Careers leaders all over the country are having to adjust to school closures and working from home whilst the government lockdown is being enforced. For some of us, the switch to working from home is a simple process with few interruptions and distractions. However, for others with family commitments, adjusting to changes can be unsettling and challenging.
Below are my five tips to help you stay positive, focused and busy during the days and weeks ahead:
Tip 1: Draw up a timetable
Draw up a timetable of activities to keep you busy each day and maintain a form of routine whilst working from home. There are a number of online templates that you could use to organise your time by school periods from Monday to Friday. Alternatively, there are online work schedules in Microsoft Word and Excel formats that you can download and use to organise your day. Your timetable could include some of the usual activities that you might carry out during a typical day. For example, keeping in touch with external providers to update them on any planned or future programmes.
There are many benefits to be gained from maintaining a routine, from ensuring you do not feel you are just drifting from one day to the next, to making sure when you do eventually return to work, you do not feel overwhelmed and struggle to get back into the swing of things. Having a routine helps you to keep you mind active and focused.
Tip 2: Create a range of tasks
There are many tasks careers leaders complete throughout the year and, whilst most of these are usually completed whilst at school, there is no reason why you could not adapt or create tasks to complete whilst working from home. For example, you could prepare a report or PowerPoint presentation that could be used to update governors on all the amazing work you are doing. Your report might focus on what programmes you currently offer and the impact of these on students’ aspirations, staff feedback on recent career events or activities and suggestions for improvement, and priorities for the future and what resources are required to achieve these.
Your careers education programme may need to be reviewed and this could be an excellent time to do so. Look at your programme of study and lesson resources in line with The Career Development Institute’s (CDI) Framework for Careers, Employability and Enterprise Education. The CDI updated the framework in January 2020 and the new framework is available from their website. There are also auditing templates, which you can also use to help you review your careers education programme.
Tip 3: Identify possible CPD activities
Quite often there is very little time during the working day to keep up to date with careers publications, initiatives and ideas that could support you in delivering careers work in your school. Working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity to become familiar with any changes and developments in the world of careers. The Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) has a number of invaluable resources that can be accessed online and are an excellent starting point for identifying any gaps in your knowledge, but also as a way of learning about the good practice that is taking place across the country and how you can implement these ideas in your school.
There are many useful websites to explore to help you broaden the careers offer in your school. Moreover, you could use what you learn to create a bank of resources in preparation for delivering staff CPD sessions in your school, and to provide careers information, advice and guidance resources for students. These could include tips on creating the perfect CV, advice on writing a covering letter and guidance on interview preparation practice.
For more CPD ideas, see The A-Z of CPD.
Tip 4: Keep in touch with others
Although lone working is familiar to many careers leaders (see Careers Leader: Lone Worker), working from home can add to feelings of anxiety. One way to reduce anxiety is to remain in contact with others in your professional network, including other careers leaders and external partners. You could continue contact through the usual online methods including email, LinkedIn and WhatsApp, but there are also other apps available for online meetings such as Microsoft Teams, Hangouts, Zoom and, of course, Skype.
Staying in touch has the added benefits of keeping abreast of what colleagues are working on, being able to ask questions to help support what you are doing, and to share good practice.
Tip 5: Self-care
It goes without saying what we are experiencing worldwide is unprecedented. A pandemic can be both frightening and overwhelming as shops, schools and workplaces are closed and our working lives are disrupted. All of these factors can lead to feelings of helplessness, which can have a negative impact on our health and wellbeing. The government has provided some useful guidance on how we can look after ourselves, and it is important that we take the time to factor in activities throughout the day for self-care.
My self-care tips include taking a walk or cycle in the park (whilst adhering to social distancing measures), eating healthy throughout the day, taking part in social activities and hobbies you might not normally have time to engage with such as puzzles, reading, baking, sewing or gaming. Many of us with a faith might take comfort in reading religious books and sharing with others. It might also be useful to consider creative ways of continuing our hobbies. For example, I have switched some of the outdoor activities I had planned to indoor activities such as an indoor picnic. I am also learning origami and journaling.
The Coronavirus outbreak has bought challenges to careers leaders as we try to balance working from home whilst supporting family members. It is important to remain positive and keep busy with a timetable of tasks and activities to complete each day. Equally, staying in touch with others and engaging in self-care can help to promote wellbeing. All these activities can go some way to creating structure and giving purpose to your day.
During her 19 years in the teaching profession, Claudette has held a range of roles including Head of Faculty, Head of House and Assistant Headteacher. She now works as a careers leader and is passionate about providing students with amazing careers-related opportunities.