Aerial Campus

Work-life balance at Royal Holloway



Supporting work-life balance

Royal Holloway believes that its staff members are its most valuable asset and is committed to attracting and retaining the very best, and utilising all the talent and experience available. It also appreciates that the UK workforce is becoming increasingly diverse and includes a high percentage of parents and individuals with other caring responsibilities, as well as those whose interests and aspirations impact on their time. It therefore appreciates that the standard Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm working week is, in many cases, incompatible with increasing demand for a better work-life balance.

The College recognises the importance of helping its employees balance their work and home life by offering flexible working arrangements that enable them to balance their working life with other priorities, including.

• Parental and other caring responsibilities

• Health or disability

• Education and training including life-long learning

• Transport / distance from work

• Arranging meetings, where possible, between core hours (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

• Arts, sports, voluntary/charity work

• Approach of retirement including the option to request flexible retirement


Further support at Royal Holloway

Further support includes:

  • An On-campus nursery welcomes children from 3 months to five years. See here for an application form (under ‘Pay and Benefits’ then ‘Rewards and Benefits’). The nursery provides a space for breastfeeding parents who have babies/children at the nursery.
  • A workplace nursery salary sacrifice scheme (under ‘Pay and Benefits’ then ‘Rewards and Benefits’).
  • The College is a breastfeeding-friendly institution and wants to support families to feel confident about breastfeeding in public spaces. However, if preferred, breastfeeding parents can access private spaces:  
    • The Hub (accessible toilet outside Imagine)
    • The Sports Centre (accessible shower room in the main reception area)
    • The Boilerhouse café
    • Founder’s East accessible toilet (this shares the entrance to the Gents toilet next to the lift by the entrance to Crosslands but it a separate facility)
    • Founders West accessible toilet opposite FW156
    • Windsor Building accessible toilet
    • Emily Wilding Davison Building (Library), accessible toilets near to the Cafe on the Square
    • Shilling building ground floor (dedicated nursing room).
  • A generous maternity leave scheme which entitles all pregnant employees to take up to 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave (with a further 26 weeks additional maternity leave) regardless of length of service.
  • The Employee Assistance Programme which has specialised staff in well-being and family matters;

Guidance/tips on work-life balance and returning to work


Tips include…

Acknowledge your new skills: Being at home with kids develops your people skills, your creative problem solving, your ability to multi-task, and your time management like no job I've ever had. These skills are not really understood or acknowledged in the workplace, so you wouldn't tend to get the respect and credibility that you deserve if you cited them at interview or on your CV; but you should approach every job with your head held high.



Tips include….

As your back to work date rolls around, get into a positive mindset about returning 

A lot of women feel fearful about leaving their babies and returning to work, and if you spend most of your time with your mummy friends, there’s a real danger that group-think takes over and you end up dreading the day when you have to put your baby into childcare and head back to the office. I spent a lot of time really focusing on the positives of restarting my role: feeling mentally stimulated again in a way I hadn’t been for over a year; the huge personal satisfaction I always get from completing a task well; enjoying the adult interaction of an open plan office; reconnecting with the old me that’s more than just a mum; and the little things too like getting to drink a cup of tea while it’s still hot! I actively coached myself into having these thoughts with the aid of a lot of self-talk. 

If you’re struggling, reach out to an empathetic person from your HR or learning and development team who can coach you gradually back into the workplace. 

Recognise what you’re taking back to the workplace with you

A lot of mums suffer a bout of low confidence as they head back to the office. I spent a lot of time thinking about the many ways in which motherhood was going to make me an even better employee. I’d faced multiple challenges in the 12 months I’d been off work, and as a result I felt stronger, more decisive and certainly more resilient. Once back at work I found myself to be more assertive, able to better see the bigger picture and much better equipped to deal with situations that might once have stressed or frustrated me.

Plan your first few weeks very carefully

However good you feel about returning to work, that first time you drop your child off at childcare is absolutely heart wrenching. I took the advice of a best friend and staggered my little boy’s induction into nursery, starting with a few hours here and there from around two weeks before my return date, and gradually building up to a whole day. This meant that by first day back in the office, we had a morning routine, the tears – both his and mine – had gone, and I could arrive at my desk feeling professional and ready to focus, rather than worrying about how he was doing.

I also created a timetable with my husband around baby pick-ups and drop offs so that I wasn’t shouldering all the responsibility. And for the first few weeks back, I deliberately avoided making any other evening plans or seeing friends, aware that I’d need a lot of rest time. The only exception was that I took up yoga, which ticked both the exercise and mindfulness boxes. 

Direct how you’d like your handover to work

I had a great replacement, who enabled me to take the handover period at my own pace. Those early days of returning are incredibly tiring, both mentally and physically, so it’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll absorb tons of information in eight-hour sittings. Take regular breaks and don’t be afraid to ask your replacement to provide notes or repeat areas of the handover if you need it. 



Tips include….

Get organised

Leave as little as possible to the manic mornings: pack yours and your children's bags and get children's clothes and your own clothes ready the night before. Buy enough school clothes and children's socks and underwear so you're not a slave to the washing machine every evening. Have a 'grab and go ' place in the hall for keys, purse and all the things you need. Oh - and if your children are school age tip out their bags each evening to check for any letters they have forgotten to give you so you don't end up baking cakes for the cake stall the next morning at midnight or hurtling round at dawn trying to find a lost trainer as their gym days have been changed.

Give yourself a break

You can only do what you can do. Be kind to yourself and don't be too hard on yourself. It doesn't matter if your home's not immaculate and your children aren't fed super-nutritious, cooked-from-scratch food every day. There will be days when you feel guilty and wish you could be the parent helper on the school trip when you had to work and equally there will be days when you feel guilty as you were knackered after a night with a poorly child and didn't feel you gave it your all at work. That's just life. It happens to us all. Don't beat yourself up about it.



Melissa Terras is tired of being called superwoman because she has three young children and a job. Here she takes apart the myth and says there's no such thing as 'work-life balance'


I'm not superwoman ... I have a supportive partner

I'm not superwoman ... I have flexible working hours

I'm not superwoman ... I don't work in a lab-based discipline

I'm not superwoman ... I can afford help around the home

I'm not superwoman ... I take as many shortcuts as possible

I'm not superwoman ... I use all the technology I can to make this easy.

I'm not superwoman ... I travel a lot with work.

I'm not superwoman ... I live near family and friends

I'm not superwoman ... I work incredibly hard

Further links and resources

Working Families is a charity that helps working parents and carers and their employers find a better balance between responsibilities at home and work.

The charity provides information for working mothers, fathers and carers on:

  • their employment rights
  • Tax Credits and in-work benefits
  • maternity and paternity leave
  • maternity discrimination
  • flexible working options


See HR webpages for further information on policies that support a work-life balance.