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Coping Strategies for a New Job and Work Schedule

By David J. Wallace 
Adjust to a different commute. Learn the ropes. Befriend coworkers. Handle a new boss.
No doubt you weighed these and other dynamics of changing jobs or returning to work after a period of unemployment. But now that you've accepted the offer, it’s time to consider the other ways the new job may affect your personal life.
Even the basics of a daily job routine can trigger significant adjustments. Your schedule and priorities will change for everyone around you: partners or spouses, kids, parents and even friends. From alarm clock settings to deciding whether dinner is homemade or takeout, tell yourself (and any other people in your home) that flexibility and change will be part of your new work schedule.
Follow a New Work Schedule
Take some time before Day One to review non-work commitments and make a list to decide which, if any, may need to be scaled back or changed. What obligations can be shifted to others? For example, could home delivery for groceries or carpooling kids with a friend or neighbor give you some flexibility?
Asking for help is vital but can be difficult, particularly for those returning to work after being a family caregiver, says Marjorie Freundlich, a career adviser in Needham, Massachusetts. “The lifestyle changes may mean letting go of control of taking care of your children after school, for instance, and using childcare instead,” she says. “Or with household jobs, redistributing work within the family or hiring help if it’s affordable.”

  • Start with a trial run of your new commute, making note of gas stations, coffee shops or grocery stores along the way.
  • Plan and shop for a weekly dinner schedule to simplify meals, but have menus from local eateries on hand in case of unexpected work demands.
  • Even little adjustments, like making breakfast the night before or programming the speed dial on your cell phone, can reduce stress and let you focus on your new job during the crucial early stages.

Changing Jobs, Adjusting Priorities
If you’ve had a long stretch being at home or out of work, your family and friends may have expectations about your availability. Beyond the day-to-day logistics and recalibration, the right mix of work, friends, hobbies, home and family should come together organically. So as your work routine evolves, plan for and meet the added demands on your time.

  • If you can, plan ahead for birthdays, school vacations and other events that may take you out of the office.
  • Some couples schedule date nights or other mini-escapes. Why not book a weekend holiday and do something special? It may take months before you accrue vacation time for a longer getaway.
  • Make a date with friends or family that you haven’t seen in awhile. Let them know you are changing jobs and are settling into a new routine.

Mind the Money
Beyond the relief of a steady income, beware of financial surprises. Look out for taxes due on unemployment benefits or a spending spree that can undo months of frugality. New clothes, a spa visit or other nice-to-do expenses may feel like a reward but should only come after you’ve managed the essentials.

  • Examine when you need to pay monthly bills. Check the due dates to avoid penalties or late fees and be sure payments match up with your new pay schedule or amount.
  • When you have a clearer view of how work affects your schedule and dollars, that’s the time to develop a detailed budget, start cutting credit card debt and perhaps reevaluate your insurance coverage. An accountant can help you focus on the bottom line.
  • Explore your retirement savings options at the new workplace. Consider rolling over your 401k accounts or creating an Individual Retirement Account, says Eric Liriano, a certified financial planner in Newton, Massachusetts.

Keep Moving Ahead at the New Job
Greta Roberts, owner of Target Teams Inc., cautions that "there is a ‘grass is greener’ phase" when changing jobs. Just because things are different doesn’t make them better or worse -- and it can be hazardous to cling to the glory days of a shorter commute, simpler routine or familiar workload. “It’s like you never left if you keep looking back," she says. "That was a different place and a different time. Companies want people who are looking forward and want to contribute to change.”

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