Tips for Parents Who Are Working From Home
With school and business closures accompanied by social distancing recommendations to help slow the spread of COVID-19, many parents now find themselves working from home. Even if you’ve been working from home for years, now the kids are home too, bringing about a new set of challenges.
Try to create a plan that will work the best for you and your family, and know that it will not always go as smoothly as you’d like. Remember, we’re all in this together and having your loved ones close by will keep them safe and healthy.
Be realistic with your expectations.
How much work will you actually be able to get done in a day? Chances are, if you are balancing child care (regardless of age) with work, you won’t get as much done as you would in a typical workday. At the very least, there will be interruptions throughout your day that you, and your coworkers, aren’t used to. Give yourself grace. Take a minute when you answer a call to give them a heads-up that the conversation might not be interruption-free.
It also helps to discuss these expectations with your boss so they are aware of your situation as well as how you’ll best be able to communicate while working from home. Establish a regular check-in with your manager to determine priorities, how projects might be shifting, along with any struggles you might be facing.
Have designated work areas.
Your workspace should be just for work. Having that separation is key to maintaining your ‘sanctuary’ space, like your bedroom. While doing computer work in your bed might sound great, it will significantly decrease your motivation and make it hard to separate work from your home life. Having a designated area will also help your children to know when you are in ‘work mode’.
Set boundaries with your kids that are old enough to understand when you are unavailable. For example, discuss that when the door is closed, they can knock once, but if you don’t answer you’re in a meeting and can’t talk. Pro-tip: Put a sign on your door that says something like, “Meeting in place, do not disturb.” That way your older children will have a clear indicator not to interrupt.
Create a (flexible) routine.
If you are a distractible person, implementing a routine will benefit you in the long run by helping you be more productive. The flexibility aspect comes from having children in the mix; some parts of your routine are bound to be shaken up throughout the day.
However, there are things you can do to help make your day go smoothly. Determine beforehand what time you want to start work so that you can ‘show up’ (most likely to your kitchen table or home office) in a good headspace. Even though you’re working from home now, it’s important to set yourself up for success. Make the bed, get dressed, do your hair. Whatever would normally help you feel mentally prepared for a workday.
Set up your work station with everything you need. Have all the necessary chargers and technology at hand, a water bottle filled up, and any other materials you’ll need in your workspace that will ensure you don’t need to get up every 5 minutes.
Prioritize your tasks.
Make a list of your priority projects and tasks for the day. Try to accomplish them when you’ve set up activities that will keep your kids busy or when your partner can watch over the kids. If you have little ones, utilize their sleeping time during the day to make important phone calls or have meetings.
Keep a clean environment.
Having a messy house will make it tough to get in the right headspace for work. You might find yourself distracted with the dishes, laundry on the bed, or clutter on the table. This could lead to feelings of overwhelm or keep you from focusing on a project.
Try to do what you can the night before to make your environment manageable in the morning. Recruit older kids to help out with certain chores, or ensure they pick up after themselves so you can focus on your work during the day. This will keep you motivated and you’ll have fewer distractions!
Stay connected with coworkers.
While physical chats in the break rooms, by the printer, or at the front desk are no longer an option, that doesn’t mean you have to halt communication altogether. Obviously, you’re most likely speaking with them about work (via phone, email, or webcam), but this goes beyond that. Send them a quick email to check-in with how they’re doing. Bonus points for including a GIF or an inside joke.
Another option is to open up a webcam meeting with an icebreaker question. This will help working from home feel less isolating and bring a much-needed lightheartedness to your day.
Take a moment for yourself.
If you can, have a moment to yourself before the kids are up. Take that time to do something you enjoy. Have a cup of coffee, read a chapter of a book, or think about the things you’re grateful for. If you aren’t able to before the kids are awake, set a timer during the day to take a break and get some fresh air, or simply take a few deep breaths. Doing so will help you show up a better version of yourself not only for work but for your family as well.