There are no two ways about it: working from home is a luxury, especially at this time of year. Not only do you get to avoid the morning traffic and stay in your pajamas all day but you get to create your own schedule and plan out exactly how you want to spend your time. That said, spending that time wisely can be a bit tricky. This is particularly true when it comes to lunch breaks, as that's when the boundaries between home and work life tend to fade away the most.
To help you out, we've come up with some ways for you to make the most of your lunch break that will ensure you get back into your work groove without losing any momentum or motivation.
Prepare A Healthy Lunch
First and foremost, a lunch break is about refueling and, even though your home may be filled with your favorite snacks, it's crucial that you eat wisely. This doesn't mean you have to eat a soggy sandwich or lackluster pasta pot like you might if you were out at the office though. Instead, you may want to consider preparing a healthy, delicious lunch the night before. Not only will this make your lunch break easier and more structured but it'll give you something to look forward to throughout your morning slog.
Make Sure It's Actually A Break
As we mentioned earlier, working from home can seriously blur the lines between home and work life. Now, while you may assume this means that most people tend to neglect their work in favor of relaxing at home, many people actually tend to focus more on their work. This can lead to people working around the clock and forgetting about lunch breaks entirely. To ensure this doesn't happen, we recommend having some fun things in mind for your break that you can look forward to.
For example, you could have the BBC, Lifehacker, Swaay or other media sites bookmarked and ready to read so you can catch up on the day's news. You could even get into online games, especially since there are sites such as 888 Ladies that are created for women now. According to this 888 Ladies review, it's “aimed at the fairer sex", so it's great for a woman on a lunch break mission.
That said, we completely understand if shooting zombies or something is your idea of perfect gaming time. Really, the point is to make sure you're stepping away from work for a bit, whether that's by playing bingo, reading the news or something else.
Don't Forget To Socialize
Lunch breaks are a great time to reset yourself, making sure that you're ready for the afternoon of work ahead. Take an hour off to eat lunch, have some fun and make some plans and you're sure to have a productive, enjoyable afternoon.
Just because you're working from home doesn't mean you get to avoid socializing altogether! When working from home, it's very important to make sure that you continue having human interactions despite working alone. Take a minute or two in your lunch break to text, call or email others. It doesn't matter whether you're contacting friends, family, co-workers or even your boss; just make sure that you have some interaction with someone. The best thing to do is make some plans for after work, as that will give you something to look forward to and ensure that you get out of the house for a little while.
New parents re-entering the workforce are often juggling the tangible realities of daycare logistics, sleep deprivation, and a cascade of overwhelming work. No matter how parents build their family, they often struggle with the guilt of being split between home and work and not feeling exceptionally successful in either place.
Women building their families often face a set of challenges different from men. Those who have had children biologically may be navigating the world of pumping at work. Others might feel pulled in multiple directions when bringing a child into their home after adoption. Some women are trying to learn how to care for a newborn for the first time. New parents need all the help they can get with their transition.
Women returning to work after kids sometimes have to address comments such as:
"I didn't think you'd come back."
"You must feel so guilty."
"You missed a lot while you were out."
To counteract this difficult situation, women are finding mentors and making targeting connections. Parent mentors can help new moms address integrating their new life realities with work, finding resources within the organization and local community, and create connections with peers.
There's also an important role for parent mentors to play in discussing career trajectory. Traditionally, men who have families see more promotions compared to women with children. Knowing that having kids may represent a career setback for women, they may work with their mentors to create an action plan to "back on track" or to get recognized for their contributions as quickly as possible after returning to work.
Previously, in a bid to accommodate mothers transitioning back to work, corporate managers would make a show at lessoning the workload for newly returned mothers. This approach actually did more harm than good, as the mother's skills and ambitions were marginalized by these alleged "family friendly" policies, ultimately defining her for the workplace as a mother, rather than a person focused on career.
Today, this is changing. Some larger organizations, such as JP Morgan Chase, have structured mentorship programs that specifically target these issues and provide mentors for new parents. These programs match new parents navigating a transition back to work with volunteer mentors who are interested in helping and sponsoring moms. Mentors in the programs do not need to be moms, or even parents, themselves, but are passionate about making sure the opportunities are available.
It's just one other valuable way corporations are evolving when it comes to building quality relationships with their employees – and successfully retaining them, empowering women who face their own set of special barriers to career growth and leadership success.
Mentoring will always be a two way street. In ideal situations, both parties will benefit from the relationship. It's no different when women mentor working mothers getting back on track on the job. But there a few factors to consider when embracing this new form of mentorship
How to be a good Momtor?
Listen: For those mentoring a new parent, one of the best strategies to take is active listening. Be present and aware while the mentee shares their thoughts, repeat back what you hear in your own words, and acknowledge emotions. The returning mother is facing a range of emotions and potentially complicated situations, and the last thing she wants to hear is advice about how she should be feeling about the transition. Instead, be a sounding board for her feelings and issues with returning to work. Validate her concerns and provide a space where she can express herself without fear of retribution or bull-pen politics. This will allow the mentee a safe space to sort through her feelings and focus on her real challenges as a mother returning to work.
Share: Assure the mentee that they aren't alone, that other parents just like them are navigating the transition back to work. Provide a list of ways you've coped with the transition yourself, as well as your best parenting tips. Don't be afraid to discuss mothering skills as well as career skills. Work on creative solutions to the particular issues your mentee is facing in striking her new work/life balance.
Update Work Goals: A career-minded woman often faces a new reality once a new child enters the picture. Previous career goals may appear out of reach now that she has family responsibilities at home. Each mentee is affected by this differently, but good momtors help parents update her work goals and strategies for realizing them, explaining, where applicable, where the company is in a position to help them with their dreams either through continuing education support or specific training initiatives.
Being a role model for a working mother provides a support system, at work, that they can rely on just like the one they rely on at home with family and friends. Knowing they have someone in the office, who has knowledge about both being a mom and a career woman, will go a long way towards helping them make the transition successfully themselves.