If you’re a parent working from home, there are things you can do to make the experience as smooth and stress-free as possible — for everyone involved.
1. Explain your situation
From updating your boss and meeting clients to checking in with your team, communication is key in any job. And, right now, the same is true when it comes to letting people know about your working from home setup. Rather than be embarrassed when your conference call is disturbed by the sound of an argument breaking out between siblings in the next room, explain to clients and colleagues in advance that you have children at home, meaning there may be the odd background noise or interruption. With lots of people in the same situation, you’ll be surprised at how understanding everyone is. It also stops you spending your life shushing or shouting at the kids, which is no fun for anyone.
2. Share the load
If you have friends, family or neighbors in the same boat, find out if you can share the load. Maybe take turns babysitting when one of you has an important meeting or deadline. Perhaps grandparents or other relatives could be on hand for virtual playdates, reading sessions and games. You don’t even have to limit your load-sharing to other humans. In “normal” times, you might monitor and limit your kids’ screen time. But the current situation is anything but normal, so while you probably don’t want them plugged in for hours every day, there’s nothing wrong with letting them have a little more screen time than usual if you need some headspace. Better that than everyone getting stressed out by constant interruptions.
3. Plan in advance
It may not be the ideal way to spend an evening, especially after a tough day at work, but it’s a good idea to spend a few minutes planning some unsupervised activities for older children for the following day. Try to match them to whatever is most important in your schedule, slotting the most engaging and reliable activities at times when you really don’t want to be disturbed. Consider writing the day’s schedule down on a piece of paper or whiteboard for the whole family to talk through over breakfast. That way, everyone is clear on what’s happening when, and there will likely be fewer surprise snack requests to derail you at your desk.
4. Set boundaries
We all know kids need boundaries but, at a time like this, the same goes for the whole family. Have an honest conversation about how working from home means working rather than hanging out together. Try instigating a “knock first” rule for your home office space or maybe even get the kids to help create a “Do Not Disturb” sign for the door. Either way, make it clear there will be times they need to wait for you to finish what you’re doing before helping them — unless it’s an emergency of course! Likewise, if your partner is also working from home, try to align your schedules to accommodate the moments when one of you needs to focus undisturbed. That way, if the kids need help or your Wi-Fi connection can’t handle two simultaneous video calls, you won’t constantly be arguing about who gets priority.
5. Take breaks
Working from home, especially with the whole family there, can be intense. So, if you can, build in time for regular breaks, even if it’s just for a few minutes. As well as giving you a chance to decompress, your kids will probably love being able to hang out with you for a bit, whether that’s to have a run-around in the yard, play a board game, break out the arts and crafts or simply grab a snack together. Knowing that they will see you regularly throughout the day may also help prevent them from interrupting you with minor things while you’re working.
This is the new normal as we adapt to the Covid pandemic and beyond. Whether it’s work, school or home life in general, everyone in your household is having to adapt to new ways of doing things. Maybe your children’s daily screen time is a little longer for a few weeks. Perhaps the bedroom or the car becomes your new conference call center. You might even talk to your employer about working in shifts around your kids’ needs, especially if they’re very young or you’re a single parent.
Whatever you decide, the most important thing is to find solutions that work for you and your family. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that life as we know it can change in a flash. Now is the time to stick together and do whatever we need to in order to come out the other side safe and well — even if it means living and working differently for a while.
GE-4320865.1 (02/22) (Exp.02/24)