you plan and budget your money to support you during this time. We can also help you research and claim any benefits you’re entitled to and in some circumstances we may be able to offer short term financial assistance. “My employer would never accept it” There are currently no government guidelines on career breaks; it’s at the employer’s discretion. However, many employers do have processes and procedures in place for those wishing to take a career break. In some cases, employers actively encourage it.  And even when no such procedures are in place, a term of unpaid leave can be negotiated, as employers are reluctant to lose experienced and valued members of staff. When approaching your employer, it may be helpful to have a formal proposal of your career break that outline the benefits to yourself and the employer, your flexibility about the best time to do this, suggestions for cover and the skills and experience you will gain that can be used on your return. “I don’t want a gap to affect my career” Many companies are impressed with employers that show initiative and take a career break, especially if they are articulate in expressing the benefits that they will gain. For example, taking care of a relative can show problem-solving skills and patience. During your career break it’s good to try and keep your knowledge up-to-date and utilise existing skills, as well as learning new ones. You could try volunteering. It’s is a great way to experience new cultures, make a positive impact and gain more knowledge. Benefits of taking a career break Whatever your reasons for taking a career break, a change from the normal day-to-day routine holds many unexpected benefits: it can produce an objectivity and perspective that’s only created from taking time away; it may reignite a passion for the career; offer opportunities to gain new skills and much more. From an employers perspective, a career break can often return refreshed, newly motivated and increasingly loyal staff. It really can be a win-win! Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 09, 2019
News

Flexible working arrangements can help us achieve a better work-life balance, but it can come at a cost. Moira Dunne gives five tips to help you stay productive while working from home. Many people are working from home these days. As employers offer flexibility, employees have started working from home to avoid their daily commute and often those who are self-employed set up a home office to keep their business costs down. Without the distractions of the regular office environment, people have a chance to think about and get things done if they can manage their time correctly. The pitfalls in working from home While working from home can be a great time-saver, it has its challenges. Distractions like household chores, clutter, family and access to TV, can get in the way. Many people who work from home can lose focus, causing stress and end up feeling overwhelmed with all the work they have not completed. Here are five tips to help you stay productive when you work from home this summer. 1. Create a dedicated workspace A dedicated workspace helps you switch into business mode. You may have an entire room available to convert to a home office but, if not, you can still create a practical workspace in a section of a room as long as it meets the following four requirements: Free from household clutter; Room for a quality chair and desk; Access to electrical sockets and wifi; and Enough room for storage of your documents. 2. Create a routine One of the benefits of working at home is that there is no routine! However, this can harm your focus and productivity. So, create your own routine. Set a work start time and have target break and lunch times, too. This will prevent you from taking breaks whenever you feel like it and help you concentrate on the tasks at hand. Before you start working for the day, get any non-work-related jobs done around the house, so they don’t distract you later. 3. Use a timer It is essential to have a clear plan every day you work from home. What needs to get done first, second and third? The lack of noise at home encourages creativity and deep thinking, but without the natural interruptions of the office place, like questions from colleagues, meetings or lunch breaks, we can get too engrossed in one piece of work. Use a timer to set an end time for individual pieces of work. Once the time is up, check your plan and decide whether to continue the current job or move on. 4. Manage others If you only work from home occasionally, there can be a novelty factor. If you are not careful, office interruptions can be replaced by interruptions from well-intended friends or family. Be assertive (but polite) and let people know that you have deadlines. A useful approach is to say “when” instead of “now” if someone wants to see you. Divert a catch-up to your planned lunch or coffee break so you can keep your routine on track. 5.  Change your scene Sometimes working at home can be too quiet and even feel claustrophobic. When this happens, change the scene by taking your laptop to another location such as a local coffee shop or spacious hotel lobby. Studies have shown that public background noise is not distracting. In fact, it can help you achieve a deep level of focus. Moira Dunne is a productivity consultant and Founder of beproductive.ie

Jun 28, 2019

Achieving a healthy work-life balance can be a delicate juggling act for most people. But if you're a working mum or dad, balancing the demands of work and home life can sometimes send your stress levels through the roof. Many working parents feel a sense of guilt that they cannot give their work or their home life as much time and energy as they'd like. Indeed working parents have a lot on their plates. They have to cope with the ongoing need to arrange and pay for childcare and manage things like after-school activities, the daily school run and making school holiday arrangements. Many parents are using up their annual holiday entitlement to do everyday tasks such as getting a doctor's appointment either for themselves or their child, sorting out financial matters at the bank or taking their car for its annual NCT. Unfortunately there's no single piece of advice to help make working parents' lives easier. But if you're struggling with stress, here are some work-life balance tips you may find useful… Talk to your manager If your workload keeps getting bigger, it may be time to talk to your employer about the pressure you're experiencing and review your priorities together. You may want to consider asking for flexible working. This may include having flexible start and finish times, working from home or compressing your work week so you don't have to work every day. Working part time could also help some parents juggle the demands of home life and work - finances permitting. Before you approach your manager, prepare what you're going to say. Try coming up with a proposal that not only benefits you but your employer too. You could even suggest a trial period for your new working arrangements to demonstrate that your productivity won't be affected. Also try to choose your moment to have the conversation - your manager may not be open to your suggestions if you ambush them on their way to an important meeting, for example. Switch off Thanks to communications technology it's far too easy these days to be available 24/7. But if you're in a habit of checking work texts and emails after office hours or even while you're on holiday, it could be a cause of family friction. Relationship support charity Relate recommends the following: Try to set a deadline each day to switch off your work phone and stop checking emails Avoid taking work calls or picking up emails while you're on holiday Agree a short window of time when you can respond if there's something really urgent you need to deal with Tune out on the journey home If you're calm and in a good mood when you arrive home, the rest of your family will be more relaxed too. According to the UK charity Family Lives, children pick up on moods and will sense your unhappiness if you run in complaining about work issues. So while you're on your way home, do something that helps put the day's pressures behind you, such as listening to music, the radio or an audiobook. Then gradually switch your thoughts from work matters to your family, so that when you arrive home you'll have put work to rest completely. Get organised Try to plan things in advance for times that are particularly hectic, such as mornings when you're trying to get ready for work while at the same time dressing your children, giving them their breakfast and making their packed lunches. If something can be done the night before - laying out your children's clothes and making sandwiches for their lunchboxes, for instance - it can save a lot of stress in the morning. You could also try creating a family schedule that includes reminders about everything from appointments, family events, birthdays and school activities to household chores and dates when bills need to be paid. You could make your own calendar and put it somewhere everyone will see it - on your fridge, for instance - or use a calendar app that will sync to everyone's smartphone (try Google calendars). Have a regular family night Try to pick 1 evening a week when all members of your family can do something together. This doesn't have to involve anything special, it could be something really simple like having popcorn while watching a DVD or taking the dog for a walk. The main thing is that you do it together, every week. Having a family meal together can also be an important part of your routine as it's the perfect opportunity to catch up with each other's news. Even if you can't eat together every night, try to sit around the table as a family at least once a week. Save some time for your partner Work and children can take up all your time. But don't forget to spend time with your partner too - just the two of you. If it's impossible to have time together once a week, start off by having a night out once a month. It will help you to reconnect and enjoy each other's company again, which is something many couples lose sight of when they have busy family lives. When you spend time together, try to make a rule not to talk about work or your children - or at least not to talk about them and nothing else. Look after yourself With so much going on it can be easy to always put yourself last. But it's important to treat yourself well - it's good for your stress levels and your relationships with family and people at work. Here are a few things you can do to boost your wellbeing, even if you're ridiculously short on time: Eat healthily It may be tempting to live off takeaways and your children's leftovers, but eating a nutritious diet will help you to cope with stress. You don't have to cook elaborate meals, just something simple made from fresh, wholesome ingredients. Be active Try to do something active every day, as exercise can help to reduce stress levels and combat other mental health problems such as low mood. Make time for sleep Get all the sleep you need, as burning the candle at both ends - which may seem tempting if you're a busy working parent - can eventually affect your wellbeing and your health Ask for support Recognise your limits and ask for help when you need it. Don't try to be superman or superwoman - it's perfectly acceptable to lean on those who can support you every now and then. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 14, 2019
News

Studies show that members of senior management are always 'switched on' for business and, unfortunately, don't feel they have the right to turn off. Is this to the detriment of not only themselves but also the business? Paul Stephens explains. Feeling the pressure at work is not a new phenomenon, but for some, advances in technology have exacerbated the issue. The ‘always on’ culture associated with mobile phones and digital media can make it difficult for people to find a healthy equilibrium between the two. ‘Always on’ culture Research from the Close Brothers Business Barometer, released last week during Mental Health Awareness Week, highlighted that 40% of all senior business leaders ‘do not switch off’, and one in three say that they never turn off their mobile phone. Those in senior financial roles reported a similar struggle to find a positive work-life balance. Two-fifths of Finance Directors and CFOs said that they feel their business requires them to be available at all times, and only a third turn off their phone in the evening or at weekends. However, those in the most senior roles were most intensely impacted, with 60% of Chief Executives and Managing Directors saying they were ‘always’ switched on for business. This continuous pressure can hurt both the individual and the business. A lack of downtime can increase stress levels, reduce effectiveness and have a negative effect on mood. Benefits for everyone Positively, there are signs that workplaces are taking note of the issue. Companies are promoting wellbeing by encouraging behaviours such as flexible working, leaving on time and taking regular breaks and holidays. However, more still needs to be done to ensure that employees at all levels receive support. According to our research, nearly a fifth of senior decision-makers say that wellbeing practices do not apply to them, and a further 13% said that they are only partially relevant. It is vital for the good of the person and the company that wellbeing and mental health initiatives are accessible to all staff, regardless of their seniority. Aside from reducing stress, ensuring that the workplace is a pleasant place to be can bring tangible benefits such as increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and a more committed workforce. Senior figures should lead by example. By working cohesively and ensuring workloads are shared, we can all improve work/life balance. Four things senior management can do to ensure a good work-life balance Keep meetings on time If a meeting is meant to start at 3pm and end at 5.30pm, stick to the agenda and work as efficiently as possible. Make sure everyone – including the most senior manager – is out of the office on time. Learn to delegate properly Be willing to trust the people you hired or work with to get the job done. Micromanaging is bad for office morale and even worse for time management. Insist on taking time off Schedule in the time you will be on holidays or unreachable and stick to it, regardless of what comes up, and respect when your staff want to take time off, too. Know that balance is different for everyone ‘Balance’ for one CEO can mean something different for another. If you don’t mind working 12 hour days but want to be free once you’re home and on the weekend, that’s OK. That’s your definition of balance. Take the time to think about what balance means for your life and how it would ideally work. Paul Stephens FCA, Dip Tax, Dip Corp Fin is the Head of Corporate and ABL at Close Brothers. *All figures unless otherwise stated are from a GMI survey conducted April 2019. The survey canvassed the opinion of 896 SME owners and business managers from several industries across the UK and Ireland on a range of issues affecting their businesses. The survey was commissioned by modern merchant banking group, Close Brothers.

May 19, 2019
Comment

They say nothing is more important than your health, and organisations should make their staff’s well-being a top priority in 2019. Something that has risen in priority for both individuals and employers in recent years is the importance of looking after our own and our colleagues’ mental health. I have put that at the top of my agenda for 2019 and it is an area that is particularly close to my heart. Through my voluntary role on the board of local charity, Action Mental Health,  I’ve gained an insight into some of the important aspects of this subject matter. Separating work and leisure time is essential, making sure we have time to relax and correctly manage our workloads will keep us healthy, help us maintain focus and, ultimately, make us more productive. Technology is frequently the “solution” for efficiency in work; communicating with ease, remote working, software tools to up productivity to name a few. However, technology is not without its pitfalls. We now live in a world where it is virtually impossible to switch off from work. We carry work around with us all day, every day in our smart phones and devices. We are in danger of missing out on life experiences if we’re always listening for that ping and hastily catching up on work emails or texts during what should be our down time.  Here are a few work disciplines that I try to keep in mind to help me manage my day. They don’t always work, but they do help me to prioritise. Don’t respond to every email immediately. Balancing what is urgent with what is important saves me a lot of time and stress, and often means my responses are more considered. Ask others for help with tasks. Delegating is something I’ve had to force myself to do, but it has so many benefits.   Put regular meetings with yourself in your diary. You can use this time as you wish. It may be to phone clients, read emails, do research, or write a letter or two. However you use it is up to you, but it will be a very productive period in your week. Network. Getting to know people, the challenges they face, the solutions they employ, the key drivers in another sector, all of these things make us smarter and, I would argue, make life and work more interesting.  Know your strengths. Let someone else do the other tasks! Praise your team. It’s a nice thing to do as well as being the most powerful motivator any employer has at their disposal. While it’s important for staff to be aware of their mental health, it’s even more important that they have their company’s support. What can you do as an employer to help all of your staff stay happy and healthy? Encourage growth. There is likely to be a wealth of talent in your organisation. Don’t be afraid to recognise and encourage it. Be flexible. If people want to adjust the structures around them in terms of how, when or where they work, do your best to let them.   Be caring. Nothing helps grow a company’s most valuable asset more than demonstrating genuine care to every person who makes the company what it is.   Develop your people. When employees see that they are developing personally and the company wants them to become more valuable members of the team, their effectiveness and loyalty will only increase.   Recognise the importance of staff health and well-being. Aim to have a wellness week that will include a series of health checks, events, educational talks and health supports. This offering gives staff the benefit of having online access to a GP and mental health assistance when they or their families need it. Angela Craigan is a Partner with Harbinson Mulholland Accountancy and Business Advisory Firm.

Feb 11, 2019