Achieve 50:50 work-life Balance in the outdoors
Let’s face it… the reasons we love outdoor jobs are because we enjoy being outside, having fun and teaching the activities we are passionate about. Some may even say we’re ‘living the dream’. But a healthy work-life balance is just as important working in the outdoors as it is in any other work environment.
Outdoor jobs generally involve working a season; usually either Summer or Winter depending on the location and activities. With seasons often comes very busy periods, plenty of pretty full-on workdays and before you know it, the season can fly by. Achieving the work-life balance equilibrium is key.
As a seasoned outdoor instructor, myself, (15 international seasonal contracts, plus freelancing stints along the way), I’m sufficiently qualified to share with you an honest insider’s guide to achieving that sweet spot of a great work-life balance in the outdoor jobs market.
The aim of this post is not to tell you how to live your life, but rather an insight into how I get the most out of the time available to me whilst working hard doing the best job in the world!
Sit back, smell the roses
Most of us do it. We get so wrapped up with work, we forget to ‘sit back and smell the roses. The outdoors is what we get to call our office, yet it often seems people choose to cram themselves out of the way into a staff room, canteen (maybe even in the car!) when it’s time for their lunch break.
Whether you have a humble field as your backdrop or you’re lucky enough to have glaciers, waterfalls, alpine peaks, white sandy beaches, or turquoise waters, working in the outdoors normally guarantees a picturesque view. When lunchtime or the end of the day comes around, be sure to make a conscious effort to take in all the beauty around you.
When you’re busy and / or stressed, making the most of your breaks can restore your energy and increase your job satisfaction. Take the time to sit down and soak in the view, tucking into your sarnie or sipping from your Thermos.
It might not be as comfortable or social as the staff room, but I guarantee you will finish up more relaxed and restored than if you spend your downtime in a crowded room with your workmates chomping in your ears!
Get to know your teammates
You will meet many like-minded people working a career in the outdoor industry as an outdoor instructor. Get to know who your teammates are, as it is quite likely that you will have a lot in common with them.
First of all, it’s great to know the people you will be working alongside in order to develop a strong working relationship with them. Secondly, you may also be able to enjoy each other’s company outside of work. Some of my best mates are those who I have met working in the outdoors.
Don’t be a people pleaser
The people you choose to spend your downtime with can have a huge effect on you. Some people like to be active, and some people don’t.
Some people want to go out and do things and some people won’t. Some people are content being inside and others NEED to be outside. If everyone was the same, then the world would be an extremely boring place! People are different and that is ok.
But in the aim of trying to fit in, generally as a species we tend to go with the majority vote for ease and to please others. Just be mindful of this and remember to make decisions based on what you want to do and what will make you happy, not other people.
People will generally understand if you don’t want to spend time with them and instead do something you really want to do. Your time is most valuable to you, so spend it wisely.
Shut the ‘office’ door behind you and find Balance
Try to draw a line between work and home to maintain a good work-life balance. It’s so easy when you’re working in the great outdoors (in a job that you absolutely love) to get wrapped up and immerse yourself into every waking moment. It’s important to take a step back from your (awesome!) day job, not dwelling on the weeks’ events or worrying about what may or may not happen on your next shift once you’ve shut the ‘office’ door behind you.
Even if you’ve had a bad day, which everybody experiences at some point in their work lives, try to distract yourself with one of your hobbies or something you enjoy doing after work in the aim of switching off. If, for instance, you think you completely messed up one of your activity sessions last week or the weather disrupted all of your planned activities one day, there is no use dwelling on it in your down time. Instead, when you next go into work, use your previous experiences as a learning tool to improve and grow in your work life.
If you’re working a season, there is a likelihood that you will not be living at home. Most staff accommodation will be located close to where you work, and you will be living with the people who you work with.
Even when you get back to your digs, you will be dragged into conversations about work or work-related grumbles… “Joe Bloggs is so lazy and didn’t help put the Kayaks away at the end of the day today!”
For example. If this sounds familiar, it is all the more important to find a way of switching off, clearing your head, and putting some distance between you and the workplace – both physically and mentally.
Don’t burn the candle at both ends
Working in the outdoors can be a fairly tiring experience. It can be physically and mentally demanding, especially when spending long periods of time in severe conditions. This can be challenging on your body, particularly on a full season where it is either bitterly cold or scorching hot.
Try not to burn the candle at both ends. Listen to your body and try to rest if you feel like you need to. Instructing, playing, and partying every night is only sustainable for so long and I have noticed this on every single season I have worked.
Around halfway through the season, people tend to burn out and are forced to slow down by their own bodies rebelling against lack of rest and too many late nights. Don’t give into your FOMO and if you need to have an early night to save yourself for later, then do it!
Don’t drink too much, balance is key !
Drinking is a huge part of social engagement and for many people a way to unwind after work or over the weekend. It is also very easy to slip into the unhealthy habit of having a few beverages after work every single night and maybe a few too many before and on your days off.
Drinking too much can have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing and negatively affect both your work and personal life. To be clear, it is not my intention to tell you to go teetotal and shun alcohol completely, but please do consider changing your ways if you find yourself drinking to excess.
During busy periods where time off can be a bit fewer and further between, shelve drinking for an activity you enjoy doing instead. Why not hop on your Paddleboard after work instead of going to the pub? Or why don’t you ask some of your teammates to meet you early the next morning for a coasteering session?
As an incentive, you could use drinking less as an excuse to start saving some money. You could save the money you would have usually spent on alcohol and put it towards a cool experience or something different on your next day off instead! It will also be an eye opener when you realise how much money you spend at the pub!
Maintain your Mental Health, a good work life balance is important!
Mental Health is prevalent in society today. Even more so during these strange and unprecedented Covid times that we find ourselves living in at the moment. But even pre-covid, having an unhealthy work-life balance negatively impacts your mental health and can lead to stress-related illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
Sometimes, not even working in the great outdoors can stop you from feeling low and unhappy, no matter how much you may love it.
Always talk about your feelings, whether that be to someone at work or one of your friends or family members. Talking to people, especially face-to-face can maintain good mental health and help you deal with situations when you are feeling troubled, either at home or in the workplace.
Make the most of every day
Even as an outdoor instructor, it can’t always be adventure. Sometimes duty calls and real-life stuff has to happen: food shopping, going to the bank, doctors’ appointments, maybe going to the opticians (if you’re as blind as a bat like me!) and most recently, appointments for jabs, jabs and what seems like more jabs. These tedious yet necessary tasks always inevitably end up eating into your free time.
Just because these menial tasks need to happen doesn’t mean they should suck the fun out of a whole day, especially if you have had to travel a distance to partake in said boring adult chore. Why not plan something fun to do or somewhere new to visit in the local area or on route?
Managing your time to make sure you do at least one thing you enjoy every day can help you feel more fulfilled, even after getting violently poked in the arm with a needle.
Occasionally burst the bubble
As outdoor instructors we live pretty awesome lives full of adventure and excitement, but we can get wrapped up in our own little bubble, especially when working a seasonal job which is why finding balance is so important . It is really important to take a bit of time to step back and get in touch with the real world again.
If you are away from your friends and family, have a call around to see what’s going on back home. There’s nothing like talking to people outside of that ‘seasonnaire’ bubble to remind yourself just how lucky you are to be doing what you love day in and day out in the great outdoors and sharing your experiences with those you care about.
We hope you find this post helpful and are able to use some of these tips to improve your own work-life balance in the great outdoors. It has worked for me for the past decade working as an outdoor instructor. In my first few years of work.
I would have crammed myself into my car for lunch and gone way too hard on nights out, but after experiencing many seasons in the outdoor industry I now remember to sit back and smell the roses, surround myself with like-minded people and make the most of every single day.I can honestly say from experience that this advice is solid for those people who, like myself, want to make the most out of working in the great outdoors.
For activities to get you in the outdoors for a great work-life balance career visit https://landandwave.co.uk/activities-in-dorset/
You can also find a great range of outdoor jobs here https://www.outdoor-learning.org/jobs/current-vacancies-new