As governments around the world try to deal with the health and economic crisis brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic, parents have a whole another challenge at home — They need to find a way to effectively work from home while looking after their kids at the same time.
With quarantine guidelines and restricted movement in public spaces, taking your kids for long walks, scheduled playdates, or daycare is not an option anymore. Kids are at home all the time and to say that this has been a struggle for parents would be an understatement.
Remote work for parents can definitely take some adjustment to the new normal. Fortunately, there are some tips you can follow to make the whole adjustment easier and create an optimum work-life balance.
1. Prep yourself and your kids for remote work
For most kids, their mom and dad being at home meant it was complete family time and their parents’ attention was always on them. But working from home means you will have to carefully divide your hours between work and family time.
Sit down with your kids and to discuss why you are taking up remote work and what it would mean for the family as a whole.
Start by talking about the benefits of remote work like saving everyday commute time and sharing all of the family meals together. The kids also need to understand that they shouldn’t disturb you while you are working on important tasks.
2. Create boundaries
You need a physical barrier between your home office and the rest of your house to remind both your kids and yourself of the difference between work time and family time. If these boundaries begin to blur, it can create a lot of stress for your entire family.
Start by creating a designated workspace for yourself. If you have a spare room in your house, you can turn it into your home office or you can set up your desk in an empty corner which isn’t visited as much by your family members.
While it’s easier when your kids are old enough to manage things on your own, if your children are too small to be left alone, you can set up a baby gate and a play area near your desk to keep an eye on them while you work. Bring in some interesting games and toys that can keep your kids entertained for long periods of time.
Many parents think they need to be both good parents and employees when they are working from home, but it’s not always that easy. There is no shame in getting in-house child care or an extra hand to make things less stressful.
3. Schedule your work hours
Creating the right schedule is crucial to balance remote work with effective parenting. You should take some time out to discuss things with your partner and your kids, and then create a schedule that works for everyone.
- Uninterrupted work time when you can’t be disturbed
- Flexible work time when you can be interrupted if needed
- Quality time with kids
- Supervised or unsupervised activities with kids
- Family meals
It’s a good idea to add these in your calendar, just like you would add important meetings. You should also make changes to the overall schedule according to your changing work deadlines and family priorities. If you live with your partner, share all the childcare responsibilities and house chores equally so that both of you have enough time to focus on work, and have some downtime as well.
4. Schedule things for your kids
This pandemic has changed your kids’ lives too. For the first time in their lives, they have no school to go to, no friends to meet face to face, no social interactions with new people and their outside activities have become limited. The structure in their lives is suddenly gone and you need to recreate it in your own home so that they can stay occupied during the day, learn new things, keep themselves entertained, and not interrupt you every hour.
Create a schedule for your kids that includes:
- Their online school classes
- A designated homework hour
- Virtual playdates with their friends and routine video calls with other family members
- Games/ Fun activities/ Entertainment time
- Quality time with you
5. Manage interruptions
You can plan out as many fun activities for your kids as you want, but they will still end up interrupting you while you are working, at least sometimes. And it’s not just kids. You will also find yourself interrupted by numerous other things when you are working, whether it be phone calls, household chores, or pets.
The truth is you can never prevent interruptions completely, which is why you should focus on managing interruptions so that they affect your work as little as possible.
You can also put up colored signs on your home office door or over your desk to let your kids know whether they can come in or not. Put a red sign when you need some quiet time, and a green sign when you are working on shallow tasks and you don’t mind being disturbed. Encourage your kids to create signs for you as it will make them feel like they are helping you prepare for work.
Though you should only put up the sign when you strictly don’t want to be disturbed because if you put up the sign the whole day, your kids will eventually ignore it and interrupt you. The key to managing your interruptions successfully is by allowing them from time to time.
6. Communicate with your team
Communication is what makes remote teams successful. If you haven’t been able to give your best at work because you have been struggling at home, let your team know about it. After all, it’s better to be honest than pretending you have everything under control while your work continues to suffer.
Inform your team that you have kids at home and you need to pay attention to them as well. You can ask for a change in the work schedule or keep your working hours flexible. Indicating your availability can be immensely helpful for your team members to know when to contact you and schedule important meetings with you.
Go easy on yourself and your kids
The whole world is fighting through a pandemic and it is unreasonable for you to think you can stay at the top of your work and home life, all the time. There is just too much going on and you can’t compare your current productivity to your pre-pandemic one. Instead, go easy on yourself and your kids too, who are still trying to make sense of what is happening around them. Moreover, cut your team some slack and let some of the lower priority tasks slide for now.
While remote work is definitely here to stay, your kids will eventually go back to school, daycare and public parks will open, and you will have ample time to prove yourself at work.