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Family & Work

Nature Walks for Your Wellbeing

This year’s pandemic has affected all of terms in mental health, whether we have suffered isolation during lockdown or anxiety in the face of uncertain futures. At Obelisk Support, we take mental wellbeing seriously and have been supporting our legal consultants and staff throughout the pandemic with wellbeing resources and inspiration. Today’s ideas for nature walks and activities, from quiet city streets to awe-inspiring ancient paths, will bring you a breath of fresh air and help you improve your mental wellbeing.

Footways London

Did you know that it takes 12 minutes to walk from Liverpool Street Station to Brick Lane? 18 minutes to walk from Victoria Station to Big Ben? Since the start of the pandemic, Londoners have been looking at ways to travel and commute around the city safely. Heavy-traffic streets are not the most relaxing places and choosing pleasant routes require a fair bit of local knowledge. This is why an initiative like Footways hits the right spot for urban walkers as it features a network of quiet and interesting streets for walking in central London. The best part? It connects major places (British Museum, Covent Garden, Southbank Centre) via accessible streets. This map could come in very handy when you have visitors in town or for your own urban adventures.

Lost Paths: Don’t Lose Your Way

In February 2020 when lockdown was looming on the horizon, The Ramblers, the walking charity, launched a nationwide initiative to search and map an estimated 10,000 miles of historic paths, which people have used for centuries, that were missing from modern maps and were at risk of being lost forever. Why did it matter? If not claimed by 2026, the Government cut-off date, it would no longer be possible to add them to the maps and the public’s right to access them would not be protected in the future. Lucky for us, Don’t Lose Your Way was a success and within six weeks, thousands of people joined the search and mapped 100% of the UK. You can join the movement to help preserve these paths in the future or if you have a favourite path to share, send your stories to The Ramblers.

Forest Bathing

Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) was developed in the 1980s in Japan. Although people had been taking walks in the country’s forests for centuries, new studies showed that such activity could reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol levels and improve concentration and memory. A chemical released by trees and plants, called phytoncides, was found to boost the immune system. Forest bathing has become a wonderful way to boost your mental health for free – all you need is a forest. Wondering where to find good forest bathing spots near you?

Outdoor Gyms

Are you considering incorporating a workout into your walking routine? Outdoor gyms are open fitness facilities that you can use without booking – just turn up and use them at your leisure. To find an outdoor gym near you (and plan a nice walk to get to it), check out The Great Outdoor Gym Activate app or Fresh Air Fitness’ online site locator.

Scavenger Hunts & Beyond for Children

Wellbeing is not defined quite the same when you are 6 years old as when you are, say, quite a bit older. The Woodland Trust is a treasure trove of ideas to take the children outside and have them enjoy a wild romp, from nature scavenger hunts to making a fairy door (which could very well be used as temporary prop on a walk) or building a den.

Look for Ancient Trees

You do not need to live in Fangorm Forest on Middle-Earth to channel your inner Ent. The oldest and most important trees of the UK have a venerable online following on the website of The Woodland Trust which maps our ancient tree heritage. You can search the map for ancient trees near you. Alternatively if you know of an ancient tree that is not on the map, you are invited to contact The Woodland Trust and add your tree to the map.

Another way to walk to an ancient tree is to find Britain’s Tree of the Year. Each year, The Woodland Trust crowns Britain’s Tree of the Year after publishing a shortlist. This was the 2019 shortlist – are any of these trees near you?

Walk & Swim

Combining two outdoor activities known to improve people’s mental health and wellbeing, you can also go on a walks to find a wild swimming spot. The Kenwood Ladies Pond Association published a handy book called Wild Swimming Walks which includes 28 car-free days out across southern and eastern England to walk, swim and have cake. Elsewhere in the country, you may want to contact your local wild swimming groups (many are active on Facebook) or check the wild swimming map on the website of the Outdoor Swimming Society. What’s not to love?

Enjoy your time outside as the days grow shorter and colder and remember the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. You will never regret a day outside and as lockdown has shown all too well, staying inside is not good for anybody’s mental health.

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Family & Work

Summer reading for lawyers | From short stories to indie magazines

Summertime and the living is easy, as the song goes. After long working days and a stressful COVID19 crisis, lawyers are looking forward to unwinding and enjoying some well-deserved rest before school starts again. How best to relax than to grab a chair and a book? Or it could also be a magazine and short stories.

After our popular series on podcasts for lawyers, songs for lawyers and blogs for lawyers, here comes our round-up of short stories and indie magazines for lawyers.

Short Stories

Packing a punch in less than 10,000 words and short enough to be read in one sitting, short stories make for a great summer reading experience. It’s fine if you don’t have hours to focus on the plot between breakfast and lunch and you can quickly get away in spirit to faraway lands and places. How do you find short stories?

A good place to start is your local bookstore. Short stories are often by the till, squeezed between snacks and fluffy notepads, the literary equivalent of sour candy by the cashier in supermarkets.

Classics

Solid values in short-stories include classic best-sellers.

Having written nearly 400 short stories, Stephen King is certainly a king of the genre, with that thriller / horror twist that make you jump and look around before turning the page. His most famous short stories include Children of the Corn, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, The Body (which became the movie Stand By Me) and The Mist.

Equally known for his novels and short stories, Haruki Murakami is a master of surrealistic and melancholic fiction. His recent collection of short stories Men Without Women features seven stories following the lives of whisky and jazz loving men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Expect bleak worlds, moods and atmospheres challenging readers to think deeper about topics that concern us all.

Crime queen Agatha Christie was also a prolific short story writer whose stories first appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. Readers are spoiled for choice with short stories collections around Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple, or other classics such as The Harlequin Tea Set.

Another short story queen inspired Alfred Hitchcock with her craft. Daphne Du Maurier knew how to craft real people evolving in suspenseful, often supernatural plots. Her most famous short story is certainly The Birds but other pieces like The Doll, Kiss Me Again, Stranger or Monte Verita will satisfy any craving for imaginative, if unsettling, short fiction.

Other notorious short story writers include Edgar Allan Poe, Jack London, Louise Erdrich and Virginia Woolf.

Modern Short Stories

Every year, the BBC and Cambridge University sponsor the BBC national short story award (NSSA) whose five shortlisted stories are recorded, produced and broadcast by BBC Radio 4 as well as published as the BBC NSSA anthology. The winning story is usually published in its entirety in The Guardian and makes for excellent prose to read on the go. Recent winning stories include The Invisible by Joe Lloyd (2019),  The Sweet Sop by Ingrid Persaud (2018) and The Edge of the Shoal by Cynan Jones (2017).

Reflecting on reflects the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition, the AKO Caine Prize is an annual literary award for the best original short story by an African writer, whether in Africa or elsewhere, but published in the English language. In 2020, Nigerian-British author Irenosen Okojie won for her short story about a Grace Jones impersonator with a dark secret.

Magazines

At a time when the UK creative arts sector is hit so hard, readers can support publishers by buying independent magazines that reflect the wide variety of opinions and views that make our society so rich. Who knows, you might even discover your new favourite magazine.

The titles listed below can usually be bought from their websites. Shops that stock independent magazines include:

  • Magma Books, London (their Manchester branch is temporarily closed)
  • Stack offers subscriptions with a different magazine each month
  • Waterstones bookshops
  • Newsagents

Here is our short selection of great magazines for curious minds, looking out to the world even if locked down somewhere.

This London-based magazine has covered British contemporary art since 1976 and is Britain’s longest-running contemporary art magazine. From interviews to exhibition reviews, Art Monthly helps art lovers keep their finger on the pulse. They can also listen to Art Monthly Talk Show, the magazine’s monthly podcast on Resonance FM.

Prospect Magazine

A general-interest British magazine, Prospect brings to its readers ideas and trends behind the headlines and a contrarian view of topics. While other magazines deliver on general interest topics, Prospect is one of the few publications to feature mostly long essays, interspersed with quick reads, recurring columns and other type of reporting. Think of it as The New Yorker, London version. Adding to our list of short stories above, Prospect has also published the winning short story of the Royal Society of Literature’s V. S. Pritchett Memorial Prize since 2009.

The Dawntreader

Small indie publishers are facing difficulties and you can help them out by buying a book or ordering a magazine. How more intriguing does it get than a small Devon-based literary magazine publishing poetry, prose and articles on myth, nature, spirituality and the environment? The Dawntreader gives readers the “opportunity to let the imagination run free”. Surely, an invitation to travel in spirit is very welcome after recent stressful months.

Cocoa Girl Magazine

Only a few months old, Cocoa Girl Magazine was born during lockdown when a mother searched for magazines that represented her six-year-old daughter Faith. Lack of diversity led them to embark on designing and printing the first ever UK magazine for young black girls aged seven to 14. True to its young demographic, Cocoa Girl only uses Instagram to communicate on social media with readers.

The Scots Magazine

If you’ve been dreaming of a Scottish Highlands fix but still can’t get there, The Scots Magazine can probably help with that. Allegedly the oldest magazine in the world (first published in 1739), The Scots magazine is the world’s best-selling Scottish-interest publication, containing articles on culture, history, nature and more., and is targeted at Scots at home and abroad. If you’re on Netflix, you’ll understand why the magazine needs to have an Outlander dedicated page with all things Diana Gabaldon, Jamie and Clare.

Country Walking

From the same publisher as Trail, Country Walking covers a ‘softer’ range of walking than its mountain-heavy sister mag, with the emphasis more on cream teas than crampons. Coastal strolls and lowland rambles sit alongside hilly and mountainous walking at the more forgiving end of the spectrum. Regular themed walks are especially fun, as well as the December issue that makes you feel like it’s winter wonderland all across the UK (gorgeous snowy pictures too). Last but not least: every month, Country Walking publishes 27 walks all across the country, printed on handy cut-out-and-keep cards.

Enjoy your reading!

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Family & Work Trending Women in Law

Meet Sarah-Jane Butler: Magic Circle lawyer turned entrepreneur

Here at The Attic we are always interested to meet lawyers-turned-entrepreneurs and are delighted to have had to opportunity to talk to  Sarah-Jane Butler, now CEO of Parental Choice. Having qualified at a Magic Circle law firm and worked for over 10 years in the City, she set up her own business in 2011 to help working parents achieve a better work – life balance whilst handling the challenges of juggling a career and childcare responsibilities.

Sarah-Jane, tell us a little about your background

I studied French and German at university and then converted to law, doing my training contract at a Magic Circle law firm. I qualified into capital markets and securitisation, and spent over 10 years in the UK and overseas before settling down and getting married in the UK. I was happily on the partnership track and loved the buzz of fast-moving city life. The work I did was intense but enjoyable, more or less. In 2011, I had my second child and at that point the work- life balance became very difficult and I took some time out to assess what I wanted as a mother and as a lawyer.

What does Parental Choice do and why did you set it up?

In 2011, I was reliably informed by a partner in the firm I was working for that if I was serious about my career and trying to combine that with children, I would need a day and night nanny, and perhaps a creche for my children at the weekends.   

It was clear that the firm I was working for, whilst they were keen to have me back, were not set-up to offer any support or advice to enable me to do this and I was expected to manage by myself. The stress was hard to deal with. I realised at that point that parents needed to be supported, both mentally and practically, by their employers. To expect employees to be as productive as possible, whilst also managing a home life and the stresses that everyday life imposes without providing support was unrealistic. There is a reason why so many employees, women in particular, look for a new career direction after having children.

Parental Choice was born out of recognising this need. I wanted to help other working parents with the minefield of childcare options, and offer them ongoing support through wellbeing talks dedicated to parents and the issues they may face – child anxiety, preparing them for school, dealing with technology or sleep techniques.

The business started trading in 2011, at the same time as I retrained as an employment lawyer.  On the one hand, I wanted to help parents find the care they needed for their children, whether that was a nursery, nanny, childminder or school, and if they employed a nanny make sure they had the payroll and legal support they needed to become an employer. On the other hand, I wanted to offer these services as a benefit to employees through their employers, thus showing that employers recognised the stress often caused by trying to find the right childcare to fit working hours.

What are the services now offered by Parental Choice?

Parental Choice has grown over the past nine years. It now provides practical support services for businesses and families in relation to sourcing both reliable childcare and elements of elder care. In addition, it offers employers with wellbeing programmes for its working parents and carers with access to experts experienced in a range of areas such as mental health, education and parenting. Its vision is to be an international trusted wellbeing provider making a difference to the lives of our clients’ employees and private clients. In fact, we also have an established EMEA practice offering help to families who are relocating within EMEA find childcare or education options.

Our key values are Care, Expertise, Empathy and Diligence so whether we are dealing with employers, big or small, or individual parents, we try our best to make sure they get the right information and support for them.

How do you feel your legal background has helped you in business?

Of course, my background as a city lawyer means I have a good understanding of business and am very commercially aware.  More importantly, I feel that an appreciation of customer service has been instilled in me through my practice as a lawyer, which has led to me building my business with customers at the centre of what we do.  

What advice would you offer to anybody thinking of setting up a business?

Be prepared to do everything!  As a law firm fee earner, I had lots of people around to help. Now I have to wear a lot of hats, including IT support and HR, but I have also been known to vacuum, run a duster over my desk and do the photocopying.  I would also recommend retraining and being relevant. I was a City lawyer, so when setting up Parental Choice, I recognised that offering legal advice to parents who are employing nannies would be beneficial. With this goal in mind, I retrained in employment law.

Find a niche, get relevant and stay relevant.

What about that work – life balance, have you achieved this?

In a manner of speaking, yes. I probably work as hard as I did before but this time it is on my terms. I work around my family rather than trying to fit them around my work. 

I have a great management team, who are also all mothers, who recognise the importance of work – life balance for themselves and their teams as well. The company itself has won several awards for its flexible working strategy (for example: working hours are 9-3) and its focus on working parents, including being named in 2015 by Working Families as one of the top ten SMEs to work for. In 2019, I was named as one of “We Are The City’s Rising Star Champions” for making a difference to the workplace for female employees. These awards are important as it shows that Parental Choice practices what it preaches and benefits its own employees as it aims to help its clients help its employees.

One last word from you, Sarah-Jane

I really believe in work/life balance and achieving the best solution for you. I try and practice this within my business and encourage my team to be flexible and put their lives first. Childcare traditionally is inflexible so I would actively encourage employers to give consideration to flexible working requests and look at what else they can do to support their employees practically and emotionally; the fact that Obelisk Support exists and helps lawyers to work flexibly is such an amazing step forward. 

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Family & Work Making Work, Work Trending

Managing the mental load of Christmas

Book the Christmas night out. Arrange the venue. Sort the menu. Organise the free drinks and the bar. Set the dress code. Book taxis. Send invites. Chase numbers. Chase numbers some more. Marshall people. Organise the Secret Santa. Buy extra presents for the Secret Santa when someone doesn’t bring a gift. Agonise over sending cards to the office. Buy cards. Find something to wear. Attend night out.

Book the food delivery slot. Book tickets to see Father Christmas. Book tickets to the panto/ballet/Christmas play. Buy festive jumpers. Plan the menu. Buy the Christmas tree. Get the Christmas tree home. Buy Christmas cards. Write Christmas cards. Organise a family photo. Oversee the making and extremely slow writing of child’s class Christmas cards. Find £1 coins. Send £1 coins to school. Plan advent calendar. Make mince pies. Make more mince pies. Buy mince pies. Locate Christmas decorations. Decorate tree. Decorate house. Buy presents. Buy presents for your family-in-law. Wrap presents. Entertain children. Find ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Be Santa. Get up early. Cook the Christmas dinner. Decorate table. Serve Christmas dinner. Be nice to extended family. Collapse in exhaustion.

Exaggerated perhaps, and possibly only for those with school-age children, but pretty overwhelming. And if any of it sounds familiar, it is likely that you shoulder the mental load – that is the task of orchestration and project management – of Christmas. At work, or at home.

Now of course not everyone celebrates Christmas but the point remains. To facilitate ‘a nice time’, be that Christmas or any other occasion, the burden usually falls on one person. Despite the situation improving in recent years in terms of gender balance, research still shows that the mental load falls disproportionality on women.

you should have asked cartoon

There is a reason that cartoons like this one, and the excerpt from the book below, get thousands of likes within minutes. They’re funny. But they’re also pretty real.

christmas to do list

In 2017, a report commissioned by a US nonprofit care organisation Bright Horizons, but which is still no doubt applicable to the UK, found that mothers are “responsible not just for their half of household duties and childcare, but also for organising, reminding and planning virtually all family matters”. The more the woman earnt, the worse it was. Even just looking at holidays and family gatherings, the study found that primary breadwinning women are 30% more likely to organise them.

The reports might show improvement, and the United Nations has done its bit by launching the Unstereotype Alliance to eradicate all harmful gender-based stereotypes from advertising, but none of that is any good if you’re in the thick of it.

So, some suggestions on managing the mental load this Christmas:

Start talking now

Have a conversation now with all the relevant people in your household/wider family with whom you usually celebrate as to what they would like the next six weeks to look like.

Sure, there may be some traditions that you all agree on keeping, but don’t adhere to the well, we always do that. If it is time to find a new tradition, move on.

Set boundaries early

If there is any year to abandon wasteful presents that no-one enjoys receiving or buying and the pressure to reciprocate, this is surely it.

Agree now what gifting/cards and so on that your team at work / family as a whole will participate in, communicate said decision clearly, and then divide up the tasks. At home, every adult in the family buys (and wraps) their own presents – no excuses. You are all busy.

If you have a significant other, you can also take that moment to make it clear what, if anything, you are buying, and reciprocally. I don’t mean tell them precisely (although that might be better) but more a general agreement on budget / type of expectations. Emma Thompson might have realised her husband was a slimy *** in Love Actually but women everywhere also felt her pain in hoping for one thing and receiving something totally …. other.

Divide and conquer

One of the most telling things about the cartoon above is the line “you should have asked”. That’s the mental load right there – the person bearing it doesn’t want to have to ask. They want each person to be clear about what they need to deliver, and to do that without letting the side down, and without imposing on the other party.

If you’ve agreed to organise the Secret Santa for the team, that means actually doing it. Not just picking the names or sending the first email. It means checking that everyone has a name, sorting the drop off location, deciding when the presents will be handed out, making sure you have a couple of neutral back up options, and then actually checking every one has a present.

If you’ve agreed to sort the Christmas jumpers for school, that means doing it all, including working out what size you need, what the theme is, what else they will wear with it, and when you need to do it by.

Likewise, if you’re in charge of laundry, it doesn’t mean putting a load on and shrinking it all in the dryer. It means making sure no-one runs out of clean clothes, that specific kit is clean on the days that it is needed, and that nothing changes size.

Credit for what already happens

Chances are, your colleagues/ partner / support network already does a fair amount and that there is plenty of teamwork already happening. Acknowledge this, give credit where it is due and work out how to move to the next stage.

Trust people

If you don’t want to shoulder the mental load, you need to let go. Remember that “done” is better than “perfect” and by perfect I mean your idea of perfect. Accepting that another person will have a different perspective and will achieve things differently is part of managing the mental load.

If you’ve discussed generally what is important to the outcome, what values need to be taken into account, and the budget, let others get on with achieving their parts of the task in their own way.

Just as it would be infuriating to be micromanaged in a more professional context, remember that the objective is to have to do and remember less, not treat others like they did it wrong just because it wasn’t how you’d have done it.

On this note, best wishes for the festive season and remember to spread some good cheer!

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Family & Work

Lawyers need to read these practical tips for sleep

We know from our interview with neuroscientist Geoff Bird that sleep is one of the keys to high performance. He discusses the effect on work and personal life that are guaranteed to disturb those lawyers who pride themselves on working into the small hours. Talks on sleep, however, are a sign that the legal sector, notorious for long and unsocial hours, is facing up to questions of mental wellbeing.

In 2013 The Sleep Council surveyed over 5000 adults in the UK and found that 70% sleep for less than seven hours a night with more than a quarter experiencing poor quality sleep on a regular basis. By 2017, The Sleep Council found that those figures had increased further, with more than a third now reporting poor quality sleep on a regular basis.

So, whether you are sleeping poorly on a regular or occasional basis, we could all stand to increase the amount and quality of sleep to increase performance. 

Here are some practical tips:

Treat the issue not the symptoms

The first thing to look at, says Dr Lindsay Browning, sleep expert at Trouble Sleeping, is whether your issues stem from a medical problem. This may be undiagnosed, so it is important to consider whether lack of sleep is the problem or the symptom.

There is diagnostic criteria for insomnia (such as regularly over a period of several months being awake for more than 30 minutes, taking longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep or being awake more than 30 minutes before you would usually get up). While the NHS says that better sleeping habits will improve most cases, it is still worth considering whether insomnia is being caused by a medical issue such as depression, sleep apnoea (where you stop breathing which wakes you up), a bad back or perhaps stress or trauma. 

It may also be worth considering requesting a blood test, as insomnia can be a symptom of magnesium deficiency.

Can you help your natural cycles?

To sleep, we need to be relaxed and calm. The hormones serotonin, oxytocin and melatonin are essential to our daily cycle, or circadian rhythm (our internal process that regulates our sleep-wake cycle that repeats roughly every 24 hours).

We sleep in cycles and wake between them and have to learn to link the cycles. Most people will be unaware of the waking between the cycles as we only remember them once we’ve been awake for two minutes or more.

Melatonin (the hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle) is like a starter pistol, Dr Browning says. A surge of melatonin will tell your body that it is ready to go to sleep. Our bodies are designed such that the surge will come around 8/10 hours after we’ve received the max dose of sunshine. Most people produce all the melatonin they need, so unless you are jetlagged taking additional melatonin will not help.

Our best sleeping conditions are when it is dark and not too hot. 16-18C is ideal. Body temperature peaks in the evening and drops as we sleep. Professor Geoff Bird told us that most people’s bedrooms are too light and too warm for good sleep.

Try the following and see whether it helps:

  • Get outside at lunchtime. If we are in an office all day we need to stop our bodies from getting out of sync. 
  • If you can’t get outside, try a SAD (seasonal affective disorder) lightbox – but only use it between 11am-1pm. 
  • Make your bedroom darker and colder.
  • Encourage your body temperature to rise and then drop with a warm bath.
  • Dr Browning suggests ensuring you are not hungry before bed, recommending oat biscuits, porridge or warm milk. Milk and milk products have the added benefit that they contain the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan.

Is something or someone else keeping you awake? 

For some, sleep is elusive. For others, part of the issue is either things keeping us awake, or waking us up during the night. Is there anything you can do to reduce the impact of the following?

Screens

Smartphones, TV, computer games; they are all designed to be addictive and absorbing, excellent at keeping the mind awake, reducing the amount of time we sleep or preventing us from dropping off at all.

Ariana Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post and author of the book The Sleep Revolution: transforming your life one night at a time suggests no electronic devices starting 30 minutes before bedtime and even advocates relocating your charging station to another room.

“I started setting ground rules, such as turning off my devices,” says Huffington on how she turned around her sleep habits.

Caring responsibilities – children & elderly relatives

Is there anything you can do about children that are waking you up at night? Young babies and children, of course, do just wake up but things to consider if you have school-aged children include:

  • The amount of sleep a school-aged child needs peaks at 9/10 years old. 6-13-year-olds need 9-11 hours, 3-5-year-olds need 10-13. Teenagers are of course a different matter entirely.
  • Based on the amount of sleep they need, consider current bedtimes and rising times. Do you need to update them?
  • Look at bed habits e.g. stopping TV before sleeping, milk, routines, etc.

As we get older, we need less sleep and it is normal to wake up between cycles as the gaps get longer. We may need to accept that elderly relatives will sleep more during the day, less at night and think about ensuring we have respite time away to catch up on sleep if at all possible.

Hormone cycles and the menopause

The rising and falling levels of the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle (estrogen and progesterone) can affect the ability to fall and stay asleep, and, annoyingly influence the quality of sleep. 

Rising estrogen levels in days 1-14 can give you an energy boost but also mean worse sleep, then rising progesterone after ovulation in days 14 onwards can make you very tired. A few days before your period starts, around days 26ish of a 28-day-cycle, estrogen and progesterone levels drop rapidly and many women report trouble sleeping. 

By tracking your cycle, you should be able to predict when you need to do less and spend more time resting, which can help combat these issues.

The menopause brings hot flushes which disturb the sleep. If you are used to sleeping well the sudden problems with sleeping can be concerning. The more you worry and try to sleep, the more anxiety hormones rises which leads to more difficulty falling asleep. “Sleep is the only thing you can’t succeed at by trying harder,” says Dr Browning, which can make it very frustrating.

Other practical tips to try

  • Get rid of your fitbit and stop analysing data
  • Swap your Smartphone for an alarm clock, preferably one where you can switch off the lighted time, so you can’t lie there and watch the minutes tick past
  • See if you can change how you feel about sleep

Scientifically Dr Browning says how we feel when we wake up is only related to where in the sleep cycle we woke. After around 20 minutes, no matter how we felt when we woke, we should feel ok. However, if you tell yourself you had a bad (or good) night’s sleep, this can affect how your mind thinks you slept.

  • Drink water

Contrary to some advice, being well hydrated actually helps us sleep, says Dr Browning. Some people recommend not drinking after 3pm but Dr Browning says that “typically the need to [pass urine] won’t wake you up but when you wake up the body automatically scans the body and you realise you need the loo. It is actually usually something else that wakes you up”.

  • Reduce caffeine/alcohol in the afternoon and evening.

Caffeine has a six-hour half-life (which means half of the caffeine you consumed will still be in your body six hours later). Caffeine stops the body from being able to tell how tired it is. Alcohol is a sedative so sleep comes but is disrupted.

  • Lavender in the bath, or sprayed on your pillow
  • Meditate or journal to reduce stress/ worries which wake up the brain when you lie down to try and sleep.
  • Read or listen to calming music or whale/ocean sounds
  • Try the Sleep with Me podcast for bedtime stories for adults
  • Use the Twilight App for any essential bedtime phone use
  • Change the bed and have clean sheets and ironed pillow-cases.

Lastly, if you really cannot sleep, get up and do something useful. Do not spend hours actively trying to sleep as this is counter-productive and you will end up associating your bed with a place of stress and anxiety, perpetuating the cycle.

Do you have any other tips to share?

Note: Dr Lindsay Browning is a chartered psychologist and neuroscientist with a doctorate from the University of Oxford where she investigated the relationship between worry and insomnia. She is an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society, a member of the British Sleep Society and a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

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Family & Work

Getting Kids Ready For Back-to-School: The Work/Life Balance Guide

It happens every year – just as parents and children start to settle in to the summer holidays, the Back to School adverts start popping up, and the new autumn term is suddenly upon us. Perhaps you are one of those looking forward to returning to a regular routine. On the other hand, maybe your heart is sinking at the thought of shopping for supplies, packed lunches, homework and bedtime battles, or perhaps you are trying not to think about it at all yet…

Whatever the case, we hope you have enjoyed and are continuing to make the most of the summer break. As many families in the UK and Ireland are counting down the days and readjusting to the school routine, we share our tips on making the transition as painless as possible for busy working lawyers.

#1 Gradually Bring Back the Sleep Routine

One of the joys of summer is long bright evenings, allowing extra hours of outside playtime for our children. Many of us are happy to push the usual bedtime back an hour or so, if only to avoid the inevitable protestations of not being able to sleep while the sun is still shining! The downside, however, comes when trying to reintroduce a good sleep routine for when a day of concentration at school is required. Sleep deprivation is a serious matter for children – according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, children aged 6-12 need between 9 to 12 hours of sleep every night, and around a third of children in this age group get just eight hours or fewer. A lack of sleep can have a significant impact on children’s abstract thinking/creative ability, and have even been linked to long term effects on physical and mental health, including obesity, diabetes and depression.

So, getting into a good sleep routine is important, and should be done sooner rather than later. Commit to gradually bringing forward the bedtime night by night. If you have time off work towards the end of the holidays, try to set activities to start earlier on in the day, giving you all a reason to get up and go to bed at a good hour. Here are some more tips on instilling and sticking to a good sleep routine for children from neurologist Shelley Weiss and other parents of school-age children.

#2 Don’t Put off the Back-to-School Shopping

When it comes to back to school shopping, we are spending more every year. On average, parents spend £134 per child on school uniform, according to research by Mintel, and that cost can rise to nearly £500 when adding sports equipment, computer equipment, lunches, and this does not even include school trips and other activities. Last minute shopping trips usually end up being more expensive, so it pays to organise smaller trips, one for each category of things you need through the holidays, instead of leaving it all towards the end. Better planning means you don’t end up buying things you don’t really need. Staggering the shopping is also a better experience for everyone, and can be planned around other activities during the day, particularly when done online. All in all, a calmer shop is a more efficient and cost effective one. Shake off the dread and look forward to picking up some shiny new supplies, knowing you won’t be wondering where all the cash for your summer travels went. You can also make plans to be more economical and environmentally friendly for this year and beyond – here are some tips for zero-waste back to school shopping.

#3 Set Goals for the Year with Your Children

This is a particularly good piece of advice for those with children who don’t always look forward to school. Facing into the school year can seem long and daunting after many weeks of freedom, so give them a focus. Setting goals doesn’t have to mean rigid academic targets – in fact it is often better that it doesn’t. Talk to your children about what they want to get out of the school year – it may be something  like playing more sport, or speaking more in class, or finishing a particular reading book, or simply identifying  the activity or subject that makes them happiest. Talk to them about the things they are looking forward to most, and the least. This will prepare you for any potential areas that require more encouragement or additional help long term. It also helps them establish a better understanding of themselves and their strengths, their likes and dislikes. Here is some further advice from familylives.org.uk on helping children navigate the learning and social environments of school.

#4 Talk to Teachers – and Other Parents Too

If as a working parent you are starting to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of a new school year, be it as a first time school parent, a newly-returned to work school parent, a parent with children facing exams, or any other unknown, it may help to set up a brief meeting with the teacher early on in the year to put your mind at ease. Teachers are equally pressed for time, but they want the best for children as their pupils and may appreciate the opportunity to address any concerns or questions early on. Additionally or alternatively, talk to parents who may share your worries, or seek out those that have skin in the game and can offer advice and insight to what lies ahead. Join your local school group on social media, or look up school-related forums on parenting websites to get a range of perspectives and ask questions you may not feel comfortable asking directly.

Finally, the first day back at school is always a nervous and exciting time for children. Where possible, make use of flexible working/holiday/time in lieu to dedicate time and attention to them on the day before and first day back. And don’t forget to plan some well-earned time to yourself!

 

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Family & Work Trending

Top 10 Things to Keep the Holiday Vibe Alive

Returning to the office after a relaxing and recharging break (or just some time away from the daily grind) doesn’t have to mean you return automatically to how you were working previously. With some consideration and thought, here are some practical tips to keep the holiday vibe alive back at the office.

#1 Re-evaluate or change your routine

On holiday one of the things we often appreciate most is the change in routine. Try to avoid falling back into your old routines by being intentional – schedule walking meetings where appropriate, get up and talk to colleagues if you can rather than firing off one sentence emails, and look into techniques like the Pomodoro Technique to keep focus when carrying out mundane tasks.

Experts say that the “best way to modify habits is to replace them with a new habit”. If you regularly drink your morning coffee whilst reading emails, try instead to invite a colleague to drink your coffee together to discuss the day’s tasks.

#2 Look over your reading or podcast list for the autumn / listen to a summer playlist

Summer is full of articles about the best beach reads, or the best podcasts (read ours here) but don’t forget these recommendations will still be applicable once you’re back from your holiday. If you only ever find the time to read or listen to podcasts when you’re away from work, try changing up your commute by reading – or listening to – a novel rather than scrolling through LinkedIn or a newspaper.

Not everyone works well listening to music, but if you do, consider compiling songs (like this Spotify list of songs for lawyers) that remind you of your holiday on Spotify and listening to it when doing more admin-related tasks to lift your mood.

#3 Take your full lunch-break (and use it to be a tourist)

According to research carried out by Mastercard and Ipsos MORI in 2016, only 17% of British workers take an hour for lunch, with the average lunch-break lasting only 28 minutes.

Yet on holiday, we spend a great deal of time lingering over meals and exploring new places. Keep this vibe going by stopping work when you can to take a proper break, and use it to really explore the places surrounding your work. 

If you work in a city and enjoy culture, there are galleries, churches and public spaces which you can spend half an hour exploring and learning about the history of the areas or being inspired. There are often lunchtime concerts and talks.

If you work more remotely or from home, try finding new footpaths and exploring your immediate surrounds on foot.

#4 Get outside

On holiday, we often spend a huge amount more time outside and consequently we feel much better for it. The effects of Vitamin D on our mood as well as our health is well documented. A lack of Vitamin D can cause fatigue, tiredness and depression as well as making us more susceptible to colds and other illnesses commonly making the rounds in offices and public transport.

Keep this wellness feeling going on your return and fortify your immune system for the winter months by getting outside to absorb Vitamin D. NHS advice is to spend short periods outside between 11am and 3pm without sun-cream and with forearms, hands and lower legs exposed between March and the end of September.

#5 Practice optimism/gratitude

“When we take time to notice the things we are grateful for we raise our energy levels and become more happy and optimistic,” says Laura Walker, a mental health nurse and happiness coach. 

Take inspiration from Walker’s ‘gratitude stone’ (hers is a stone she painted with Mandela but it doesn’t need to be something so monumental) by keeping a stone or shell that you found on your holiday in your pocket or bag. 

“Whenever I see the stone I stop and consciously think of something I feel grateful for. I love this because it takes me by surprise as it often turns up on top of the washing machine or other random places”.

She is a firm believer in a daily gratitude practice; it doesn’t need to be a stone or shell, it could be a daily journal, or just taking time to notice and reflect upon the things you’re thankful for experiencing or that bring you pleasure, such as looking up and noticing the sunlight on your walk to the station or enjoying the smell of your hot coffee.

#6 Set boundaries for tech use

Our brains are not designed to be constantly in use. We need to spend time idling in order to let our brains re-charge and work more efficiently but an ever-present screen with a never-ending list of tasks to complete prevents this from happening. 

On holiday we naturally spend more time doing things away from a screen or technology, such as reading, playing sports, or sight-seeing, which gives us an added benefit that our brains have had more time to switch off more fully.

Try continuing this back in the office by actively setting realistic boundaries with technology. Try setting yourself screen time limits, reading or listening to podcasts on your commute and stepping away from your screen during breaks (see #1 above).

#7 Be more present

Experts advise that the key to a balanced life is one in accordance with your values. If you are very clear on your values and work to your strengths, you will feel more fulfilled, more engaged, more consciously in control, less stressed and more present. Presence really is the key to keeping the ‘holiday vibe’ alive. 

Try consciously reducing multi-tasking and focus on one thing at a time.

#8 Consider your holiday epiphanies and schedule your diary accordingly

Ellen Price, Founder and Coach at Think Feel Do says we make the best decisions about what needs to change or be given priority once we’ve had a holiday break. “The best gift you can give yourself to carry forward the benefits of the holiday is to schedule your diary in accordance with your values,” she says. 

“If being home for your kids bath time 3 times a week is important to you, block the time, make it non-negotiable and then make sure you turn your phone off and stay present with it”. 

“If getting promoted this year is important to you, work out what you need to do to achieve that and prioritise your diary for those things and be really present with them.”

#9 Replicate the scent of your holiday

“There is lots of buzz at the moment around the idea of ‘functional fragrances’, which are scents explicitly designed to lift or shift your mood – think aromatherapy with added neuroscience,” says Lizzie Ostrom, founder of Odette Toilette, who create experiences that invite feeling, thinking and exploring through scent. 

“But actually, any perfume or smell can do this, and it’s within our power to build that association. One easy way to do this is to choose a particular or new perfume to wear on holiday. You can then wear it when you’re back if you want to snap out of a stressful situation and feel emotionally reconnected with that languorous feeling of being on holiday.” 

You could also do the same thing by using up your holiday sun-cream once you return to the office, or by using a shower gel after you cycle or run to work which has a similar scent.

Using a new scent on holiday does come with a warning though. Lizzie says that “I once used this technique on a trip to the US and felt so grim the first two days, my perfume made me feel a bit queasy thereafter. So hold-off spraying on your travels until you feel a bit more settled and in a restful mood!”

#10 Swap your mid-afternoon fizzy drink for an ice-cream

If all of the above seems too much, this one is super easy. Instead of reaching for a can of something cold and fizzy during the mid-afternoon slump, combine getting outside with a change in routine and walk to the nearest shop to pick up your ice-cream of choice.

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Family & Work

2019: Top 10 podcasts for the beach

Or the train, or gym. Wherever you’ve time spare to yourself, get your headphones on and dive into our top picks of educational delights, interviews, humour and the ultimate in fluffy indulgence if you have even a passing interest into the royal family.

If you’re more into a busman’s holiday, see our top picks of legal podcasts for 2019 here.

To while away an entire afternoon…

#1 Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History

American journalist, political commentator and broadcaster Dan Carlin is famed for his unique blend of “high drama, masterful narration and Twilight Zone-style twists”, winning awards for bringing history to life in a rather unorthodox way.

His Hardcore History podcast episode Ghosts of the Ostfront, regarding the Eastern Front of World War Two, won Slate Magazine’s award for the fifth-best podcast of all time.

Episodes are often four hour deep dives into periods of history you won’t have studied in the same way at school.

#2 Serial

You’ve probably already heard of Serial, as episodes of seasons one and two have been downloaded nearly 350 million times, establishing an ongoing podcast world record.

Serial is created by Sarah Koenig, who says the podcast is a bit like a documentary “about the basics: love and death and justice and truth. All these big, big things”. A non-fiction narrative, Serial is divided into episodes, with each series investigating a different issue – season one is built around the murder of an 18-year-old high school student who disappeared one afternoon.

Serial has won awards for the innovative telling of a long-form non-fiction story (including the first-ever Peabody awarded to a podcast) and needs to be listened to in order – not one to dip in and out of but one to keep you gripped for weeks to come.

If you’ve only got an hour…

#3 Longform Podcast

Longform.org recommends new and classic non-fiction from around the web and the associated podcast is a weekly conversation with a non-fiction writer on how they tell stories.

All lawyers no matter what work they actually do surely once harboured a secret desire to uncover crimes and this episode with Jeff Maysh does exactly that. A freelance writer based in LA, Maysh uncovered the story of the ex-cop who gamed the McDonalds Monopoly game and stole millions, writing a piece for the Daily Beast earlier in 2019 about “Jerome Jacobson and his network of mobsters, psychics, strip-club owners, and drug traffickers [who] won almost every prize for 12 years, until the FBI launched Operation Final Answer“.

“I’ve always looked for stories with the theme of identity and identity theft. I’m very interested in people leading double lives. All of my stories are the same in a sense. Whether that’s a spy or a fake cheerleader or a bank robber or even a wrestler—someone is pretending to be someone they’re not, leading a double life. I find that really exciting. I’m drawn to characters who put on a disguise.” ~ Jeff Maysh

Longform Podcast Episode #307: Jeff Maysh

#4 The Axe Files with David Axelrod

Podcasts about American politics can be a fascinating and rewarding rabbit hole and the best is hosted by David Axelrod, a former senior advisor to President Obama, and director of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.

His podcast, The Axe Files, has a 300 strong back catalogue of episodes where he has interviewed the great and good (and otherwise) of US and UK politics as well as a host of others.

Highlights over the years have included Barak Obama (#108), Karl Rove, former White House senior adviser and deputy chief of staff (#80), Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (#208) and staff writer for the New Yorker Jeffrey Toobin – he covered the O.J. trial as a journalist (#241).

#5 That Peter Crouch Podcast

Die-hard football fans will no doubt already listen to former England and Liverpool player Peter Crouch’s collaboration with Five Live alongside Tom Fordyce and Chris Stark. Those less obsessed may appreciate Crouch’s remarkedly natural talent for opening up and giving an intriguing analysis of his time as a professional footballer. That Peter Crouch Podcast is taking a break from new episodes for the summer but there are plenty of back episodes to whet your appetite for the new season starting again come August.

#6 13 Minutes to the Moon

Another BBC production, this time the story of how the first moon landing was saved. 13 Minutes to the Moon tells the story of the people who made Apollo 11 happen and who prevented it from going badly wrong. The series of 12 episodes was first released in the lead up to the 50th anniversary on 20 July 2019 and episode 11 is the 13 minutes in real-time. As it says in the first episode, it isn’t a spoiler to say we know they got there, “this podcast is about trying to understand how that happened.”

13 Minutes to the Moon is hosted by Dr Kevin Fong, a medical doctor with a special interest in space medicine who wished he could have been an astronaut, who “wanted to take the listener along with him on a deep dive into a subject of a lifelong fascination”.

#7 How To fail With Elizabeth Day

How To Fail With Elizabeth Day “celebrates the things that haven’t gone right” where guests explore what their failures have taught them about succeeding better. Day, a British journalist, broadcaster and novelist, was previously a features writer for The Observer from 2007 to 2016 and has also written four novels.

Looking at the twin concepts of success and failure, Day says:

“It was fascinating to see how men and women had different attitudes. Many of the men I approached balked at the idea they had failed at anything. They cited lost tennis matches, unrisen soufflés and the inability to play a musical instrument. The women routinely responded that they would have trouble whittling down their myriad failures to just three instances”.

Start with some of the most listened to episodes: Dolly Alderton (S1, Ep 3), David Nicholls (S1, Ep 7) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (S5, Ep 2) as well as Day interviewing herself (S1, Ep 8).

#8 The New Yorker Radio Hour

The New Yorker‘s editor, David Remnick, presents a weekly “hourlong program that is very much of The New Yorker, infused by its values, hosted by its writers and editors and artists, but also something unique, capacious, freewheeling”.

The extensive back catalogue includes guests such as Aziz Ansari, Sarah Keonig and Amy Schumer alongside staff writers and cartoonists but it is perhaps best listened to in ‘real-time’ so start with the most recent, which unsurprisingly this week features again the anniversary of the moon landing.

#9 David Tennant Does a Podcast With…

Interviewing the biggest names from film, TV, comedy and others, David Tennant and his widely appreciated “velvety voice” gently coaxes out his guests’ stories and manages to ask the questions to which you might never have known you wanted the answer.

Guests, an eclectic mix, include Olivia Colman, Gordon Brown and John Hamm but there is no extensive back catalogue as this podcast only started in January 2019.

#10 The Minimalists

Return home inspired to pare back your possessions and re-assess your values by listening to Joshua Fields-Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, better known to their millions of listeners as The Minimalists. Addressing all manner of topics including positive thinking, holidays, budgeting, possessions and the decline of the American Dream, the message is to inspire people to lead more meaningful lives.

And the aural equivalent of a trashy magazine…

Royally Obsessed

Presented by American journalists Kaitlin Menza and Lisa Ryan, who both write about The Royals for everyone from Cosmo to NY Mag, this is the ultimate in switching off beachside. Sometimes we all need to listen to something a little less serious, so if you’ve even a fleeting interest in Kate, Meghan and royal fashion, this will pass the time nicely.

Do you have an essential listen to add to our list? Let us know @ObeliskSupport

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Family & Work

AI Assistants and Busy Lifestyles: Are We Outsourcing The Wrong Things to Technology?

Would you let AI read your child a bedtime story? With time as a precious commodity, technology is helping us organise and automate many day-to-day tasks. But are we replacing and outsourcing too many of our ‘human’ activities?

These are questions that were recently sparked by BookTrust, the UK reading charity, who conducted a survey in the run up to this week’s Pyjamarama bedtime story fundraising event. It found around 26% of parents use AI home assistants to read bedtime stories to their children. There were understandably shocked reactions to this statistic, with many fearing we are risking our emotional health and ability to connect with one another in favour of the convenience of technological devices. It appears we may be missing the point – using tech to do the very things we should be using tech to give us more time to do ourselves. The simple pleasure of reading a story to our children; a time for conversation and creativity, should be treated as sacred.

Unfounded fears?

Then again, there have been moral panics at all stages of technological development; the fear of displacement is very much a human trait. Some argue that Alexa & co are no different to letting the likes of CBBC Bedtime Stories do the job; storytime was also on the radio before TV came into the picture.

The fact remains that our children will grow up with technology in a way we never did. We run the risk of creating a disconnect between generations if we do not adopt and keep up to some level. So, we might view this time as early stages of the learning process. It’s possible that the high percentage of those using Alexa and friends as bedtime story readers is less of a pattern and more down to initial novelty – parents and children trying it out for fun and to satisfy curiosity and get to know the limits of the technology. And as with our use of social media, we have to make mistakes in order to realise what constitutes good and bad usage for ourselves, and with time we are likely to grow with AI and apply it in more sensible ways.

We have also always had to make decisions about assistance and outsourcing in our lives – from childcare to household maintenance – mostly to other humans. That’s arguably the key difference in what we are working with now: the involvement of human beings is being reduced and we have less control and understanding of the motives and ‘thought’ process and action of algorithm driven AI.

With other humans we choose who fits well within our own outlook and aims in life. When it comes to supporting our children’s development in particular, having a good trust relationship is key – even if that relationship is with a particular TV channel or show. With AI, we do not yet, and probably may not ever be able to fully trust AI decisions due to the very nature of their design, particularly as they are made by large corporations who ultimately need to sell and promote things to fund their output. As one journalist and parent writing for the New York Times put it: ‘Alexa, after all, is not “Alexa.” She’s a corporate algorithm in a black box‘. Even avid users do not fully trust home assistants, and a still significant proportion of others refuse to have devices listening to their lives at all.

AI and division of labour

Just like in law and business, we need to remember that AI is our tool; not something we are beholden to, and we should divide labour between it and ourselves accordingly. By using AI to outsource the repetitive mundane time consuming tasks that distract and take time away from bigger picture, we are left with more headspace for emotional and creative thought processes that are vital for progression and satisfaction in our roles.

We can see that when applied well, AI can provide positive enhancements to all important emotional connections. For example, in senior care AI and robots are helping to reduce time staff and family spend on monitoring health and prompting to take medication etc and allow them to engage on a more individual emotional level, help them to be more independent with voice activated actions etc. There is also evidence that an increase in the use of voice activated AI leads to a decrease in smartphone use, so at least we are lifting our eyes from the screen a little more. Source: Two thirds of people who use digital voice assistants like the Amazon Echo or Google Home use their smartphones less often, according to an Accenture survey.

We also need to continue to educate ourselves on its flaws and limitations. For example, as the technology currently stands, there are question around inclusivity and gender roles – many voice assistants are female-voiced, and have been found to be unable to recognise certain accents, facial features and speech impediments.

Regulation will increasingly play a role to address these issues in both the domestic and business context: The UK’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) recently announced it would investigate, amongst other things, algorithmic bias in decision-making. Transparency and legal compliance will help build trust. But it is up to us as users to ensure that we regulate our usage to best fit our lives and use the time we are given wisely – for storytime and more.

 

 

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Family & Work Making Work, Work

Why More Fathers Should be Able to Make the Most of Paternity Leave

As Father’s Day approaches, we look at the reasons why paternity leave is so important for our society, and how new dads can make the most of the time at home.

In terms of statutory paternity leave, the UK still unfortunately lags behind many European countries. New fathers are still entitled to only two weeks of full-pay paternity leave. More recently there have been changes made to allowances for shared parental leave, but the financial implications mean that many families are still reluctant to make use of the allowance. In fact, a recent survey from Milner’s Solicitors found that there is little appetite or knowledge of the policy among working fathers, and fewer than 1 in 1000 employees in the UK have made use of shared parental leave. That needs to change. More families should be able and be encouraged to take paternity and shared parental leave. There are many personal and broader societal benefits, as follows:

Happier parents, happier children

Being able to share parental responsibility in a way that suits your individual set up will of course make you happier. The benefits of happier, more present parents to children cannot be overstated. Better mental and physical health, self-esteem, better performance in school are all said to be the result of having both parents more involved in their childhoods.

Better workers

A happier home life of course means you will produce better work. By taking proper allocated leave you won’t be distracted by feelings of guilt or the fear or missing out. By sharing the responsibility of the very early stages of parenting through shared parental leave, you will be able to fall into a better long term routine that works best for your family, as you will have a better understanding of the balancing act required. Employers and clients are also likely to look favourably on those who opt to take paternity leave (Anne-Marie Slaughter cited a Finnish CEO who said if someone they were considering employing didn’t show interest in taking their parental leave, they would be much less likely to hire them). Taking leave shows you have a strong priorities, values and sense of commitment to a role.

Workplace and relationship equality

Equality in society begins in the home. Even though women have made gains in the workplace, many are still finding they are doing the bulk of the domestic work, and that includes not just physical labour, but also shouldering emotional and life admin as well as a busy career. With more shared parental leave, both parents have a better understanding of the responsibilities of running the household, and can work together more successfully. This leads to better marriages and more amicable shared custody – Sweden is often held up as an example of parental leave ideal and their lower divorce rates and happier marriages may correlate.

If you are preparing to take paternity leave, here are some things to keep in mind to help you make the most of it…

#1 Enjoy the alone time

It can be a big adjustment going from a busy office and constant contact with colleagues and clients to often not having an adult conversation for a whole day. However, you will rarely have another opportunity to have completely undisturbed and undistracted moments with your child or children, so soak them up while you can! The bonding experience as a new parent is an opportunity to be cherished, between the tougher moments and sleepless nights!

#2 Don’t let the office creep in

Maintain that undistracted focus on your children. You are adjusting to your new role as a father (or if not your first time, adjusting to having another addition to the family), and you should give it the same level of attention you would give other projects. It is the most important role you will ever have, after all. Taking official leave means that no one will be expecting you to be answering queries or keeping up on events – the office will still be standing on your return.

#3 Be a role model

Big campaigns, research and lobbying are central to improving paternity leave offered by the state and employers, but in order for attitudes to change in society, we also need individual gestures. Proudly taking – and talking about – paternity leave normalises and encourages others to follow suit within your industry, so talk it up and pass on your own tips and guidance to expecting fathers, you never know the difference it could make. Most of all, you children will grow up less likely to conform to gender stereotypes and have more equal relationships of their own.

Obelisk has many parents who work with us to take advantage of our flexible ethos and increasingly, and this includes many fathers. We know that being a parent is the most important job in the world and are proud that we champion ways to improve the opportunities to make it a success.