We get it. Your world has been totally disrupted over the last month (maybe longer, but who’s counting?!). Just a few weeks ago you had it made. The cozy office, the cup of coffee, The black lab snuggled at your feet as you typed away, uninterrupted, for all those hours that your kids were at school.
Then came a pandemic, unforeseen circumstances that forced you and your family to stay at home…but still work. Where there was once help in the form of grandparents, camps, babysitters and the like that you could usually rely on, you now have to deal with this alone.
From working full-time to parenting, homeschooling, and navigating new tools for video conference calls, it can be a lot to manage. In either case, with busy and demanding children underfoot, how can you make sure to stay calm and keep both life and work carrying on?
It won’t, and we’re sure it hasn’t until this point been smooth or perfect but there are a few strategies you can use to make your new situation a little easier. Here are some of our top tips to help balance your career and children through this difficult time. And yes, it’s totally possible 🙂
Set a Routine
To begin, you need to make sure you have a daily routine in place. Try to keep the structure of the day the same as it has typically been. Beyond the benefits of familiarity, maintaining a regular schedule will give you firm guideposts for building your work and childcare schedules.
For example, if your children’s normal routine followed something like this;
- 8:00am – Breakfast
- 9:00am – School/Nursery
- 13:00 – Lunch
- After School – A mix of educational and craft activities
- 17:00 – Dinner
- 19:00 – Bed
We advise that you keep a similar routine in quarantine. Whether or not there’s school or a nanny, you should try and keep mealtimes and activity times the same. This way, you’ll identify the foundation based on what you already know and it will be familiar to you and your children too.
Create a Schedule
Next, build a schedule for each week that incorporates these routines at a high level but is modified to account for your work blocks and other new responsibilities such as meals, chores and relevant childcare.
In planning your schedule make sure you’ve covered:
- Your children’s schedule
- Chores (such as laundry, dishes, tidying, cleaning)
- Your work meetings or times it’s critical you have someone to cover your work while you handle childcare
Arrange all this information and put it into a calendar to start assigning shifts and duties to specific family members.You could use a Google Calendar so that everyone is aligned and it can be updated as you go, and for your own personal needs for work blocking, you can use BlockSite’s Scheduling feature to make sure you know when you need to focus on your work and at which times.
Depending on your childcare, community, and quarantine situation, here are three examples of how to make a schedule work:
A partner swap: 4-hour shifts where one partner works and the other is in charge of childcare.
Short shifts: 30-minute to 2-hour shifts that rotate among parents.
Video shifts: While you’ll still need to be paying some attention, it’s possible, especially with older kids, to organize virtual playdates or calls with grandparents that will keep them entertained while you’re answering emails or finishing an important task for work.
It really will feel like you need to make the most out of every hour in the day and squeeze every ounce of productivity out of every minute but once you have a schedule in place it will feel a lot easier. You may find that you have to work early in the morning or after the children are in bed, but be sure to schedule in breaks and unstructured times to unwind and connect with your partner and kids. It’s important you find ways to stop a burn out during this time and unwind too.
Due to making adjustments to balance your work and life schedules you’ll need to openly communicate with your team and with your boss.
Inevitably, they will understand as ‘we’re all in this together’ and it’s not a personal situation, rather a global one.
When discussing this with your team and your boss you’ll need to let them know when you’ll be able to work, and when it will be more challenging. That’s why our previous point of creating a schedule is so important. You’ll be able to let your team know your availability for calls and collaborations and implement a structure that will not only benefit you, but everyone around you too.
Additionally, you could also put in your revised ‘business hours’ in your work calendar to let everyone know of your availability and when you are open to Zoom calls and meetings.
However, even with the best-laid plans, your children will interrupt your work. They’ll scream just as you unmute during a conference call. They’ll bomb your video meetings. Or you may just need to take them outside for 30 minutes so they can burn off some energy when you didn’t plan for it. Your coworkers will be more understanding about interruptions if you warn them ahead of time. Afterall, you aren’t trying to cheat the system by working while watching your children, you’re making the best of an unprecedented situation, and you’ll probably have coworkers going through it with you.
Scheduling times to take breaks is very important when juggling both home and work life at once. For example, working for a few hours in the morning or evening gives you the opportunity to take breaks during the day and deal with those ‘unforeseen circumstances’ that come with working from home and having the kids around.
During your “break” time, you can play with the kids, go over their schoolwork, or get outside. If you give the kids your full attention during breaks, they can look forward to them, and it might just be easier for them to get through your working blocks too.
However, make sure that as the adult in the house, you also have downtime. Parents who work while managing children are always on, and that can take a toll on everyone’s patience and energy levels.
So, for example, you might want to take some time out to read a book, work on a craft project, or exercise. In a house with multiple adults you can trade off—and try to discuss when and how you’ll each take your downtime in advance to avoid arguments. Solo parents might need to wait until the weekend or use an early morning or late evening for alone time.
Start by scheduling frequent breaks in your day. Instead of sitting down and working on a task for three hours, break up your day a bit more. Work for 30 or 50 minutes, then take a 10-minute break to hang out with your kids. You can also use BlockSite’s Work Mode to help with this. This feature on BlockSite, enables you to schedule breaks and keeps you focused on set time frames.
With children at home during the Coronavirus period, it’s important for those ‘breaks’ to find entertainment. It’s also just as important to find entertainment and/or ‘break time’ that doesn’t require a lot of supervision to give you more work time, or break time of your own.
For example, depending on their age you could choose from the following;
- Naps, swings, bouncy chairs
- Shows or videos such as Baby Einstein
- Musical songs
- Favorite shows and/or related online games.
- Educational games and apps
- Reading and/or writing stories
- Educational, positive, or inspirational shows or movies
- School platforms
- Online activities with their friends
Virtual playdates: Choose Google Hangouts (or Zoom if you prefer) and send invites to your kids’ friends’ parents. For the playdate itself, you could have a station set up in your house with a tablet, laptop ready to go. During the playdate, it can be as simple as the kids catching up and coloring together or one of the parents leading an activity or reading books.
Sports activities for the kids. Register your kids for free online classes and schedule these during the times you need to get some work done. It is also very beneficial for them to get some exercise everyday, even if it’s just going into the backyard and playing catch, they’ll be able to burn off some energy and get some fresh air at the same time.
Activities for you. Staying social, active, and connected is just as important for the adults. If you don’t already have one, create a book club or a sport/TV show viewing club. Get it into people’s calendars and set up a video call so everyone can watch together. Make sure to still get your workouts in with a run outside, an indoor circuit, or using online options. Even a family walk around the block will do wonders.
It’s important to keep positive and remember to be realistic during a time like this. Not everything is going to be smooth sailing and not everything will be really bad. Learn to balance the good with the bad and accept that the bad days are just that – a bad day and will pass.
Juggling parenting and working on the best of days is hard, let alone when you’re all stuck in one place for extended periods of time due to a virus. It’s important to balance the ‘juggle’ and take some time for self care too.
Remember that book you wanted to read? That relaxing bath you wanted to take? Or that meditation you were looking forward to doing? – Make time for it and do it. It will help keep things in perspective and give you some balance and personal space – and we all could do with some of that.
As parents you also need to remember that this situation takes its toll on children too. They don’t get to see their friends or play or learn as they’re used to, so you also need to acknowledge and reward good behavior.
If you’ve got young children that need a lot of attention, before you start a meeting, let them know what’s happening and that you can’t be interrupted. Help them start a puzzle or coloring project, and let them know that you’ll be back shortly.
If your kids do interrupt you, stay calm. You may need to stop what you’re doing and deal with the problem. But, once you’ve handled the situation, and finished your work, have another discussion with your kids. Explain to them that when they leave you alone, it helps you do a better job, so you need their help so you can do the best work possible.
When your kids don’t interrupt you, reward them. Give them lots of praise, and thank them for their help and maybe even give them that special treat they were asking for earlier. Or, spend some extra time with them and read a book or play a game. While older children may not appreciate the gesture as much, they might appreciate extra video game time.
Yes, these rewards sound remarkably similar to bribes. But working from home with kids sometimes means you do what you have to do to maintain harmony and keep the peace. Don’t worry, your secrets are safe with us 😉
Overall, this working from home thing is totally doable, with or without children. It’s just about planning and finding routines and balance throughout it all to make sure you get your work done, be the best parent you can be and make time for yourself. Remember, this is only temporary and it will pass.