As the hashtag says, we’re all #inthistogether, and it’s safe to say that we are all mastering the balance of work and life in different ways, taking cues from others along the way and providing advice in return. Working from home is a tough gig, with or without children, so we’ve reached out to some of our Faculty colleagues to hear how they have been navigating the changes, keeping life fun, and how they are taking time to nurture their well-being.
Parents are definitely having to wear many hats, from parent, teacher, cook, entertainer, and counsellor. Our Faculty is very family-oriented, so we asked around to find out just how parents of young children are making things work in their households.
"Balancing work and life requires a conscious shift in
thought about what the word balance really means"
Lori Duffey from the School of Health and Society is working full-time from home and has two school-aged daughters at home with her.
“My Year 6 girl is totally fine -- very independent and capable. I really don’t hear from her at all throughout the day, but my Year 3 daughter has to be setup next to me in our spare room so we can work together. I’ve found that she needs a little more help and guidance as she gets quite distracted not being in a classroom environment.”
Lori has found that while the initial intent of the girls’ school was a little over-enthusiastic with the volume of school work, the end result has been a well-balanced and realistic workload which helps to manage the girls’ stress and prevents them from becoming overwhelmed. Mixed in with school work, Lori has been using YouTube as a great resource to keep them all active.
“Yoga with Adriene, is excellent for beginners, and Office Break Yoga with Adriene is awesome as I don’t need to change in to workout wear, meaning I can work it in to my day with little disruption. PE with Joe has become a favourite for us as well.”
Focusing on the positives of the situation, Lori is enjoying gaining time by not having to go through the motions of the morning school routine including preparing lunches and hair care requests -- along with the ability to start and finish at times that work around her family.
“The girls are learning independence and how to follow instructions in a different way. We are trying new dinners as we have more time in the evening to experiment and they are cooking/making their own snacks.”
Renée Agostino from the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities is taking tips and advice as she goes and making sure her kids stay well connected with their peers.
She’s helping her children stay connected by planning virtual play-dates -- letting the children video call friends so they can play games together as they normally would. Her son has been playing Lego with his friends and despite the distance, they find themselves immersed in their own imaginative world together.
Board games and other games have been a feature, too, and Renée recommends Uno Flip, a new version of the classic Uno game. “It’s something different and it’s a big winner in my house,” adds Renée.
Taking a structured yet simplified approach, Dr Tiffani Apps from the School of Education works with her children on schooling for the first two hours of the day, then she dedicates the rest of the day to her work while allowing her children some free-range play.
She has laminated activity cards so her girls can choose how to entertain themselves for the afternoon, allowing her to focus on her work commitments. And when the day comes to an end, Tiffani definitely recommends you enjoy a glass of wine to relax!
Dr Dylan Cliff, also from the School of Education, offers a father’s personal and professional perspective.
“We like to go camping in the backyard or in the living room. Sleepovers are always fun so we make the most of our environment and make it work. We might build a cubby house with big boxes and all join in the imaginative play -- this could be playing families or building two cubby forts and getting a battle going using socks as ammunition.”
Why not hold a home disco or throw some dance breaks into the day? Dylan suggests putting some music on, clearing a dance floor and watching the children go freestyle! This is great to burn off energy, release tension, and let’s face it, we all love to dance like no one’s watching. Anytime the music comes on in the house everybody has to stop what they’re doing, run to the dance floor and bust out high energy dance moves for one song.
Rough and tumble play has traditionally been promoted for developing connections between fathers and young children, but there’s no reason mothers and older children can’t get involved.
Or for some ongoing routine, set up daily activity challenges like this one from the Springfield Public School that Dylan has provided.
For those who don’t have children, there’s no reason you can’t still enjoy some fun downtime to break up the routine of living in your workspace, or vice-versa. Play some music, enjoy some gardening, start a jigsaw puzzle that you can break away from when you need. Make a meal plan and take some time to prepare your meals with care and purpose. Try an online course, or simply indulge in Netflix.
Take some time to connect with your colleagues as you would normally in the office -- when we’re all working remotely we lose the physical and mental interaction in the lunch room and hallways, for instance, so be more intentional about when, how, and why you’re communicating with others. Being more mindful of your social interactions while working will deliver more satisfaction overall, remote or otherwise.
If you’re having a foggy brain day, try some focus exercises to get back on task. If you find yourself getting constantly interrupted by family, set aside some regular time to attend to family matters and block off that time in your calendar.
The flipside to this is neglecting to shut off work when it’s time to be present with your family and friends. It’s easy to check your emails or quickly do a small task when your office might be your living room. When it’s time to finish work, log off and close down your computer.
Eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising are all good habits regardless of where you work, and being remote means you have the opportunity to excel at self-care. It also means you can become complacent and lazy. Stock your fridge and pantry with good snacks and easy to prepare meals. The reward is that you’ll perform better at work while having the opportunity to use your kitchen to create delicious snacks and meals whenever you need to.
And as we’ve touched on before, the same goes for exercise and motion. You might have to work a little harder at getting in your daily steps without the commute, but you’ll have more time to stroll the block. Set intermittent reminders on your calendar or phone and take a break away from your screen.
One thing has become abundantly clear out of all of this – while the juggling act can be stressful and finding the balance a challenge, we’re all thinking outside the box and creating lasting family memories that will stay with us. We’re using these times to connect and interact with our friends, family and children in ways that we might have often overlooked, all the while strengthening our bonds and bringing us all closer together.
UOW cares about your well-being and has services available for staff and their families:
Well@Work: Sometimes the pressures of life and work can get too much and you need advice, direction or just someone to speak to. Positive mental health allows you to lead a more enriched life and perform better at work. UOW is committed to ensuring the University is a mentally healthy workplace that supports its employees.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP): The University of Wollongong provides confidential counselling services designed to enhance the emotional, mental and general psychological well-being of employees through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). All UOW employees and members of their immediate family have access to qualified counsellors via face to phone consultations to assist with a range of work or personal issues that might be impacting their lives. To arrange a consultation with a counsellor please call 1300 361 008 or use the online live chat function on the LifeWorks website where you can make a booking, request an alternative appointment time or ask any general questions.