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Lifestyle And Wellbeing Parenting and Work

Is It Time To Change Societal Norms For Mums?

We are all well aware, that recent times have shone a spotlight on how well, or not, our work and home lives blend. Research by McKinsey, Pregnant Then Screwed, Mother Pukka and many more has proven just what a negative impact the pandemic has had on women. The research has highlighted how in many cases women continue to be primarily responsible for the running of their homes and families. Covid has indirectly heightened the inequalities that women face in work and at home daily. A societal norm for mums that needs to be changed. But what does the future hold? Has this time taught us anything. Can we change to shift our societal culture for the better, for everyone?

There has been a lot of focus on the impact of work on home life. The fact women still find it hard to climb the ladder because historically flexibility hasn’t allowed for this. However I also feel there is a shift required (which incidentally, is beginning to happen) in our home cultures too.

The Socialisation of Societal Norms

Socialisation is defined as “the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society” and impacts both men and women. This starts as early as birth – think pink and blue blankets. It then progresses through how we are taught, communicated with, what we absorb from books, TV, movies etc.

Socialisation puts an almost invisible pressure on us to conform to ingrained societal beliefs. Dr Shawn Andrews has found through her work, time and time again, a family’s culture shows as one of the biggest influences of our gender beliefs and gender roles – and seems to be ubiquitous across most races and ethnicities.

We have also all heard of the “mental load”. In the majority of cases this tends to fall to the mum in a heterosexual parent family. The role of “knowing all the things”. The kids schedules, where to be when, the shopping list, meal planning, laundry, making or ordering school lunches, planning and booking in childcare. We even go as far as to say it is the mother’s salary, if she goes back to work, that must cover childcare and ideally more, otherwise her work is “not worth it”.

Why doesn’t the dad’s salary have any bearing on the cost of childcare? It becomes a reason for a mum to not be “able” to return to work. Financially it doesn’t stack up (of course there’s a whole other issue here about the insane cost of childcare in the UK, but that’s another blog!). But what about that mums career, sense of self, achievement and all else that comes with having a career?

Where am I going with this? I am not jumping off on a ranty tangent. I believe we have come to accept that it is a societal norm for mums to assume responsibility for and carry this load. It is a hangover from women not working and men being the breadwinners. Whilst women now can have and want to have careers, we haven’t relinquished the bygone responsibilities. Isn’t it time we changed these societal norms for mums?

Time to challenge the responsibilities of mums!

We don’t have much to thank Covid for. However, I have witnessed a shift in cultures at home. For many, the norm had been for dads to go to work Monday to Friday. Out of the home for the vast majority of their children’s waking hours. This has stopped. Not only has this allowed dads to be more present – it has also allowed visibility of exactly what happens at home!

I am well aware some families already balanced things well, where as in some homes sadly no shift has happened. However in the main I see a huge amount of dads now at the school gates. I see dads doing runs to extra curricular clubs. I know in my house only about 75% of the washing is now done by the laundry fairy (that’s me by the way – and yes it’s a work in progress!). What I also hear from dads is that they are really enjoying this shift. That being present in their children’s lives and being able to share the load more is not only now possible, but bringing them fulfilment.

Don’t be a Martyr!

On the less positive side however, I hear far too much of the “it’s easier to do it myself” dialogue. Mums leaving instructions and lists if they have to leave their husband in charge. Saying things like “I’m too much of a control freak… I’d have to re-do everything anyway. If I don’t leave a list the kids will be wearing pants on their heads and eating Haribo for dinner”. I get it. We know how to run our homes with our eyes closed.

It’s hard to understand how remembering the weekend timetable of various sports activities and sorting food out appears to be so hard for the men in our life. But really? Imagine if you were treated like that at work? Someone waiting for you to fail. Just so they could jump in and make it known what a terrible job you did? Or just never given the chance at all? We have to ask have we just assumed the role and never allowed our partners to learn it?

Are you project managing your home?

If we assume the “Project Manager role” the rest of the household will always assume that too. They will always say “you should have asked!” when we get all shouty. It may often feel like life is the shortest route to done, to do it ourselves. But spare a minute to think about yourself. What does it do to you to always be the doer of all the things? And how sustainable is this if we are home a lot more lines blurring between working and non-working hours? If we carry on holding the load, we are in huge danger of making it worse for ourselves. Being at home more means we have more opportunity to do more of the “things”. If we don’t let go of some of them and pass the baton on to partners or children – we could quickly be in an even more resentful place.

Socialising Future Generations

If our own wellbeing isn’t motivation enough, how about what we are teaching future parents – our children? If we want our sons and daughters to live in a more equal world where families are teams, managing the load together, we must teach them this now to influence socialisation.

Of course one size doesn’t fit all. What works for one family is another’s idea of hell! But as we move into an incredibly exciting period of cultural change, find what works for you. As we gain more flexibility at work it is imperative we take good care of ourselves. We don’t want to end up living in a blurred workplace – family home where no boundaries or team work prevail. We can’t simply just take on more.

The Culture Shift That Needs To Happen Now

So share the mental load, make space to hop on your Peleton daily or have a clear self-care routine. Don’t let these positive changes get thrown to the bottom of the pile as soon as a family need arises. We have the privilege of being able to play an active role in the culture shift of these outdated societal norms for mums. Let’s keep flexible working alive. A societal revolution that future generations will thank us for.

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. Rebecca can be found via her website; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums.

If you wish to read more about societal change, why not have a read of what it is going to be like working in a post-pandemic society

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Flexible Careers Lifestyle And Wellbeing Productivity & Flexibility

Changing Workplace Behaviours, Is It Just The Responsibility Of The Employer?

Here at The Find Your Flex group we talk a lot about flexible working, it is after all the bread and butter of what we do! But, recently we’ve also been talking a lot about output models of work too. Over the years our thoughts around flexible working have evolved. We really feel output based working is the key to TRUE flexible working. We’d love to see employers embrace judging an employee on their output over how, when and where they work.

We know organisations are at various stages of implementing change when it comes to the way we work. It’s no secret that the pandemic has forced many into implementing changes quicker than expected. It’s also clear that those who already worked flexibly adapted much quicker.

As with any major change in culture and behaviours, all stakeholders need to be committed if it is to be a success. Therefore employers and managers need to be able to adopt, drive, support and manage the change. But we feel employees also have a responsibility.

Who is really responsible for making this work?

There are endless reports, articles, blogs and opinion pieces about what the future holds – what do employees want? Back to the office? Home-working? A hybrid model? The focus is endlessly on what employers are doing to respond to ensure a better work model for their employees, with the core focus on location of work and it’s flexibility. We understand driving organisational cultural change is multifactorial and a hugely studied area. Of course strong and ethical leadership is key to driving positive change. But, We wanted to explore the responsibility of the employee too.

What responsibility do employees have in making any such future models a success? What can we do as employees to ensure the result is a success. Perhaps it’s the way we engage.

Engagement and wellbeing is a collective responsibility!

Employers have a responsibility to provide the tools, the tech and the trust, but we must be the adopters and change agents to ensure a culture that is a success. If we wish to be trusted, we must also trust – our employers and our colleagues. We must be transparent in what is and isn’t working for us and in sharing and communicating with others. If we are leaders ourselves, ensuring we engage our teams is critical.

The organisations who prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing – and who have the workforce that embed this into their culture – will be the winners, and so will their employees. Allowing people the time and tech to work remotely is a minute part of the journey we are on. For an output model to work we need to engage in ways that may be unfamiliar to regular working practices. It will be the way we engage new joiners. The way we empower teamwork. How we lead by example and foster a culture of inclusivity and engagement like never before.

Avoiding Burnout

For many employees, an output model may be the ideal to flex around our lives. But, there still exists the real danger of burnout and exhaustion. For example if home-working forms a part of this, boundaries are blurred. The work-day is often extended and mental well-being can be affected when the commute time, often used to transition from work to home mentally, is erased.

If output is the pure focus, could there be danger of over-working to achieve these outputs – not speaking out if the load is too high? Employers need to provide space for employees to use their voice, but employees need to then respond. Employees will have a period of time in which they need to adapt. To have conscious boundaries and strategies to look after their wellbeing. When we are not in the office it is harder for colleagues to notice changes in mood and overload. Again, we are collectively responsible for creating the culture of a team whilst not necessarily being in the same location at the same time.

Office dynamics – the invisible employees

Several people I have spoken to recently, who previously were all for at least a hybrid model, if not 100% remote, are already seeing a shift in dynamics. One mum shared recently when she went to the office for the first time in a year, the dynamic was entirely different. There were a much larger proportion of men present plus younger colleagues who do not have family commitments nor the space to work easily from home. 

On the one hand it was great to see those that needed to be in could be, but she shared fears mums disappearing and this turning round to bite us on the bum. If output is the focus, the output of those that choose to not be visibly present in the office must be recognised. Mums have been the most impacted group of the workforce due to the pandemic. There is clearly a need to ensure a divide is not upon us – mums at home, men and younger people in the office resulting in an “out of sight, out of mind” issue that in turn affects perceived output and involvement in decisions.

Engage and remain engaged

To me this all shows the key thing is choices and well-thought out decisions by both employers and employees. We need to find ways to engage but also take responsibility to remain engaged. To demonstrate our output positively. To not slip from a presenteeism culture for all pre-pandemic, to recognition for presenteeism, within groups that choose to be office based, post-pandemic.

A truly flexible, output model must be based on trust. Maybe the next steps in this new world should see employees measured on a whole host of success markers that did not exist in the working world pre-Covid. Imagine if we could be measured not only on results, but on engagement of ourselves in our hybrid world and engagement of others; on wellbeing metrics to ensure we are able to perform healthily which in turn makes for better output.

The positives are clear – we have many choices opening up to us. We may decide to live somewhere else as we don’t need to commute to the office everyday. We hopefully will have a degree of choice of how working hours fit into our lives – as long as we get the results needed. What is also clear is this cannot be to the detriment of our mental health where we all become islands of solo workers allowing loneliness and burnout to creep in. We all have a responsibility to make this work for ourselves and those around us.

The author

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. Rebecca can be found via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums.

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Child Care Dads Flexible Careers Flexible Industries Lifestyle And Wellbeing Mental Health Mums Returning To Work Parenting and Work Productivity & Flexibility Work Journeys

Working in a Post-Covid World.

March 23rd 2020. The day we heard our Prime Minister say “From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home”. The day working from home, indefinitely, began.

Fast-forward over 13 months. Many are still working full-time from home. Some are gradually finding their way back to the office. There are organisations that have managed things brilliantly and seen this as an opportunity to shape flexible working. Some have managed things terribly and are already making unnecessary demands to fully return to the office, with no clear business need. Some employees are desperate to get back, some are desperate to retain the flex they have had forced upon them.

As we emerge from these unprecedented times, the waters feel muddy. There is little consistency across employers or industries. What is clear is that many of us are feeling the burn out from living at work with little to no break and a year of no holidays.

So how are we planning for the post-Covid future?

Many organisations have hit the press for their positive moves towards supporting employees well-being and flexibility. For example, Dropbox have made working from home a permanent move. Microsoft is moving to a 50:50 homeworking to office working model. John Lewis head office is taking a hybrid or blended working approach. Having spoken to a wide range of parents, the general consensus seems to be a 50% office based role will become the norm.

These approaches make total sense given a study by The University Of Southampton found nine in ten employees feel they had got at least as much, if not more, work done at home as in the office. Employees also shared that they have benefited from the flexibility to organise their tasks and discretion to make decisions about when they do their work from home.

How this effects parents?

Whilst it is clear from this study and many others – such as the research conducted by the childcare provider, Bright Horizons – working parents are overwhelmingly in favour of a continuation of flexible hours and some form of hybrid working. Christelle who works for a large energy company shared:

Having the flexibility to do the school run and eat together at the start and end of the day as a family, has had a huge positive impact on our family dynamic”.

Likewise John, who works for an IT company said:

The time I have had to become more involved in my son’s life has been amazing. If allowed to continue, I believe this will have a life-long impact to our relationship, having been around so much in his formative years”.

It is also clear the general consensus is that the pandemic has allowed us to prove such a model could work. However, more than half of employees involved in the Bright Horizons research thought their employers were likely to be unresponsive to demands for greater flexibility once the pandemic dissipates. Denise Priest of Bright Horizons shared “There seems to be disagreement between some organisations and their workers about what normality should mean”. This is backed up by the research I conducted. A mum working for a large US Bio-sciences organisation is shared her worries that, “whilst all the right things are being done now, will these have the longevity that society needs?”

So what is the right answer?

The only very clear thing in all of this is one size does not fit all. We knew this anyway, but employees, pre-covid, bent over backwards in many case to mould themselves, their families and other commitments to fit the requirements of work. Whilst we have been missing social contact, there is a clear preference amongst the majority of parents to combine office with working from home in the future. Seven in ten (73%) employees wish to adopt a hybrid work arrangement – blending working from home with the communality of the office – and to retain the flexibility and control over their working pattern from which they have benefited under lockdown.

I am hearing of a huge amount of examples of organisations asking their employees what works for them? One FMCG company has even gone as far as introducing a whole new contractual way of working. Allowing some individuals to work on a retained project basis. They are then able to dictate their working hours – fitting work to their lives, rather than fitting life to their work.

All this said, there are some that working from home is not good for. I say “not good for” because I don’t just mean convenience. I mean their mental health is suffering because of the isolation this can bring. If you are younger, live alone or in a shared house environment. If you wish to reap the social rewards of the young, working generation. Many of these people NEED the office environment in order to protect their mental health. This sentiment was clearly shared by one person I spoke with from the Oil & Gas industry, who said:

I have genuine concerns for a single, female colleague who has clearly struggled mentally with the stay at home message”.

Flexible Working is the way forward.

It truly feels the power is shifting. People have proven a flexible model to suit individuals – IS achievable. There are organisations taking this on board and adapt to their staff. Allowing work to fit with life, rather than forcing employees into an unmanageable, unsustainable, unnecessary, unhealthy work pattern. These organisations will be the winners in the long run.

The 2021 Modern Families Index Spotlight points to potential discord ahead. 55% of respondents indicate their loyalty to their employer long term depends on employer’s reaction to the pandemic and beyond. As they continue to attempt to juggle work, child care and care of elderly relatives. Employers who recognise the priority of family life and provided practical support for staff will retain – and gain – talented employees. While those who have not will lose out. John, who I mentioned earlier, working in IT, very honestly shared this with me:

I will seek alternative employment if pushed too far to revert to old ways of working. It is clear this is a preference, but with no clear justification, in my organisation. Which could result in me seeking alternative employment”.

What about well-being support?

It seems many organisations are focusing on what the working week should look like. However, what hasn’t been shared as broadly is what organisations are doing to support the mental well-being of employees.

The University of Southampton Study shared that maintaining working from home during the pandemic, whilst may have been in some ways more efficient, has taken its toll on mental health and well-being. In fact, responses on this area in their study found ranking very low. 47 out of 100 – measured against the World Health Organisation WHO-5 global standard. AXA back this up further. Finding that two-thirds (64%) of those working across the UK and Europe said their stress levels increased compared to pre-pandemic. Of these, eight out of ten (81%) describe themselves as having a “poor” or “low” state of mind.

Given for many the kitchen table has become the office with home / work boundaries becoming uncontrollably blurred. It stands to reason that burnout is a very real prospect.

What are the effects of this?

On the flip side, organisations are planning for future and maybe even dictate what this future will look like. Although it may be that some do not feel ready to commute or be in the office. A mum working for a small start up shared with me:

I am not prepared to return until I am vaccinated. This has already happened for my boss so we are at slight odds around timing. Which is causing a bit of of stress and anxiety”.

Some have been shielding, may have vulnerable family members. Many have adapt childcare provisions and may not easily be able to reinstate wrap around care. Either because it is not available or because they are not inclined to revert back to the old ways. Such as running from breakfast club, to the train, to work, to after school clubs. And various other activities without having a minute for any family member to breathe.

As a backdrop the pandemic has triggered significant emotional, physical, and economic burdens:

  • Social isolation,
  • Working from home while caring for children and other family members
  • Exposure to the virus – personally, via loved ones, or from working on the front line
  • Experiences of long-covid

Mental health care advocates believe Covid can cause many to suffer from something close to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In August 2020 the CDC published results of a large US web-based survey of more than 5000 adults. In which over 40% demonstrated experiencing at least one adverse mental or behavioural health problem related to the pandemic. Including symptoms of anxiety or depression (30.9%), substance use to cope (13.3%) and considering suicide (10.7%). This suggests a flexible work environment is something employers must consider when working in a post-covid world.

What needs to be done?

Many parents have shared a number of initiatives their organisations are doing to support well-being. These include

  • virtual coffee chat drop-ins
  • no-meeting days
  • access to counselling
  • well-being allowances
  • access to the office for those struggling working from home

but is this enough?

Workers have proved they are highly adaptable in these unusual times. One senior music industry employee shared, the pandemic has propelled flexible working forward by ten years, if done right. However, employers’ focus must now be on well-being. On supporting people through this next phase of transition. Above all else it is our well-being and mental health that has suffered most. I wonder how well organisations will take account of this as a factor of our return? This is a whole new phase. A positive shift hopefully, but one that needs managing with great care and support.

For other insights into this subject, why not have a read on The Real Gender Impact of Covid-19. And the struggles women have faced during and potentially post-covid.

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Diversity and Inclusion High Profile Returners Lifestyle And Wellbeing Mums Returning To Work Professional Mums Work Journeys

Imposter Syndrome – Fix Bias, Not Women

Imposter Syndrome. We have all heard of it. If you are a high-achieving female you may well think you have it. If you don’t, you will know many others that do.  But, what if Imposter Syndrome isn’t real? What if it is a resulting factor of society and biology combined?

The 66% of women ‘suffering’ with Imposter Syndrome (according to a study by Access Commercial Finance) may be shouting “no, it’s definitely real”. Bare with me…

You can loosely define imposter syndrome as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they’re deserving of accolades.

Where did Imposter Syndrome come from?

Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes developed the concept. Originally termed “imposter phenomenon,” in their 1978 founding study. The study focused on 150 high-achieving women. They recorded that “despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the imposter phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.”

This study, despite it being based on just 150 participants, spurred decades of development programmes and initiatives. These were all in an effort to address imposter syndrome in women. Many high-profile women have shared they suffer with IS. Examples include – former First Lady Michelle Obama and Tennis champion Serena William. If you want to find out how to “overcome” Imposter Syndrome, a quick Google search shows up more than 5 million results.

What if Women Aren’t The Problem?

What’s less well explored, is why imposter syndrome exists in the first place. The advent came with the study mentioned above in 1978, but what about before then? Did it just not happen? Or has something changed in society or with “sufferers” that has resulted in this pandemic?

A theory I subscribe to is that workplace systems and simple biology may have a lot to answer for. Currently, women are almost blamed for having Imposter Syndrome. They are told they are suffering and need to overcome it. They are ‘diagnosed’ with a condition. So, it must be down to them.

Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey explored this further. Their published findings, in a Harvard Business Review article, share “imposter syndrome puts the blame on individuals, without accounting for the historical and cultural contexts that are foundational to how it manifests… Imposter syndrome directs our view toward fixing women at work instead of fixing the places where women work.”

Maybe You Are Just Normal!

Feeling uncomfortable, second-guessing yourself and mild anxiety are all normal. These feelings are more prevalent in women at work. Men of course experience similar feelings. However, men are often selected based on capability rather than history. The opposite is true for women. It stands to reason if you haven’t done a certain thing before suddenly you feel out of your depth. As a man’s potential is validated over time, feelings of doubt are reduced. Add on the fact men are easily able to find role models in the workplace. Mentors who are like them and are less inclined to question their competence. It therefore makes sense that these very normal feelings have a lesser impact and are less likely to be labelled.

Women experience the opposite. We question if we have the credentials we need to achieve. We hear “women often suffer with Imposter Syndrome”. In fact career development programmes aimed at women almost always have a session on “overcoming imposter syndrome”. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When women demonstrate strength, ambition, and resilience, they are often described as “aggressive” or “overly assertive”. The idea of imposter syndrome doesn’t take account of workplace dynamics and suggests women need to deal with the “issue”instead.

Men Are From Mars…

It is a biological fact women are programmed to be more risk averse. They are more likely to be perfectionists. Jessica Baker, a Business Psychologist, says we are wired to not step too far into the unknown – left from when we needed fear to protect us, and our young. Also, there are a disproportionate number of men in leadership roles. This means falsely equating confidence with certain traits that are most often demonstrated by male leaders. We then interpret these traits as competence and leadership. Thus, if we don’t have these certain male dominant traits, we question ourselves, decide we lack confidence and diagnose Imposter Syndrome.

Fixing Bias and Society – Not Women

The “fix women’s imposter syndrome” narrative has persisted, decade after decade. Perhaps instead workplaces should focus on creating a culture for women that addresses bias.

In the mid-1990s Clance, the ‘founder’ of Imposter Syndrome suggested the impostor phenomenon could also be attributed as far back as the way girls are communicated with as children. People would compliment girls on being “pretty” and “chatty”. Whilst “Brave” and “intelligent” used for boys. These concepts can define us. It is therefore easier to put success down to luck or being liked. Not individual success.

All this said, I do not totally dismiss Imposter Syndrome as “a thing”. But, I do wonder if

  • we address healthy, normal self-doubt via supportive work cultures,
  • seeing more women in positions of leadership and
  • not using vague feedback like “you need to better develop your leadership qualities”.

we may be in a better place.

Is Imposter Syndrome is a stand-alone syndrome? Or is it a result of complex societal, biological and workplace factors? Either way, it still affects us.

Then how do we deal with it? Ask yourself “where is the evidence that you are doing a terrible job or making bad decisions?”. The fear is irrational. Your current experience of it is often far worse than the negative outcome you are anticipating.

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents, find their paths back to career happiness. Find Rebecca via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums.

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Lifestyle And Wellbeing Mums Returning To Work Work Journeys

Protecting Your Mental Health During Your Job Search

Does job searching affect our mental health?

Losing your job and being out of work for a significant period of time is classed as both a psychological and financial trauma (Carl Van Horn, PhD, Rutgers university). A large body of research shows unemployment is linked to feelings of anxiety, depression and loss of life-satisfaction. Even when financial strain isn’t a by-product of being made redundant, losing your job can still be detrimental to mental health. Job searching can take it’s toll.

Work provides us with routine, structure, identity, purpose and social interaction. When that is taken away, the effects can be palpable. It is critical that, whilst job searching, you are conscious of protecting your mental health. For those still in employment, support those that are not. 

The all consuming job search

It is far too easy to fall into the trap of feeling inadequate. If you are not at your laptop, searching and applying for jobs, feeling that you are not doing enough. Feeling as though all hours of the day must be spent on your search.

The reality is this is likely to have a detrimental effect. Your anxiety levels will increase; on days when results are limited, you will feel lower or like the never-ending search is hopeless. The fact is, being tied to your job search every waking moment, won’t make more opportunities appear. Whether you log on for three hours or eight, the amount of jobs you find to apply to are likely to be the same. The only difference will be, is how exhausted and less motivated you will feel.

So what is the answer? How can you take care of yourself, when all you can think about is securing your next job?

A vital element is maintaining structure. Creating a sense of routine provides the stability you lack from not being in work. Get up at a decent time and go about your day with a sense of routine. Try blocking the first two hours to focus on job search and applications. Take a break for chores, have lunch, do a final hour of networking via Linked In, or other platforms. Then spend some time on a hobby or social interaction with a friend or family member (socially distanced of course!). 

Exercise is incredibly helpful. Even if you are not a gym bunny. Doing something physical, ideally first thing in the morning really does get the blood flowing. It also helps you to focus. It will also release endorphins that help fight feelings of depression and anxiety.

What can you control?

When you are searching for employment you may feel uncomfortable with the unknown – when will you find your next job? What will it be? Where will it be? How much will you earn? It is therefore best to focus on what you can control – not what you can’t. If you begin to feel stressed or anxious about a particular thing, consider “is this within my control?” if yes, what can you do about it? Otherwise, let it go and consider what is in your control that you can positively impact instead. 

Seeing constant headlines about more companies going bust and more redundancies being made can impact your mood and feelings about your own job search. Do not let these things affect your mind-set – do not give up. If you find yourself slipping into thinking “there’s no point, I will never find a job”, take a day off the search. Try and think of new ways you can positively impact your search. It is not just about applying to advertised jobs. Spend time networking, look for new connections on LinkedIn. Arrange some virtual coffees, attend on online networking event. Switch it up and bring new life to your search. 

Let people know how you feel

Speak to your partner, friends or family for support. Job searching can be a very lonely place so allow others in. Finding a job search partner can be really motivating. Check in with each other, set goals and help one another stick to them. Celebrate successes and pick each other up on more difficult days. If you are feeling low on a regular basis with very little lift in your mood, don’t be afraid to seek professional support.

Celebrate success!

Not everything about your job search will be negative! Find ways to reflect, recognise and celebrate successes – no matter how small. Keep a visible note of what has gone well. This is really helpful for motivating you when you have more challenging days. Start each day reading through your successes. Even if it’s simply that you made a new, useful connection on LinkedIn – it’s a win! Share the steps forward you are making with those closest to you. Finding a new job can take time, so see each day as being one step closer. 

There are positives of being able to take a little time out too. Use the time you have, outside of the few hours of job search activity each day

  • To reconnect with people you often don’t get time to speak to
  • Return to, or take up, a new hobby,
  • Read the books you never normally find time for,
  • Spend an afternoon pampering yourself.

Job search is one part of what you need to do now. However, the rest of this time is for you to make the best of your time out. Take the break you deserve and invest in your mental health. 

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. Rebecca can be found via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums. 

Read more about dealing with job loss here:

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Flexible Careers Lifestyle And Wellbeing Work Journeys

Dealing With Job Loss

Job Loss Is Never Easy

Losing your job is crap. There I said it. Even if deep down you wanted out of a job you weren’t particularly happy in, it’s still rubbish. And if you loved your job and it’s suddenly taken from you – then that’s horrendous. Whether you kind of saw it coming or not, losing your job is still a shocking and unpleasant experience. 

Even though you know there will have been logic from the company’s side as to why they have had to make cuts, it still massively knocks your confidence. Losing your job can leave you questioning, “Could I have done anything to have been saved?” The panic then sets in “What on earth am I going to do next? I need an income! There’s so much competition out there, it’s going to take ages to find something new!”. You may even feel resentful and question why certain others haven’t had the same terrible news.

One Piece Of Advice About Job Loss

If I can give you one piece of advice, it is give yourself a small window of time to be bitter and angry. Then try to move to processing your emotions in a more healthy way. Staying in angry, bitter, panic mode will see you paralysed. Rooted to the spot, not doing anything very productive to move forward.

That said there is definitely a need for you to mourn your job loss. Give yourself that space to feel sad, anxious and scared about your future. Trying to totally suppress such feelings will likely result in them rearing their head during your job search. Acknowledge and validate them and then use to your advantage. Use those feelings to focus you – they are the exact reason you need to take positive action.

Moving On From Job Loss

Once anger and sadness have been processed, it’s time to think to the future. You may not have planned your job loss. But, this could be a perfect opportunity to consider what you really want from your next career move. Times are tough and certain industries or roles are harder hit. However, others are having to adapt to the coronavirus world. This means that jobs or organisations that may not have felt as accessible previously, may now be.

If you have received a redundancy payment, the pressure may be off a little so take some time to reflect. What would you really like to do next?

  • Is this a time to re-train into that career you always wanted?
  • Maybe now is a good time to launch that business you have been thinking about over the last few years?
  • Is there a course you can do to re-direct your focus. Better position yourself by gaining the skills you need to secure a job in a new industry.

Consider what matters to you. All those things that you weren’t loving about your old job no longer exist. This is a great chance to carve out more of what you do want to be doing.

If a career change feels too much right now. Or you don’t have the luxury of a comfortable redundancy package, there is still no reason you can’t focus on the future. You may take a job that is close to your previous role for now. But, if a change is the end goal, you can still plan. One that is achievable to reach that career transition in the longer term. 

Getting A New Job Is Impossible!

The job market isn’t easy right now. Many people are finding they are applying for jobs they are qualified for and not even hearing back. Applying is a critical part of your job search but it is not the only thing you can be doing. Use your network. Connect with people. Have virtual coffees, speak to new people. This is not just to ask for jobs, but to find out more about their job, company or industry. The more people you speak with the more visible you become.

Applications are simply documents on a computer. Find out who the recruiting manager is for a job. Connect with them and suggest a virtual coffee to find out more about a role before you apply. Become a real, 3D person. Be remembered in a way a bunch of words on a page can’t do.

Get visible on social media where your ideal employer hangs out. Engage in Facebook groups, Linked In, write articles, involve yourself in discussions. It may feel alien at first, but it definitely won’t hinder your quest for your next job.

Caucasian woman with two young children. She is at her laptop and on the phone

Job Hunting SHOULD NOT Be A Full Time Job

Searching for a new job, can feel like a full time job in itself. It is easy to feel like you need to be glued to your laptop in order to be in with a chance. 

If you only take one thing from this blog, take this – DO NOT MAKE JOB HUNTING A FULL TIME JOB. You will send yourself spiralling into a very low place if it is the only thing you focus on. Set yourself a routine. Similar to a work pattern.

  • Get up.
  • Schedule time for applications, sorting your CV, networking etc
  • Then shut down and do something positive.

A few hours a day is enough and then move onto anything else that makes you feel good.

  • Go for a walk.
  • Have a coffee with a friend.
  • Do those things around the house that never normally get done!
  • Do something you would simply never get time to do if you were working.
  • Make some memories, you may not get this time again. 

Your mental health is your most important asset, especially at times like these, so take good care of it. Look out for my next blog on exactly that subject later this month.

Rebecca Amin helps parents who feel stuck in their careers and find a path back to career happiness. Find Rebecca via her career coaching website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk, Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums. 

Categories
Flexible Careers Lifestyle And Wellbeing Mums Returning To Work Work Journeys

Meet Rebecca Amin

Rebecca Amin, Our New Flexible Working Warrior on MummyJobs.

One in three working mums suffer with unmanageable levels of anxiety and stress caused by managing a job and looking after children, according to a survey by Smart TMS – a mental health clinic.

This is a statistic I and, I am sure, many other mothers can relate to. Sadly this is often a silent struggle – many fearing if we voice our feelings we may be judged as a bad employee or bad mum. We thought we could have it all – the career and the family, is this how it is meant to feel? Should we just suck it up and get on with it?

I am Rebecca Amin, a Career Coach and I used to think that’s just how it would have to be. Thankfully, my mind-set has now changed, but it wasn’t easy.

Returning To Work After Maternity Leave.

In February 2016, I returned to work after my second maternity leave with all the thoughts so many of us have, “it’s my time to get back to my career, to being me again!” I returned, full of excitement, ready for phase two of my career – the post-children part. With some trepidation – I had returned from one maternity leave two years before and struggled. I had fallen pregnant quite soon after my return, so put my lack of passion for my work down to pregnancy and first time mum stuff – getting to grips with nursery, new routine etc. This time it was for real. Time to make my mark again, get back to the heady days of high performance, recognition, loving my career again…

BANG. It didn’t happen. At first I gave myself time to settle back in, gave myself allowances. However, each day felt harder and harder to find motivation for my work and all passion for what I did had gone. The fact was the environment and work I was doing had lost its shine. I didn’t care enough. I still did what was needed, because I had to, not because I got any enjoyment from my work.

This is not what I expected. I had always enjoyed my job. At first I felt confused – what was wrong with me? Was I suffering from delayed post-natal depression? Why was everyone else happy? Then guilt – why is this not enough for me? I should feel lucky to have a good job, healthy kids, a nice home… Next resent and anger. Why should I do this? Why can’t I do something that gives me some satisfaction?

Looking back, this looks like the stages of grief and I now believe, in some way, I was grieving my working life pre-children. 

My Career No Longer Suited Me.

Don’t get me wrong – I love being a mum. I wanted to have a career, but I couldn’t carry on like this. As I worked through what was happening it became clear the career I was in was simply the wrong fit for me at this point in my life. I wanted to do something more worthwhile and meaningful to me. I needed to make a change – but what and how?

Despite the creeping sense of greyness blanketing my life, I needed my salary and an alternative job that I felt excited about, at the right level was hard to find. As a result, I wound up feeling completely stuck.

The Need To Make Positive Career Choices.

For a time, I told myself sticking with a job I was unhappy in, was what it meant to be grown-up. It was the realistic and responsible choice… But this approach was not sustainable if I wanted to protect my mental health and be happy at work, and therefore in life, again. I went round in circles and eventually bit the bullet and made changes. I took a four month sabbatical. During which I spent time reflecting on what would make me happy. I thought about what I really needed in my working life and career and trained as an accredited Career Coach.

I have since found these thoughts and feelings of course were not exclusive to me. It made me feel shocked and saddened to realise just how prevalent this unhappiness, anxiety and stress is, in working mums. This is why I dedicate my coaching to supporting mums in the same situation.

Of course not all stressed mums need a total career change. Some do, but some simply need tweaks – more flexibility. Not to be made to feel guilty for going to Sports Day, not smiling on the outside apparently holding it all together, but regularly hiding in the bathroom crying on the days it all feels too much.

Mental Health At Work.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, almost 15% of working adults experience mental health problems in the workplace. Women in full-time work are twice as likely to suffer than men (19.8% vs. 10.9%). People Management have reported more than a third who have flexible working experience an improvement in their mental health as a direct result. 

The Future Of Work.

I love supporting my clients to take control and figure out changes to get back to being happy in their careers again. What I would love even more would be if more felt flexibility at work was an option. Not something gifted to you once you have proved yourself after years of service. And I don’t mean the honour of being allowed to work from home on a Friday, but true flexibility that impacts on life for the better. Seeing so many leave jobs with flexibility at the crux of their struggles is outrageous. The talent lost. The confidence shattered of individuals feeling like they are failing. The belief they can’t continue professional careers if they have children and need flexibility. 

The optimist in me feels the tide may be turning. I for one truly hope we may be at a pivotal point for flexible working. 

If you enjoyed this post share across your social platforms. Also tune in next month to read more on children being career passion killers…

If you would like to find out more about my Career Coaching, please visit my website Rebecca Amin Coaching.

Or connect with me on my Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums. 

Rebecca Amin
Rebecca Amin

Categories
Lifestyle And Wellbeing

11 Easy Ways To A Positive Mind

What to do when it all gets a bit too much.

Our hectic lives can sometimes leave us feeling pretty flat and exhausted. This has a knock on effect on our family and working lives. In 2017/18 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases and 57% of all working days lost due to ill health (Work related stress depression or anxiety statistics in Great Britain, 2018). Parents are particularly good at neglecting themselves. Of course we believe flexible working options could go a long way to helping reduce these figures. When you feel low, achieving a positive mind can seem pretty difficult. But it can be done with the following easy steps.

Signs You May Be Running On Empty.

  • Tasks become overwhelming to the point where you ignore them. Sometimes even simple tasks become difficult.
  • You get headaches (of course there are many reasons for headaches but stress is one of them)
  • Eating a poor diet – motivation to eat mindfully and well just isn’t there but the takeaway number is! Chronic stress can lead to obesity or weight loss.
  • Getting all snappy and shouty at the kids for no real good reason.
  • Constant guilt and worrying, about everything.
  • Lack of focus
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Palpitations

Source: NHS Website

How do you switch from a negative state of mind to a positive one?

Here are a few simple things which could help you on your way.  

#1 STOP and BREATHE

In a stressful moment, when things seem like they are getting out of control, step away. Stop and breathe, breathe from deep down at the bottom of your lungs. Sometimes all you need is that few long deep breaths to refocus and judge the situation for what it is.

#2 Be Realistic

Ask yourself ‘can I change this problem?’, ‘Is it my job/position/role to solve this problem?’, ‘Is there an actual answer?’. If the answer is ‘no’, then don’t waste your energy trying. Some things can be solved with time and effort but others simply can’t.

“Sometimes all we can do is surf the wave until we reach the shore, where we can walk forward once more.”

Focus your thoughts and energy on the here and now. Let’s face it, energy is in short supply when you have a young family. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t and you will be well on your way to achieving a positive mind.

#3 Use Positive Affirmations

Nothing beats some positive affirmations or positivity quotes. Speak it and you will believe it. Why not put up some positive quotes around the house in frames, make them a piece of art.

#4 Take Some Time Out

As much as we love our family and friends we all need some time out. This may just be an hour away or maybe a night or two away. It may be on your own, with your OH or friends. We certainly all need some guilt free down time, for our mental and physical wellbeing. Honestly, you are allowed!

#5 Go For A Walk

Going for a walk can do wonders in achieving that positive mindset. Firstly, the fresh air, the green and gold of nature. Secondly the exercise. No work, pots or washing in sight.

#6 Down Tools, Write A List

You’re rushing around, therefore losing focus and direction. Everything needs doing – NOW! But, it doesn’t. Stop what you are doing and write a list. Prioritise, what needs doing today and what can wait. It’s actually quite cathartic to tick things off a list. Can any of the tasks be simplified. For example online shopping, a quick call instead of a lengthy email?

If you find it difficult getting to sleep at night because you are worrying about things you need to do then write it all down in a list. Then put it down, read a book or watch a bit of Netflix and go to bed knowing that you have prioritised tasks for the next day.

#7 Speak To Friends

Sometimes you just have to unload with good friends. Friends don’t need to have the solution, just a pair of ears to listen and pair of arms for a hug! Sometimes just talking about issues out loud can lighten the load so much. Thus often putting things into perspective. Don’t let mum guilt get in the way of you taking a little time out to see friends.

#8 Read

Reading can really help you to unwind. Yes there may still be a full basket of washing needing doing or a toddler that may wake any second but this is your time, the washing can wait and the toddler might not actually wake.

#9 Craft

Sometimes the focus needed to do craft can take your mind off whatever it is bothering you. Maybe a bit of baking instead.

#10 Exercise Your Way To A Positive Mind

Exercise can drastically improve the health of your mind as well as your body. Therefore helping you to focus and see clearly. It helps you stay positive and be better at decision making. Once a week maybe enough to see these benefits. Of course if it’s weight loss you’re after that requires a bit more effort!

#11 There’s An App For That

Check out this list of apps, all aim to set you on your way to achieving a positive and healthy mind.

Do you have any ways to unwind, refocus or regain a positive mind? Do you suffer from letting everything get on top of you? Let us know in the comments.

On A More Serious Note #ItsOkNotToBeOk

For most of us, these steps may be enough to find our happy place again. However, for some more help is needed. Maybe you aren’t sleeping (and it’s not the kids fault) or constantly sleeping. Maybe you are shutting yourself off from loved ones. Perhaps the anger or snappiness is getting worse. Perspective doesn’t even come into the equation and you can’t explain why you feel like this. As a result you feel like your life is overshadowed by a dark looming cloud. Possibly leading to suicidal thoughts, feelings of self loathing and worthlessness…please, please if this is you…talk to someone, anyone.

#12 Get Help

A very important but sometimes difficult step to achieving a positive mind. You are not alone and there is help out there. Above all DON’T suffer in silence. TALK. Make sure you get the help you need and deserve.

Try these

Samaritans 116 123 (Free phone)

SANE 0300 304 7000 4.30pm – 10.30pm daily

MIND 0300 123 3393 9am – 6pm Monday – Friday

MIND 0300 123 5999 (BlueLight Service) 9am – 6pm Monday – Friday or Text 84999

Categories
Dads Holiday Specials Mums Returning To Work

CHILDCARE OPTIONS AND FLEXIBLE WORKING

Childcare Options And Flexible Working

Finding the right childcare options when working full time or flexibly can be like finding a needle in a haystack. If you do find that needle it is often a diamond! Parents spend up to 45% of their disposable income on childcare. When it comes to a return to work, families (and in particular, mothers) often have to make a decision as to whether it is even worth working after paying for childcare. Many parents therefore try, to combine flexible working with childcare. An attempt to try and achieve a “happy” medium.

“43% of working women in the UK now work part time or flexibly. The majority of these choosing part time / flexible working to balance childcare.”

Flexible working requests are reassuringly becoming a norm. Not only for those parents returning to work after maternity or paternity leave but also throughout the lifecycle of parenting. A parent’s working arrangements can change several times as their children grow up. As many parents quickly realise, the days of a worrying about how to leave the office at 5pm in order to collect from a nursery at 6pm, are soon replaced by school pick-ups.

Getting Creative

Unfortunately, whilst your working arrangements may be flexible your childcare is inherently inflexible. Therefore, parents are forced to look at creative solutions and combinations in order to meet their needs. Nurseries have set hours; childminders will only pick up from certain schools, school holidays are fixed and so as their childcare is often inflexible. So parents have to seek greater and further working flexibility at certain times of year or at certain times in their child’s life.


So Back To Basics, What Are Your Childcare Options?

Nannies

Nannies provide the most flexible option for childcare when your children are young. Being based from your home if you need to work late, they can also ensure the children are then put to bed and your house is tidy. Nannies are widely regarded as the most expensive option. The reality is that if you have 2 or 3 children to care for, they can be cheaper than nursery fees. Nanny shares (whereby two employers share one nanny) can also provide further financial advantages and is a popular solution for many working flexibly.

Nurseries

Nurseries provide the least flexible childcare but are open all year round, except when your child is ill and they are unable to go. They have set hours and set sessions that you must pay for regardless of whether your child goes and there can be high penalties if you are late.

Childminders

Childminders provide a home from home setting with relatively fixed hours. They do provide more flexibility particularly for families who need less standard hours, shorter days or part-time care. Most will also offer nursery or school drop off and pick up options (although they will only usually pick up from certain establishments).

Family

Family has a benefit of being free, home based and flexible. However it’s important for the family member to be fully committed (such as not taking lots of holidays when you need cover!). Building a network of school families is essential. This network is beneficial not only for those emergency situations when you are running late home but also to arrange swapping playdates or holiday cover. A bit of sharing the load for childcare is a great way of cutting down on summer camp costs.

Au-Pairs

Au-Pairs are a popular choice when children go to school. Like a nanny they will work just for you and can offer 25-30 hours a week providing cover before and after school. Financially they are the cheapest option, providing you have a spare room available for them. However au pairs often have no (or very limited) childcare experience. They often travel to the UK for a cultural experience of only between 6-12 months.


Breakfast Clubs and After School Clubs

Breakfast Clubs and After School Clubs are available not just at your school but also some local nurseries offer a local school collection service and then they care for the children in premises near to the school.

So how do you go about finding the right childcare options for your family?

The biggest piece of advice for any parent thinking of childcare is to plan ahead but also to constantly reassess. Childcare needs unfortunately change. Such as when there is a change is circumstances like going to school or changing schools, new additions to the family. Ensure an open and frank relationship with your employer. The key to achieving the “happy” medium is trying to achieve flexibility on all sides.

Ultimately the right childcare option is the one that leaves your children happy, stimulated and safe. One that leaves you with peace of mind. Also one that creates the less stress possible for busy working parents, whether working full-time or flexibly.

Parental Choice the essential “one-stop shop” to help you make the right decision on your childcare needs. Parental Choice offer childcare searches including nurseries, childminders, nannies and au pairs plus support employers of nannies with all their payroll and employer responsibilities. For more information on your childcare options and how Parental Choice can help visit www.parentalchoice.co.uk and quote MJPC5.

Need help on deciding which career path to follow? Why not check out The Mum’s Enterprise events!