Many of us have worked remotely at some point in our careers, but coronavirus has sent a lot of us home for the long haul. And working from home with kids around is a big change that is adding stress for many parents.
Half of the public schools in the U.S. have closed for the academic year, according to NPR. That means about 25 million kids, in 26 states, are vying for their parents' attention during Zoom calls, deadlines and growing to-do lists.
Finding the balance is essential, and these tips can help lessen the strain of being both a professional and a parent, all while working from home with kids.
The first step to success is realizing that we're not operating in a regular environment. Working from home while your kids are also home is the perfect recipe for unproductiveness. There are distractions you're not used to dealing with and pressures on your time that didn't exist a month ago.
Acknowledging these differences and working with them instead of against them is key. Don't expect to get the same amount of stuff done in a single day as you did before. Create shorter to-do lists that allow you to feel accomplished each day no matter how much you're able to finish.
It's also worthwhile to manage expectations with your kids. Even young ones need to understand basic rules that allow you to work from home. “Explain to them that working from home means you really are trying to do work. While it may seem like a regular weekend or a vacation day because you are all at home, these are highly unusual circumstances," says Barbara Booth from CNBC.
Consider setting down specific rules for working from home with kids that are age-appropriate, even for young children. Ask that they whisper when they approach you while you're at your computer. Remind them if they want to enter a shut door, they need to knock first. Simple rules like this can help with your productivity.
If both you and your partner are working from home during coronavirus, one option is to take shifts. One half of the day, you work. The other half you're the primary parent spending time with the kids.
While you're working, make sure to prioritize your tasks so the most important stuff gets done first. You're most likely working fewer hours total per day, and should make it the most productive time. A good breakdown is to have one shift from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the other 2 to 6 p.m. Take the hour between to be together as a family. You can have lunch, go on a family walk or play a game.
For those on the parent shift, consider enlisting other family members for some screen time to engage your kids. Having a grandparent read a book or an aunt singing songs with your little ones can give you a chance to catch your breath.
If you can't break the day up into shifts with your partner, dividing your day into active and passive clusters can help you continue to get work done. Active time is when you're engaged with your kids. You're playing, running around or helping them with academics.
Passive time is when they're taking a break. Your kids spend that time doing something on their own like playing an educational game online, watching an episode of their favorite show, getting out the Play-Doh or coloring. During their passive time, you're working. It's not a perfect system, and you'll most likely still deal with interruptions, but there should be less.
Focus active time in the morning in larger batches to tire kids out. If they still nap, there's potential for a larger block of work time for you. Continue shorter bursts of active time in the afternoon so you can chip away at your work throughout the day.
Although a trickier schedule to maintain, getting your work done when you know you won't have any interruptions may be your preferred method. This means working when your kids are asleep. Get up early, utilize their nap time and wrap up your day after you've read bedtime stories and said goodnight. It makes for a long day for you, but possibly a less stressful one since you're not trying to do two things at once — parent and work.
Think of naps as the golden time to work. Middle-of-the-day free time lets you get work done when you're not rough from waking up or feeling exhausted. If your kids aren't napping anymore or do so only sometimes, try having them spend quiet time in their rooms. They can read or play with toys, whatever they want, as long as they're in their room and on the quiet side. You can even set a timer so they know when they're able to come out and find you.
Whether you're able to go into a separate room to work, or decide to do so close to your kids, designate a mobile office. You can keep your work at-the-ready to sneak in productive moments.
Pick a strategic location so you're not yelling between rooms. If you end up in a noisy spot, use music to muffle those distracting sounds. Pop in headphones and blast that motivating playlist, but make sure you can still hear the sound of little voices should they need you.
No matter if you're working at your desk or building a fort for your kids, keep in mind that it's quality that counts. Set a schedule that allows you to put quality time into your work, but also gives you special moments with your kids.
Giving each side the attention it deserves makes it easier to feel accomplished as both a remote worker and a stay-at-home parent.