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Balancing work while pursuing Further Education

In the United Kingdom, 25% of adults are engaged in education to improve their skills, according to Pearson’s recent Global Learner Survey.

With millions of adults heading back to school to add to their skill set or make a career change, many of them are doing so with a full-time job and/or family in tow. However, while pursuing further education can have its benefits – both professionally and personally – it does come with its challenges.

In addition to the financial challenges that this can present, many of those who choose to pursue further education while working find themselves facing the common juggling dilemma when it comes to attending classes, studying and maintaining a high level of performance in their workplaces.

However, there are many simple things you can do to strike a balance between the two, starting with getting organised and speaking to your employer about flexible hours.

Get organised. Start with a schedule

Being well-organised means you can maximise every spare minute in your already hectic day. In fact, mastering time management is key to perfecting the balancing act between work and studying.

Carve out spare time, such as on your commute or a few hours before bed, to focus on study. Create a weekly study plan to ensure you can comfortably cover your course syllabus without the pressure seeping into your workday.

For example, if you are required to complete a set amount of hours for your course, calculate how many hours you need to complete weekly and compare to your current schedule to find out when you can fit it in. Also, make use of technology such as downloadable reading materials and audiobooks for learning on the go.

Don’t forget to include time for decompression and reading breaks. With such a hectic schedule, your mind and body will benefit from regularly scheduled breaks.

Mix and Match with distance and digital learning

Virtual and E-learning are the next frontier in education, particularly for mature students. In fact, the value of e-learning is predicted to hit $325 billion by 2025.

Around 54% of employees believe that video platforms such as Youtube will become a primary learning tool while 68% of adults in the UK believe that university students will be taking courses online in the next decade.

Thankfully, many education providers and platforms now offer distance and online courses or are willing to consider it, if asked. Online courses tend to be much cheaper than campus-based ones and lectures can be viewed at your own convenience.

There are also many further education courses without additional requirements available including short professional courses or a doctorate without dissertation. This makes it easier for both your time schedule and your wallet.

Communicate with your employer about flexible hours or study support

Having the support of your employer makes the process of balancing work and study much easier. To do this, you need to have an open conversation with your manager or employer so that they are aware of your needs. Most employers are supportive of their workers pursuing further education and even offer tuition assistance.

If you’re in the process of looking for a new job, be sure to include workplace study support in your job hunt criteria. Companies such as KPMG, Mace, and McDonald’s now offer sponsored degree programs and professional course subsidies for bodies such as ACCA and CIPD.

Alternatively, if your employer does not offer this upfront, you can opt to have a conversation with management about funding your studies.

You could also chat to your manager about amending working hours to allow for the commute to class, granting the odd paid/unpaid day off for studying or an examination and expanding your role to include on the job learning opportunities to fulfill any professional competency requirements.

Keep your manager updated on your progress and class schedule so you can work out a suitable timetable and access as much support as your employer is willing to offer.

Strategically schedule holiday

According to a report by Worksmart, all workers in the United Kingdom are entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid vacation time per year. More specifically, full-time workers are entitled to 28 days of holidays in addition to 1.6 weeks of time off under the Working Time Directive.

However, any stipulations such as limits during peak periods -or the inclusion of bank holidays -are dependent on your contract of employment and company policy.

Get ahead by accessing your annual vacation time remaining and matching it against your study schedule. Align holiday with exam periods, and also allocate time-off a few days prior to high-pressure times during your course.

Similarly, try not to schedule examinations and course submission for peak periods at work, if possible.

Finally, focus on the end-goal of it all- further career progression and personal development. While it may be challenging to juggle both, your further education course won’t last forever and a few tricks like these can make the impossible, quite possible.