With the spread of COVID-19, many professionals are now finding themselves having to manage workload whilst minding young children - forcing many families to work and play together.
Even if you are familiar with working from home, you might not have anticipated your family being present, causing slower internet connections and distractions from your daily tasks. With timings on how long this new remote setup will last, many remote working parents will have to consider steps towards a structured working from home plan that keeps you and your family happy and content.
We offer some tips that may help steer you in the right direction to obtain a smooth running operation in your family home whilst maintaining a happy and healthy home environment.
The big advantage of working from home is that you don’t waste time commuting. Let children sleep in. This will allow you to benefit from some extra quiet time in the morning: no traffic jams, no hectic mornings to get the children ready for school and drive to work. Use this time to make a quick start. It will enable you to finish a little earlier in the evening, leaving more time for some fun with the kids.
Just like in the office, it is important to have your own spot where you can work at ease and without distractions. If you live in a rather spacious house, turn one of the rooms into a temporary office. If this isn't an option for you however, you can create your own spot in the living or dining room or even in a bedroom as a temporary workplace where you can work without being disturbed too much with young children.
It is important to have your own spot where you can work at ease Setting boundaries with your children that 'working from home' means 'working'. Explain that they cannot disturb you during the working day and reward the good behaviour, even if you have to throw in the odd bribe here and there.
In order to be able to work without being constantly interrupted, you can plan some playful and more quiet activities for smaller children. There are plenty of things they can do with little support from their parents, such as DIY, painting, colouring, drawing. Just like at school, you can divide your living room into different play corners for the little ones: a DYI corner, a reading area, a corner to play with the dolls - it is important not to offer everything at the same time or on the same day, but to offer some variety, so they don’t get bored.
It is also important for yourself to build some structure into your working day. Arrange your tasks in order of importance and make sure you can carry out the most difficult tasks at times when it is calm for you, like early in the morning. By maintaining some form of structure within the family every day, children will adapt more quickly to this new situation and your work pace.
Keeping children occupied while focusing on work is not easy, especially if you need to do it on a daily basis during a longer period. Creating some form of routine might help. Like in school, it might be a good idea to plan some workshops throughout the day, with a different activity each time. Make the planning visible so kids can tick things off once done.
Plan a timeslot for homework and explain to children which exercises they need to complete by when and plan a creative hour afterwards to do some drawing for example. If the weather is nice, let them play outside or give them some free time to do whatever they feel like.
A few weeks away from school obviously has an impact on children. By giving your children a little homework every day can help avoid them falling behind too much. Determine every day which exercises they need to do and by what time they need to finish them. As soon as you have finished your work day, take some time to review their homework together. It will allow your children how to organise their own tasks during the day.
Older children can also be involved in little chores in and around the house. Let them wash the car, weed, fill and empty the dishwasher, tidy up their room... It will keep them busy and you can remove these tasks from your own to-do list, leaving you more family time.
If you are in virtual contact with colleagues or external stakeholders on a daily basis, make sure to schedule those meetings at a quiet time during the day, in order not to be interrupted too much. This can be in the early morning when the children are still asleep for example, or at a time when they can watch TV or play on the tablet.
When both you and your partner work from home, it can be useful to alternate some time with the children. While one parent focuses on work, the other parent can play a game with the children. Doing so, children will feel less 'neglected' and both parents can continue to work at alternating moments.
We must all avoid contact with the outside world as much as possible. Save yourself a lot of time by, for example, doing your shopping once or twice a week and preparing a number of meals in advance during the weekend. This will free up some time during the evenings to spend with the kids.
Do your children still take a nap in the afternoon? Turn this time into your advantage by focusing on those tasks that require the most concentration. By doing so, you don't have to feel guilty when you are less concentrated during the play moments and you will feel less stressed.
Finally, it is important to ensure your work-life balance is maintained. Once your work day is done, shut down your PC and enjoy the evening. Plan something fun, like a family game night for example.
It goes without saying that for remote working parents the next few weeks will not be without challenge, but it is important to remember that working from home is an essential step towards reducing the impact of COVID-19.
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