With the recent Coronavirus outbreak, many of us are finding ourselves in situations we never anticipated. One of the challenging lifestyle changes facing many of us is working from home with our kids. It’s difficult enough to get yourself set up with a makeshift office space at home and adjust to doing your job remotely, but throw in full-time parenting and homeschooling and we have a tricky situation.
This is uncharted territory for everyone, so we’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to help you to make the best of this trying time.
Create a Schedule
Kids thrive on structure. It’s reassuring for them to know what’s coming next. Many children may be feeling uneasy with the sudden removal of school or creche from their days. Create a schedule for each of your children and one for yourself and your partner. This may take time to plan out everyone’s days to work with each other, but it will be time well spent. When your children are scheduled to do something they can do independently, schedule yourself to work quietly in a nearby room.
If you have babies, schedule their naps to fit in with your focused work time. You’ll be surprised how much work you can get done in a 1-2 hour designated time slot.
Don’t worry if things don’t follow schedule
Your schedule is your friend, not your invitation for self-criticism. Family life is changeable and unpredictable. Your schedule is your family’s guide through the day, but you’re not going to execute the schedule perfectly every time. Give yourself a break, you and your children are in an unfamiliar situation and you’re all doing your best.
Set up a workspace
Even if you don’t have the space to create an entire office, claim a quiet corner as your own workspace. This is good for your productivity because once you’re in that spot your brain knows it’s time to work. It’s good for your work-life balance because once you’re away from that area you’re signalling to yourself that it’s not time for work-related thoughts. It also has the added benefit of acting as a nonverbal cue to your kids (and your partner!) that you’re working and should be left alone.
Be present in your task
Become laser-focused. If the schedule says it’s time to work then commit your brain to being 100% focused on work. If the schedule says it’s time to play in the garden with the kids, throw yourself whole-heartedly into that. If you’re constantly feeling torn between your kids and your work then you’ll soon start to feel like you’re doing neither very well.
Plan for interruptions
Working from home usually involves a lot of conference calls as co-workers try to stay in touch and collaborate as seamlessly as they would in the office. This presents an issue for those working with kids in the next room. If you have older children, you could come up with a signal so they know when they shouldn’t disturb you or make noise. This could be tying a ribbon on the door of your office or wearing a tiara or hat as a visual cue to them (not a good idea if you’re on a video conference call!).
With younger kids, the mute button can be your best friend. Whenever you aren’t speaking just mute your end of the call. That way your colleagues won’t be deafened if your baby or toddler has a spontaneous crying episode during the call.
If you have a baby: wear them
Babywearing has an extensive list of benefits for both baby and parent. In the context of working from home, it’s one of the best ways you can keep your baby happy. Your hands will be free to work and your baby will relax, soothed by the sound of your heartbeat and the sound of typing! Some of the most popular baby carriers include Baby Bjorn and Ergobaby!
Work different hours where possible
This is a strategy favoured amongst parents who work from home full time. Don’t get caught up in the 9-5 schedule if you don’t necessarily need to. Evaluate your tasks and identify which tasks are more collaborative and need to be done while talking to colleagues and which can be done solo. If you’re a morning person you could get up a couple of hours before the rest of the household to get a good chunk of your work done before the day begins. If you’re better at night then set aside time in your schedule to work after the kids go to bed. Don’t forget to pencil in some relaxation time, you’ve certainly earned it!
Enjoy the little moments
The silver lining in this chaotic cloud is all of the extra time we get to spend with our families. How often do we get to play football in the garden on our lunchbreak or have a lazy breakfast together without the looming thoughts of commutes and school-runs? Although times are stressful, there will be moments we’ll look back on fondly when we’re back in our offices day-dreaming about the weeks we were all stuck at home together.