So, you’ve found yourself working from home with kids during the coronavirus lockdown. Odds are, it’s an entirely new adventure for you and your family, and as the days have gone by, you may have found it challenging to maintain a work-life balance. The reality is, just because you’ve come inside doesn’t mean you’ve left the distractions at the front door: more often than not, our lives inside the walls of our home require just as much—if not more—attention as the world outside.
Navigating around the routine of working from home full time doesn’t just happen overnight, especially if you’re simultaneously caring for your children. Finding a structure to your day that keeps you energized, focused, and productive is a challenging undertaking.
Here are seven tips to make your adjustment to working from home with children a little bit easier.
1. Set a schedule and stick to it.
Don’t take your time with your morning cup of coffee for granted: when you’re just starting your day, it’s a great opportunity to think ahead and sketch out an hourly breakdown of all the things you want to accomplish. Try to plan out activities that correspond with blocks of time that you’ll need to complete smaller projects. For example, coordinate coloring time with a shorter project, and give your kids some screen time during a period when you have some back-to-back calls.
2. Designate “parent” time and “work” time.
The more tasks you have, the more difficult it can feel to get them fully completed from start to finish. So, don’t tackle them simultaneously. Instead, try to keep them separate. If you’re dedicating time to help your kid with homework or an art project, try to schedule that time during a period right after you’ve finished a task for work. That way, you can take advantage of some working downtime where something you’ve worked on is either being reviewed or you’re waiting on somebody else to complete an assigned action item so you can focus on quality time with your child.
3. Get outside!
The last thing you want to battle when working from home is a case of cabin fever. Optimize your lunch break for a walk around the neighborhood with the dog, or even spend some time doing yoga or meditating together in your backyard. When following current safety advice, Wirecutter recommends getting creative: “Take the kids out for a bike or scooter ride away from other people; if you have a yard or deck, consider a hula-hoop or jump-rope session.”
4. Make sure to take breaks to refuel and reset.
To accommodate the shift in your schedules, consider rethinking what your “on-time” vs. “off-time” looks like. Instead of working in two-to-three-hour intervals with longer breaks, consider taking shorter hour-long focus sprints followed by 10 or 15-minute “energizers” with your kids to play some music and get some pent-up energy out together.
5. Account for interruptions—and have a plan for when they happen.
Our kids demand our attention: so interruptions, unfortunately, are an inevitable part of adjusting to working from home with our children. Consider a non-verbal “Do Not Disturb” tactic: maybe you can put a big sign on your office door when you’ve got a series of calls lined up. Or, if you’re working out of a shared space, try putting on a hat or a colored sweatshirt that signifies you’re busy. If you find yourself wrapped up in mitigating a burst of their energy or calls for attention and you’ve got someone on the other line, don’t try to push through. Instead, end the call, and reschedule for after your child has calmed down.
6. Don’t be afraid to seek outside help when you need it.
As much as every single one of us hopes to be a superhuman, balancing children with working or learning online full-time can be extremely difficult to tackle by yourself. Whether your partner is also working full-time or you’re a single parent, it can be a good idea to offer your child activities that require a “third party” such as an instructor. There are many options for online classes for kids, or, you can offer to do a service swap with a close friend via video chat. As an example, she can teach a piano class via FaceTime in exchange for a home-cooked meal or dessert of her choice.
7. Set your boundaries—for yourself and your work.
Shifting from an in-office role to working from home full-time is challenging in and of itself, so make sure you account for the learning curve that comes to follow. You’ll likely have to adjust to a new measure of productivity as you take on more responsibilities in an adjusted setting. Make sure that during these times, you remain kind to yourself and while holding yourself accountable, also give yourself—and others in your—a little bit of breathing room to adjust to the new normal.
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