The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us all to make significant shifts in our daily lives. Some of the biggest shifts have been those surrounding work locations, protocols, and habits. More than ever, people are working from home, out of necessity. For many people, this works just fine. But for others, there’s another factor that makes working from home extremely difficult, if not nearly impossible: their kids are home, too.
Yes, with both offices and schools closed, it creates a perfect storm for working parents. They’re suddenly being asked to work at home, in a potentially distracting environment, with their kids around. Is it even possible to be productive under those circumstances?
Short answer: yes. But it takes a little creativity and planning. Here are some ways to get more done when you are working from home with children.
Get creative with your schedule.
While some parents may not have this luxury, others may be able to work with their employer to come up with a schedule that works for both the company and the family. That might mean starting work a little later in the day, taking a midday break, or doing some tasks after hours. If you can make it work, this one change can make a huge difference in your ability to be productive even when you’re at home with the kids.
Older children are perfectly capable of following rules and respecting boundaries. Set clear rules about when you can be interrupted, and when you can’t. Maybe you could put a sign on your door when you’re in meetings, or set a designated “do not disturb” time.
Keep the kids entertained.
If the kids have activities to keep them busy and entertained, they’ll be less likely to bother you while you’re trying to work. Make sure they have access to the things they need while you’re working. Set them up for success. You could even consider giving them special toys, or allowing them to watch certain shows or movies only during your work time. This will give them something to look forward to during those times, rather than seeing them as something to dread.
Plan for the worst.
Kids are unpredictable. It’s always a good idea to have a contingency plan in place. Communicate your situation to your manager. Let them know that you might occasionally have to step away from a conference call, or need to reschedule a meeting at the last minute. If you do your best to work hard and be fair, your manager will likely be understanding.
This applies at home and at work. At home, make sure everyone is pitching in. If you have a partner, they should be contributing to childcare and household responsibilities as well, and the two of you need to work together to support each other’s professional efforts. And remember: kids can pitch in, too, especially older kids. At work, ask for help when you need to. Delegate where you can.
You probably aren’t going to get everything done every day. But you can get the most important things done each day. Know your priorities for the day, and get the most important things done first. That way, even if (or when) your day does get thrown off, you can feel some assurance that you at least checked off the top priority items.
Working from home is hard. Working from home with kids is even harder. Give yourself grace, stay flexible, and do your best to find something that works for you, your teams at work, and your team at home. With some careful thought and planning, you can come up with something that will make everyone happy.
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