It’s no secret, kids need around-the-clock attention. So if you find yourself working from home during quarantine you’re likely facing the challenge of a juggling act. Right now, parents are balancing their work duties with the responsibility of being a parent, entertaining and teaching their children who are home from school.
Let’s take a second to say, that’s a lot. Wearing many hats is challenging at the best of times, but now with the Coronavirus and telecommuting into work on the table, there’s a lot of change happening at once.
Parents, we see you, we commend you, and we’ve pulled together some tips for staying productive while working from home.
Create a Schedule
One of the benefits of working from home is flexibility. It’s a simple luxury to be able to take breaks when you want and step outside mid-day to enjoy the sunshine.
The downside to creating your own schedule is managing to find time to fit everything in and mesh with the people you’re collaborating with. This is where creating a set schedule will be helpful.
Start with the basics – set office hours and decide when you’ll work and when you’ll be focused on family. Set out how many hours you hope to work each day, when you plan to return calls, and think about what tasks you can accomplish while your children are occupied with an activity. You’ll get more done if you work smarter, not harder.
Talk with your employer to set out expectations for how many hours you can put in while at home with your children. There may be some days when you work odd hours, based on your child’s schedule. Given the reason for working at home, your employers may understand the need for non-traditional schedules.
Use Nap Time as Your Focus Time
Think of naptime as your focused work time while you’re working from home. Whether that’s one hour or three, use this time to complete tasks that require your complete focus and concentration.
On days when your child isn’t tired or won’t go down for a nap, set them up to have quiet time instead. Your focus time might come in 30-minute increments, before an interruption, but use that time wisely by planning out your tasks in advance, so you’ll still be productive.
Separate Parent from Professional
Creating a separation between your role as a parent and professional will improve your success in both areas. When you don’t separate your roles you won’t be able to give your full attention to either one, and won’t feel like you’re doing either role well.
Creating this mental separation helps if you have a space in your home you can dedicate to work. Setting up a kid-free zone will help you feel like you’re in the flow of your work and like you can make it your full priority. On the flip side, having the rest of the house free of work will allow you to feel like you have a break from those tasks. Consider rearranging furniture or repurposing a room to designate some space in your house to work.
Keep Kids Entertained
For you to get focused work-time in, your children will need something to keep their attention. Renee Belbeck, C.E.O. and founder of the National Association of W.O.M.E.N. (Women, Owners, Moms, Entrepreneurs, and Networkers), discovered a strategy that works for her and her kids “If I give them a little quality time, I’d get two hours to work.” She says the rule has worked well as her kids have grown from toddlers to pre-teens.
Another way to keep kids occupied is to give them something to look forward to. This could be a family walk where they get to ride their bike, a movie, or an hour of playtime with you when your work is done. If the kids have something to look forward to, they’ll be less likely to interrupt you.
Interruptions are Inevitable
Let’s be real, when you’re at home it’s hard for young children to understand the invisible barrier of “work time.” They won’t know the difference between you talking with a friend, or being on a conference call. This is where the mute button comes in handy.
Mute calls when you can to avoid background noise coming through to your colleagues. It may be helpful to agree on a nonverbal “do not disturb” signal with your kids for when you need quiet time. It could be a sign on the door, or something fun like wearing a dress-up hat (let’s hope it’s not a video call) that will signal to your child that you’re not to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency.
This works best with older kids. If you have a fussy toddler at home when you’re scheduled to be in a meeting, consider rescheduling the call for a better time, most people will be understanding.
Working at home while you’re parenting might not be a perfect situation for either role. With a little advance planning and some understanding on everyone’s part, you’ll be able to navigate this tricky time with success at work and at home.