It’s 3pm and you’re at work. You look at the clock and realise how much you’ve got to do before the end of the day, so you resign yourself to staying late, again. This is the reality for many working parents, according to a new study.
Only a third (35%) of parents across the UK manage to go home on time every day, according to a survey of 2,761 by Working Families charity and Bright Horizons day nurseries. Another third said they left work promptly only half the time and 42% said they don’t clock off even when they’re back at home as they do more hours in the evening or at the weekend.
Today, the charity is encouraging parents to make the most of the longest day of the year by going home on time and spending quality time with their family. “This is an opportunity for parents to reflect on their own work life balance and think about small changes – or big ones - they could make for lasting improvements,” said Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families. “Going home on time is something we should all feel able to do, not just today but every day.”
We asked Working Families to share a checklist of what you should do at 3pm to get yourself in the best position to be able to leave work on time. These are the six steps you should follow:
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with too many tasks - prioritise, prioritise, prioritise. “There are simple tools that can help you sort what needs to done first, next, given to someone else or not done at all,” said Jackson. “The Eisenhower matrix is a good example. While it sounds fancy, it’s really just a four-box grid where you plot tasks depending on how important and/or urgent they are. You can download a free app via eisenhower.me.”
2. Update your to-do list before the end of the day.
Have a ‘to-do’ list and update this near the end of the day, just before you finish. Don’t feel like you have to get everything on the list done, instead Jackson said writing down tasks that can wait till the next day should help you switch off and leave work stresses behind. “This way, you don’t have to hold them in your head until you’re next at work,” she said.
3. Talk to your colleagues.
Your colleagues might not be aware of the time when they’re giving you tasks to do, so ensure they know that you only have a certain amount of hours left to do those tasks in the day. Mum Laura Blake, 34, from Streatham, London, has used this technique as she works three days a week since giving birth to her daughter. “When it comes to getting out on time, communicate with colleagues but also make sure you are being equally as flexible as they are,” she advised. They might have other demands on their work time that are just as important to them.”
4. Stay focused.
Work out what it is you need to get done before the end of the day and avoid distractions. “If possible, don’t check and respond to requests as soon as they come in, if it’s getting close to the time you finish,” said Jackson. For example, you could turn your email alerts off, so they don’t distract you during other tasks. Also set aside certain periods for admin-type tasks, so they’re not hanging over you at the end of the day.
Is it possible to delegate? Jackson said people often feel bad about passing on jobs to someone else, but ask yourself if completing a certain task is the best use of your time. “Could someone else complete it more efficiently, or use it as a learning experience?” she said.
6. Leave un-urgent emails to the morning.
It can be tempting to reply to “just one more email” even though you know it’s time to go home. “Start gradually,” advises mum Sarah Moore, 39, from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, who has two kids aged nine and six. “Think: ‘I’ll leave that email till the morning’ or if it’s something you’d normally do over the weekend, ask if it’s ok to respond next week. When the world doesn’t end because you haven’t responded instantly, it will give you the confidence to regain more control.”
Working Families is also encouraging parents to tweet their best tips of being able to leave work on time to @workingfamuk with the hashtag #GoHomeOnTime.