The challenge is real, right? Truthfully, I already work from home with the kids around, but usually 2 of them are in school and I have part-time help for the baby. Our babysitter is still with us for a few hours a week, but it’s still a huge adjustment and juggle since they KNOW we are home. As many of us have been adjusting to having all of our kids home while also trying to work, the challenge of being a working parent has skyrocketed. Keeping kids occupied, fed, and safe while taking phone calls, answering emails and getting such a tough, but here are a few tips to try to make it a functional environment for everyone.
It’s inevitable that parents who are typically in an office setting are being thrown for a loop with the new work from home setup. Since almost everyone is in the same boat, keeping lines of communication open and honest with your team is crucial. If you have kids at home, who are typically in child care or school, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to perform at the standards you would have during a typical work day. By having transparent conversations with those you work with, especially your superiors, you can devise a plan that will allow your work day to include sustainability while also being realistic about caring for your little ones.
For me? I try to take (literally) zero phone calls and do everything over email. If I must take a phone call, I make it abundantly clear that the kids are around. Most of the time – the person I am speaking with is in the same situation.
Create A Dedicated Work Space
If you have a home office – make it clear that it is off limits, especially if the door is closed. If you’re not used to working at home, be sure to set up a home office space that will allow you to work in peace. I sometimes will just take over one of the kids’ rooms and close the door. If you are taking shifts, take everything you need into the room with you while your partner is with the kids – that way, you can try to focus, and don’t need to make your presence known to get some water. Make sure to shut the door until you are completely done with your work in an effort to stay honed in on my tasks at hand. Being secluded from the chaos of the kids and focusing on what needs to be done has allowed us both to be more productive.
On that note – time blocking is a dream. Read more about how I do that here. But the basics are to only work on a FEW things during your dedicated work time. If you are working on email – close everything else and put your phone away. Social media time? Close out your emails and everything else. Writing or doing something more creative? Close out your email and put away your phone. This will help you feel like you have actually accomplished something at the end of your work time instead of bopping back and forth between tasks and not fully finishing anything.
Stagger Work Schedules
If both you and your partner are expected to work a full day from home, creating a child care and work schedule can play a huge role in making your day feel productive. Review your meetings/calls and workload the night before and try, if you can, to block out time for each of you. IE: 10-1 Party A, 1-3 Party B, 3-4 Party A, 4-5 Party B. I think 1-2 hour shifts are smart because it allows you enough time to get a grouping of work or calls done, but still allows you to not be “away” for too long when you are covering for your partner. Plus, it gets you time in the morning and later in the day to make sure you are checking in.
Include Your Kids (if possible)
I can’t even count the number of times the girls have asked to go to work with daddy or to help mommy do her work. Take advantage of this time (if you have that flexibility) and let your kids see what you do. If they are old enough, give them “tasks” to complete to help you out (even if it’s just drawing a picture). When you make their tasks seem important for your job you can buy yourself time to squeeze in some work time while they’re busy “helping”! Carmen and PJ have both helped me test recipes and take photos for my work. They aren’t great at writing blog posts, yet. 😛
Take Breaks and Know Your Limits
While completely changing our schedules and daily life is chaos enough, knowing your limits is going to help you accomplish a more successful work day. Can you have a family lunch together? It’s a great way for both of the adults to unplug for an hour and for the kids to get quality time. The weather in the northeast is unpredictable these days but getting outside for a walk and fresh air has also been an incredible source of mental relief. If you’re trying to cram 40 hours of work in while also taking care of your children, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. I will be the first (and definitely not the last) person to tell you from first-hand experience that it is nearly impossible to have a pre-pandemic “normal” work day. Give yourself grace and know that you might not accomplish as much as you would in a normal work-day scenario. Make sure you are taking care of yourself, drinking water, eating nourishing food, and taking breaks.