With so many closures and directives to self-isolate as our community grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, many more parents are working from home, many for the first time.
Welcome to the work-from-home-parent
choas workforce! I’ve been working from home, full-time for all 12 years that I’ve been a mom. As a remote work veteran, I have a few tips that I hope might make your time working from home a little easier.
My best advice is, of course, to have childcare. But, since that’s not likely in these days of self-isolation and quarantine, here are my tips to help keep you sane and productive while doing both your full-time jobs of parenting and working at the same time.
Tips for Working From Home
Stick to Your Regular Office Hours and Focus on Work during Them
Do you work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the office? If so, make that your schedule at home, too. This will help you have a normal routine and stay productive. It will also help you avoid feeling like work is consuming your whole life since you never get to leave. Also, while you are already trying to work and do parenting all at the same time, don’t add in the expectation that you can take care of the house, work on hobbies, help the kids with creative projects, or whatever else. Even if it seems like you should be able to juggle all the things, the truth is you probably can’t.
Save the non-work stuff for the hours when you are off the clock. Your focus is already going to be split enough between work and caring for your kids. Don’t make it harder for yourself by trying to add other things into the mix.
Give Yourself a Dedicated Workspace
Whether you have the luxury of a home office, can hide out in your bedroom, or you can work from the dining room table, having a space that is just for you and just for work makes a big difference. If your kids are old enough to understand, let them know that when you are in that space, to the greatest degree possible, you are working, not mom-ing.
Accept that Your Kids are Going to be Counterproductive to Your Workday and Take Steps to Address It
For older kids, I honestly have no trouble parking them in front of the TV or telling them they are responsible for making their own fun while I am working. When my first grader was home for a week with the flu last month, I think she watched two full seasons of She-Ra in just two days and I’m not sorry. She enjoyed it and I was able to meet deadlines.
When you have younger kids, this is a lot harder. In an ideal world, babysitters are what make your work-from-home workday possible when you have little ones. In today’s COVID-19 world, that might not be possible. If you’ve got to supervise the baby, toddler, or preschooler, try to plan your workday to capitalize on their nap time or quiet time. Plan calls or video chats during those times and save the hardest projects that require your focus for those times.
Get Outside When You Can
Unless you are quarantined or the weather is miserable, take a little time to get outside. On your lunch break, take your kids for a walk or go sit or play with them in the backyard. When you’re in your house all the time, it feels really good and energizing to go outside.
Talk to People
Make sure you are staying connected to your coworkers. Pick up the phone. Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime when you can. Staying connected beyond typed words on a screen is actually really important to both your productivity and your state of mind.
Expect the Unexpected and Roll with It!
Do you remember that dad doing whose baby and toddler broke into the bedroom while he was doing an interview on live TV? That’s your life now. In my case, I’ve conference called while potty training, held crying babies while talking to my staff and boss, and had a million other difficult moments while working from home and parenting.
The good news is, a lot of people are in the same boat, with the same struggles as you. They get it. You’ll give them a little grace and they’ll do the same for you as we all muddle through this together.