The idea of working from home for an extended period takes on a new dynamic when you throw kids into the mix. My three-year-old daughter normally spends her days in kindergarten, so my wife and I have had to rapidly adapt to the current situation of everyone being in the house together whilst trying to manage the demands of work and full-time childcare.
We are now three weeks into this live ‘experiment in social science’ and we’re still finding our way; however, there are some things I’ve found helpful and I wanted to share them in case they might also help you navigate this uniquely challenging time.
1. Create a designated workspace
If you haven’t got a spare room you can turn into a temporary office space, then this could simply be a desk or table in one room. Your children will soon learn that when you’re in this space you are in work mode, not fun mode, and at the same time it will help you in the same way.
If you have older kids who are now being home schooled, the same applies for them. Try to carve out a dedicated workspace to help your kids concentrate on their studies during the day. If possible, position a table or desk so that it looks out of a window as this can boost creativity and reduce the feeling of being locked up.
2. Have a plan each day (but be ready to scrap it)
Whether you are flying solo or trying to share the childcare responsibilities with a partner, there are probably going to be different times when you are under pressure or need time to think. During the lockdown, we try to plan out each day, so we’ve created a board filled with ideas that will keep our youngest team member happy. It is perfect to turn to when imagination fails (i.e. every day at about 4pm).
Be ready to change the plan. My daughter doesn’t seem to care that we’re supposed to be quietly doing jigsaw puzzles for an hour between 9 and 10am so “Daddy can chat to his work friends”!
3. Speak to your manager and team
It isn’t going to be business as usual, so it is important that people recognize this. Lots of colleagues or clients will also be in the same situation and will be more understanding than you might think.
If you are a manager then be honest with your team about the challenges you are facing as this will help to reassure any colleagues who are dealing with the same struggles.
4. Stay active as a family
On several occasions I have got to the end of a hectic day and realized that I’ve not left the house. Without our usual routines in place and with the extra demands on our time, it is easy for exercise to be forgotten. Doing something active each day with your children can help recharge your own creative energy, boost everyone’s mood and is a good way of keeping the family unit together.
5. Cut yourself some slack
It is easy to feel guilty that you are not able to give 100% to your family AND 100% to work, but this is completely unrealistic (unless you want to give up sleeping).
If all else fails, let a bit of digital entertainment take the strain – you won’t be the only parents giving your children a few extra hours screen time over the next few months. Feel free to adopt my new mantra: ‘When we’re in a fix. Netflix’.