The last few weeks have been quite a shock to us all with the shelters in place, businesses (hopefully only) temporarily closing and the fear of a new and devastating virus.
But, guess what’s interesting about that statement? To us all.
We are all in this together, just in different ways. For example, I have the privilege of being able to do my job from home with my 1 year old and 6 year old boys while my husband still has to go to work 6 hours a day. I previously worked remotely for nearly a year prior to this abrupt change, however with shelter in place, working with my kids is a different story entirely.
Some days I think, “I’ve totally got this” and others, well let’s not go there for now. Even after reading every how to work from home article – I recommend this collection from the LA Times, I’ve had to come up with something that works for our family.
To ensure I can stay productive, positive and patient (ish), I’ve compiled my top 6 tips on how to work from home with children.
Tip 1: Set Up Your Day
Continue to still wake up early enough to get ready for the day. Put on real pants, brush your hair, have your coffee etc. Then, when you get to your workspace, decide what you are going to accomplish for that day, just the absolute priorities. I still love a planner. I have separate sections for work and life on each day.
If you want to use something on the computer, that works too. (check out Airtable, Trello or Monday) But keep it simple, don’t let it consume you. Which is why I still love pen to paper for this task. By doing this, you are giving yourself a little mental refocus on being able to visualize what you can get done for the day.
You still have a CRM, a calendar and who knows what other tools. But you need to show yourself how “do-able” today is going to be.
Tip 2: Time Block
It’s an art of its own to be disciplined with time blocking. It’s difficult for many to adhere to but it’s absolutely necessary in this situation. I really like this article by Dev that gives simple reasons why time blocking is beneficial, but the most important one for me is that it “minimizes context-switching.” One of the things I hear a lot from those who struggle working from home is that they bounce around mid task constantly.
Now, add your children. Here’s what you have to do, block the times you are able to get work done without your children. I call them “crunch times” and I have 3 when my kids are either sleeping or I have my husband home. I have a room I go into for crunchtime, every time. These blocks are for customer “facing” meetings, work that requires your full attention or important internal meetings. Mark these on your calendars and communicate it with your team and your family.
It’s also important to communicate this with those that are external, like customers, who you need to connect with. Automate the ability to set appointments during your crunch times with a scheduling tool. I love to use TABLE for this. I have a bot, Zoe, (hey girl!) that quickly walks anyone through my availability to help book a time that works for us both.
Tip 3: Be Flexible
This may sound counterintuitive to tip number 2 but when working with your children, you must be mobile. When it’s not my “crunchtime” blocks, I still have to get work done and with young children, they have to be in my sight at all times. So I follow them around with my laptop doing work that I can multi-task with.
This also provides the change of scenery and movement we all need when working throughout the day.
You must also be flexible, not just in your physical location but your schedule. Eating times may vary, your kids may need you more than usual, that homeschool assignment may be requiring more brain power than usual. You need to be open minded during your open blocks. You can’t time block every minute of your day with children.
Tip 4: Take Advantage
Take advantage of the fact that you are working from home with your kids. It’s important to take breaks from work. So when you do, make sure you take advantage of something fun with your kids. It could be a nap with them, a project, watch a show they like or go outside and play some games.
You can also throw in a load of laundry or start dinner in a crock pot so that you have more down time later. Give your brain a break and fill that time with your darling children.
Tip 5: Be Forgiving
Working at home with your children is very challenging. They require a lot of attention, are usually loud and they don’t respect boundaries. They are also likely used to exerting more energy if they go to childcare or school and now they are now exerting that energy in your home.
It’s important to be forgiving with yourself and to others you are working with internally and externally. We don’t need to add any further pressure to the situation for ourselves so just forgive yourself and others a little more than usual when it comes to working from home with kids around. It’s completely okay to show a big part of who you are, a parent!
Also, be forgiving with your children. Chances are, they are not used to you working when you are all home together. They likely associate home time as down time with parents so this is also an adjustment for them.
Tip 6: Shut Down
Lastly, it’s important to shut down for the day. Your kids (and yourself) have seen enough of you toggling between work and them. It’s easy when working from home to not stop working. It’s difficult enough to create a separation between work and home when you are working, parenting, teaching together 5 days a week.
This is where you set your boundaries. By shutting down work time, you will be more productive and more positive. This goes back to the time blocking benefits. You can be more fully present in work mode and parent mode when you make sure to not go back and forth 24/7.
Practicing these tips have really helped me become a more productive contributor to my team at work, while being more present with my kids. It’s still a work in progress but the overall message here is take it one day at a time. These tips will serve as guides to help you know what to do in each of those days. Hang in there parents and caretakers! And yes, that is me in the picture working more effectively from home, with my children. (WFHWC)