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10 work/life balance tips for teachers

10 work/life balance tips for teachers

Keen to get your work/life balance into shape in 2021? Wondering how to even begin, with weeks of lockdown and virtual teaching ahead?

Well, we’re here to give you our top tips for building good self-care habits and keeping that important sense of balance. 

Work/life balance and COVID

Ask any teacher about work/life balance and you’ll probably get a response that isn’t polite enough for us to publish - and we’re Laughology. You may as well have asked them whether an Ofsted inspection is fun.

With the new COVID restrictions and our third national lockdown, teachers wouldn’t be blamed for wondering if someone, somewhere wasn’t having a huge joke at their expense. Virtual learning with six-year olds? You may as well try and teach the present perfect tense to a herd of wild rhino…

Actually, it’s a crash of wild rhino, but let’s not split hairs - understanding collective nouns isn’t going to help anyone with self-care in the coming weeks.

What might help you, though, is some tips to keep you feeling sane over the coming weeks. When, after a day of talking to 30 black boxes on a screen, you’re keen to give yourself some much needed ‘you time.’ 

10 work/life balance and self-care tips

You may think it’s easier to get some work/life balance when/if you’re teaching from home - after all, none of the children are going to know whether you’re secretly in your jammies from the waist down. 

But actually it’s even more important to get that sense of balance to ensure you can distinguish between ‘work’ and ‘rest.’

1. Create distinct places in your home

while it may be tempting to teach from the sofa, it’s actually not great for your wellbeing. Create a ‘workspace’ that is clearly different to your ‘relaxing space.’  Now you might not have the luxury of a separate room, but setting yourself up so that you have two distinct areas will get you into the work zone, enabling you to head into your rest/relaxation zone when you can.

2. Enjoy a ‘commute’

no, we haven’t completely lost our Laughology marbles - it’s only the beginning of January afterall. But before you settle down to teach in the morning, why not go for a brisk ten-minute walk to get you into the right mindset? 

 If you ‘travel’ to work in this way, you can set up a brilliant daily routine that also gives you the fresh British weather to whip the sleep from your eyes.

3. Stand rather than sit

to avoid unnecessary backache or that lethargic feeling after lunch, why not stand to deliver your lessons rather than sit? You don’t have to pay for a fancy standing desk if you don’t want to, you can always improvise with some boxes - just make sure your elbows are at ninety degrees to avoid straining your neck/shoulders. 

Even Laughology’s Dave Keeling has got into his standing desk groove…

4. Take breaks

it can be tempting to work through lunch (more than you usually do) but do take the opportunity to step away from your virtual classroom and, most importantly, away from your screen. Eat something nutritious that will fuel you for the afternoon and give yourself a proper break - even if it’s only fifteen minutes.

If you can, why not get out for a lunchtime walk to give yourself an opportunity to    recharge? Stick on your favourite tunes and boogie around the block. 

5. Tidy away at the end of the day

channel your inner Marie Kondo and tidy your workspace when school is over. Research shows that tidying is actually great for wellbeing. It will also help you feel as though there’s a definite end to one part of the day and a distinct start to your relaxation time. Being surrounded by school work all day and night won’t help you switch off. 

6. Keep connecting 

one potential danger of working from home is missing out on those casual chats in the staffroom over a cuppa. It’s only when we don’t have these casual interactions that we realise how much they make up part of our day. 

Maintain relationships with colleagues, whether that’s via a WhatsApp group or a phone call. If you can cope with another online video call, try that too. Regular interactions and connections with others helps us to feel happier, and avoids a sense of isolation and loneliness. 

7. Turn off email notifications each evening/weekend

if you’re teaching from home, it can feel as though school life has truly invaded your personal space - both physically and mentally. Why not turn off notifications during your evenings and weekends so that you’re able to get a proper break? Sound too daunting? Start with just a couple of hours.

8. Communicate your struggles

if you’re struggling with virtual teaching or by being in school with small groups, make sure you talk to someone who can support you. Don’t bottle it up and feel ashamed that you’re not coping. 

Teaching during a global pandemic isn’t like anything you’ve experienced before. You can’t possibly feel as though you’re top of everything all of the time. Give yourself permission to feel all the feelings, but speak up and ask for help too. 

9. FLIP your thinking

often we can get stuck with what we at Laughology call ‘wonky thinking’ - you know, the ones that take you on a negative, downward spiral. Our Laughology FLIP-it Thinking model helps you to turn those negative thoughts to positive one, and ultimately to feel happier again. 

10. Have an attitude of gratitude

finding small things to be thankful for is a great way to start or finish your day. In fact, Head of Happiness, Stephanie Davies, starts her day in this way. Your brain is rather wonderful and the more time you spend thinking about the small things to be grateful for, the more you’ll start to notice them. 

And if a gratitude journal doesn’t float your boat, why not try a laughter log? Focusing on things that make you laugh or experiences you’ve enjoyed, naturally makes you feel happier. 

So there you have it. Our top tips for establishing a bit of work/life balance during Lockdown 3.0…and beyond. Just remember, be kind to yourself and take things one day at a time. Focus only on what you can control and develop consistent boundaries. 

By putting yourself first instead of last, you’ll soon be able to find that important balance you’re looking for. 

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Are organisations and companies just paying lip service?
Join some of the most interesting and respected voices in positive psychology for our Our Big Chat about…Thinking outside the tick box, inaugural webinar. Our two and half hour interactive event will look at the best mental health strategies for organisations, identifying what works and what doesn’t.

Dave McPartlin:

Dave is the Headteacher of Flakefleet Primary School.
Creating the right environment for people and communities to flourish

Sunita Hirani

Sunita is one of the BBC’s key equality, diversity and inclusivity experts.
Why inclusion is essential for mental wellbeing

Professor Sir Cary Cooper

Cary is one the world’s most influential voices in occupational health and wellbeing.
Enhancing Mental Wellbeing at Work. Evidence based strategies for creating a wellbeing culture at work.

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