Lockdown life: 5 work-life balance tips to follow

Getting a good work-life balance is hard when you're working at home all the time, but as we look set for more weeks on lockdown, it's vital you do so to avoid wearing yourself out

Vicki Williams

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Only the most optimistic people will have thought three weeks on lockdown would be enough. At the time of writing, it seems evident that there are at least another three weeks to come of being confined to our homes. For some, this may mean more box sets and biscuits or DIY and DVDs.

For others, like most teachers, it means more remote working and an attempt to stop work taking over every hour of the day. After all, when your laptop is always there it can be hard to resist one last check of emails after 6pm.

However, with more weeks of lockdown life to survive, now is the time to force yourself to get into a good work-life balance so that you emerge from this period ready for the challenges of the return to school, not burned out and exhausted.

1. Choose your working hours and stick to them

While some teachers are taking part in scheduled Zoom lessons with their students, much of our time is self-directed. As such, schedule your time in a way that works for you. 

That may be working with your own children in the morning and then settling down to an afternoon in front of the laptop; or, if your online class has a tendency to work in the evening, logging on in the morning to check in and completing any planning, and then marking students' work in the evening.

How you use your time may change day by day depending on school and home demands, but don’t fall into the trap of logging on at 7am and off at 9pm while also trying to manage the rest of the household, getting in your daily exercise and taking time out for yourself.

It's not feasible and only serves to leave you operating below your best.

2. Turn off your school email notifications on your phone

Controversial maybe, but unless you’re senior leadership team or designated safeguarding lead, you’re not going to get emails saying that a student needs to go to reception this minute. 

Check them as and when you need to, but on your terms and when you’re in a position to deal with them.

This is not an idle suggestion, either: once you've logged off for the day, that's it – you're done. Unwind and relax, just as you normally would.

3. Allocate part of your working day to social media

There have never been as many amazing resources available or as much support for teachers on social media platforms as there are right now. 

Many teachers are spending hours trawling through inspiring lesson ideas and chatting to other teachers on Twitter and Facebook. 

While this communication is a real positive to come out of the current situation, you can find yourself trapped in a social media cycle, going from one site to the next on repeat, often throughout the day and into the evening. This can not only be exhausting but also upsetting or stressful.

Build in a specific amount of time during your working day for research and professional chat and try to keep to it. 

4. Take your daily exercise

Like everyone else, teachers are entitled to their one trip out a day for exercise. We are used to constant movement around a classroom, to the staffroom and, on a good day, to the toilet! 

Sitting at a desk or on the sofa with a laptop is not natural for us. Turn your phone off, get outside and allow yourself to relax and not be a teacher. 

5. Take the advice you’ve given your students

As a profession, we’re naturally caring and nurturing. Over the past few weeks, we’ve all checked in with students, given advice and directed them to resources to support their wellbeing in this new and frightening situation. 

What would we say to the student who is working 12 hours a day, seven days a week and not taking proper breaks? Why are we not taking our own advice? 

Let’s lead by example. The better we manage our own work-life balance now, the better equipped we will be to face the new challenges that wait for us when schools reopen.

Vicki Williams is a specialist teacher of secondary students with social, emotional and mental health issues, teaching across key stages 3 and 4. Prior to that, she taught performing arts in mainstream schools for 15 years

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