PLAN NOW FOR BETTER WORK LIFE BALANCE THIS SUMMER

Like most parents, I’m gearing up for awards banquets, graduation ceremonies, class parties — all the end-of-school-year hoopla that typically culminates in one question: What is your son or daughter doing this summer?

If plans aren’t nailed down yet, that question can throw a working parent into a tailspin. Summer now requires a whole new level of organizational management, particularly against the backdrop of longer hours on the job for many workers.

Now is the time to begin scoping out vacation dates and summer camps, negotiating flexible schedules and seeking out someone willing to cover for you when you take off.

Here are some ideas to help with your summer work/life balance:

Vacation 

* The first challenge is to find dates that work. For a less stressful vacation, choose dates that correspond with down time in your business. For working parents, jetting out of town the week before school starts probably isn’t the best idea but it is a great week to take off to buy supplies.

*Get it on the calendar early. Once you figure out the best vacation time, give notice to your boss, customers and co-workers. There are some weeks higher in demand so get first dibs now.

* Start your homework, organizing what needs to be done in the weeks leading up to your vacation and who you can train to fill in. You might do some of your tasks together for a few weeks. “You have to align your support team,” says Doug Arms, senior vice president at Ajilon Professional Staffing.

Flexibility

* Consider blocks of time off. Jetting off to Europe isn’t your only option to summer downtime. Flexibility in your work schedule may be just what you need to rejuvenate. Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours (now in paperback) and blogger at My168hours.com, suggests starting with a simple question: “What does enjoying summer mean for you?” Make a list of what would make this the best summer of your life and have your children and spouse do the same. Next, figure out how much time those activities take, including drive or travel time, and put them on the calendar. Even if you can just take the morning off or leave early on Friday, look for something that takes three hours. “Time is easy to let slip away. You want to avoid that,” says Vanderkam

Childcare

* Look for alternatives that work with your schedule. Janice Lusky Greenspan, a Miami public relations executive, makes her summer easy and her workday the most productive by putting her two children, 4 and 7, in the same camp. “During the school year, they are in two different schools. For summer, I want one drop-off and one pick-up.”

* Sign up now. Enrollment at low-cost summer camps usually is limited and requests have doubled in recent years, according to a work/life report released by ComPsych, a national provider of employee assistance and work life programs. Jen Rinehart of the Afterschool Alliance suggests parents start with their after school care providers. “Most kids who participate in after school programs are more likely to be in summer programs. They usually don’t end up on waiting lists.”

JOB HUNTING

* Don’t let up. This summer there may be more temp jobs that turn into permanent hiring. Ryan Skubis of Robert Half International says more employers plan to bring in temporary help this year. “They recognize it helps with morale. Vacationing employees don’t have to come back to a massive pileup.”

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