Even if you’ve worked from home for years and have the perfect work-at-home setup, your plan probably never included family members clamoring to be online at the same time. And since everyone might be at home unexpectedly, you need a new work-at-home plan—fast.
Parenting While Working
Parents who have been fortunate enough to avoid layoffs and work from home are performing a nearly impossible balancing act every day, keeping up with their own work while caring for and teaching their children.
The status of schools and child care programs in the fall will dictate the ability of working parents to fully return to work. If you’re an involved parent, you’re supposed to play down that fact at work or risk being penalized—at least at many American workplaces. But current circumstances, with offices and schools closed because of the coronavirus outbreak, are unique. Now, with children popping up in virtual meetings, it’s impossible to hide what has always been true: Raising children is a round-the-clock responsibility.
By understanding and recognizing this reality you can better manage your time (if you are a working parent) or better understand the constraints your team members are working under (if they are working parents). Unfortunately, a quick and easy fix isn’t available, no matter how quickly we’d all like to see one.
Try to come up with the best plan you can, and acknowledge it won’t likely go as smoothly as anyone hopes. Here are some ideas for you to mitigate stress during these impossible circumstances.
1. Cut Your To-Do List Down
Make a to-do list every day, for both work and home. While it may seem overwhelming at first, your next step is to decide which of these items can be pushed back, passed to a colleague or tossed out. Paring down what has to be done will greatly help to reduce stress!
2. Set Boundaries
Start with a conversation that working from home means “working”—that means you can’t hang out.
Have a family meeting and explain how work works. Let your kids know that you have certain tasks that you must accomplish, and you can’t always take breaks to help them.
3. Teaching Opportunities Are Catch-Up Opportunities
Taking care of a pet, setting the table, taking out the garbage, hanging the clothes—getting your family into a routine with chores can help free up time for you. Go a step further and add a reward for those who take care of tasks without being asked.
4. Grandparents Are Your Link to History
Do you know your family history? Do your kids? Why not consider asking your parents or grandparents to lead a lesson on a particular decade filled with personal anecdotes that might have otherwise been left untold. If they’re on your “quaranteam” perhaps they can take the kids on a field trip around your home town, getting them much needed outside time and you some interruption free work time.
5. Make Nap Time Your Time
If your child still takes regular naps, block your calendar for the duration of the nap: no meetings or phone calls. Set aside this time to either focus on tasks that require your full attention or have a quick coffee break or alone time to recharge.
6. Reward Your Kids for Respecting Your Time
When your kids don’t interrupt you, reward them. Give them lots of praise, and thank them for their help. Spend some extra time with them and read a book or play a game.
7. The Screen Is O.K.
Honestly, giving yourself permission to use media (learning apps, Netflix, YouTube Kids, etc.) is a necessity. The amount of time depends on the family, but the increase in quality family time you’re likely experiencing during this time will likely outweigh the negatives of increased screen time.
8. Let Go of Perfection
The house might not be pristine, the grass could use a cut, and the delivery person knows you by name. Let go. It’s not perfect, but perfect is over-rated—it’s good enough. Don’t look back on this time with regrets for how you showed up for your family each day. Remember the togetherness, being cooped up in our home, amongst the chaos.
Working at Home With Kids Is Challenging, But Necessary
Even if it’s not coronavirus that closes school and work, there are plenty of other reasons why you might suddenly find yourself working from home with kids during an emergency. Although it will likely be uncomfortable and difficult to at least some degree, keep in mind that working from home right now—even as hard as it can be with kids—can be the difference that keeps millions of people safe and our organizations in business.
As you prepare for another day from home, perhaps more, working while your kids are about, consider these resources to help keep you and your kids productive.