Remember the awkward and hilarious video of political science professor Robert Kelly being interrupted by his toddler daughter while giving a live interview on the BBC? Well, we’re all Robert right now!
As school closures swept the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic, parents everywhere started to worry over putting plans in place to keep their kids entertained and educated, while also managing their work schedules. We do get it, and we know it’s not easy!
Even if you’ve worked from home for years and have the perfect work-at-home setup, your plan probably never fully included family members to be online at the same time. And since everyone might be at home unexpectedly for weeks, you need a new work-at-home plan—fast!
OK, but how do we do that?
We’ve got some tips for you: it is just a matter of getting a little more creative 🙂
Communication is, of course, an essential part of any job. In-person or remote, letting your manager and your team know what you’re working on and what you’re struggling with can help make your job a little easier, especially right now, there’s a lot of good faith around if you’re transparent
But, when you add kids to the mix, suddenly work isn’t so easy. Make sure you proactively communicate with your employer that you’ve got little ones at home and that you can’t guarantee every conversation will be interruption-free. With any luck, you can work flexibly so you can help your kids when they need it and work when they’re occupied.
Routine, Tag or Prioritize
What’s most important time-wise throughout your day? Can you batch that time into a couple of hours sprint, whilst your partner completes morning lessons with the little monsters? Can you interchangeably be online/offline with your partner, allowing the little ones to have a constant parent engaged? This way you have a constant rhythm for both your work and life responsibilities
If you’re a single parent, clearly communicate expectations to both your kid(s) and your manager. You’ll need flexibility from your employer to address the needs of any children, so make sure that you’re proactive and you let team members know what to expect from you. Here is where the routine is the killer unlock to ensuring both the little ones are engaged with lessons and you’re engaged with work responsibilities. Try out different ratios, you complete your heavy lifting tasks in the morn, your little one completes engaging mathematics lessons online, in the afternoon you complete your commercial or creative tasks and your little one completes art lessons alongside. Play with the tempo and routine until it meshes and feels natural
Set Flexible Boundaries, But boundaries nonetheless
Once you’ve talked with your employer, you’ll need to be clear with your family, and that means establishing boundaries, they might be fuzzy, but it’s ok for now. Start with a conversation that working from home means “working.” As much as you or they might like, you can’t hang out with Netflix
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 frequent breaks to help them. Explain that, even make a game out of it with a countdown alarm or around objectives to complete for the children. ” once you’ve read that entire chapter, I’ll listen as you read it back to me”
Reward Good Behaviour
Isolated WFH is probably a place for carrot over stick, so acknowledge and reward good behaviour! If you’ve got younger kids that require a lot of attention before you start a meeting – help them start a quiet puzzle or colouring project, and let them know that you’ll check back shortly. Again, objectives and games, the more creative and story orientated the better!
Mix up reward schedules, hourly, daily, weekly perhaps? set the tasks and win conditions. Voilà! You have yourself a reward pathway with learning objectives!
Along those same lines, there may be times when you have to think creatively about where you work. If you don’t have an in-house office, what do you do when you need some privacy during a client or work meeting? Ditto if you have an office but also have a partner who needs to use said office. Can you use the basement? Garden? Balcony, The closet? (Maybe not the latter?)
A quiet place with internet access can act as an office during need. A bedroom is your best bet. But, depending on your situation, that may not be possible.
Also, remember: your colleagues will understand, there’s a good chance they’ll be in the same situation as you are! We’re all in this ‘finding our feet’ thing together!
Stress Less, Behaviours are a-changing
During “normal” times, you might monitor screen time and even limit it. But working from home with kids during an emergency is different. While you probably don’t want them playing video games for hours at a time, there’s nothing wrong with letting them have a little more screen time than usual. Given that child learning and entertainment is almost 100% digital currently
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. It could be a blizzard, excessive heat, or even a power outage. So follow the above tips and remember: go easy on yourself!
You’re essentially being asked to perform two full-time jobs right now 🙂