Working from home during this challenging social distancing time has its own unique set of challenges. We are facing altered schedules, a whole new world of video calls and conferences, and a deeper attempt to work remotely that we have ever before experienced. As a self-employed consultant, I have managed a work-from-home schedule for nearly two years. My normal week consists of client meetings, networking events, coffee and lunch appointments, and about 25-30% time working at home. Even though I am accustomed to a weekly schedule where I work from home, the Covid-19 scare has brought about a whole new set of challenges: Everyone else is home too!
Like many working parents, we find ourselves at home working with all of our children and sometimes with our spouses too! There are a lot of people inside, all with specific goals and tasks for the day, and it has proven challenging for many families. Several conversations I have had with friends over the last week revolve around the complexity of both parents needing quiet time, conference call time, and dedicated work time… all while the children are home and needing care, attention, and school guidance. Talk about extreme multi-tasking!
Frustrations can run high as everyone in the family attempts to get through their day in this new paradigm we are living in for the next few weeks (or more). So what can you do to manage the workload, keep stress levels low, and get through our term of social distancing? Here are a few tips and suggestions as a working mom/house manager/emerging homeschooler:
Scheduling for Success
The best way we can start our day is a quick review of the schedule. We have a daily “school schedule” stuck to the fridge that leads our three children through their day. Our kids are so used to schedules at school, they all took to it amazingly well and have started to ask when is the next thing or how much time do they have left in the activity? We are enforcing at 8:00 start time where everyone has to be awake, dressed, downstairs and ready to start breakfast. This official start seems to have helped us all get our day rolling effectively. It’s also a good idea to discuss with your spouse and children which time slots of the day you absolutely need to be alone and have the house quiet. For instance, I’ll let everyone know that I have a recorded video conference at 10:00 am, which will require everyone to be quiet and on task.
Communication is Key
I have also tried to coordinate with my husband based on his daily plan to get his help to jump in and manage what’s happening if I need to step away. At ages five through nine, my children are old enough to accomplish some of their tasks on their own for 30-minute segments, so I’m taking advantage of those time slots. I’m reminding them that my job is important for our family and that I really need their cooperation as I get through the next call. If you happen to be on a call that’s not video capturing, hand gestures and sticky notes can help communicate as well.
Keep Little Minds Busy
The best thing that has helped our three get through their day is a continuously moving schedule. Every hour or so, we move to the next activity: outside play, academic time, lunchtime, chore time, quiet time, art. This idea is guided by takeaways I’ve gathered watching preschool teachers manage classes of 15 – 20 children. Their superpowers mesmerize me, and I’ll never truly understand just how they do it. But I do know that the change of environment and activity keeps their minds moving and attention span engaged.
If possible, try to separate your spaces. While I typically work from my kitchen island, I have moved to my home office during conference calls and times when I need to focus. I am still very close to the kids doing school work at the kitchen table, but there has allowed for some “in-home distancing” to get things done. If your spouse is at home too, try to work from different rooms or in shifts to allow for greater concentration and some alone time. The kids are setting up their school table every day at our kitchen table. That’s their spot and it’s big enough for all three to spread out. The table is close to the art closet, so they can pick up their school papers and notebooks and store them for the next day. We typically have lunch and art time at the kitchen island. Our exercise time, which I jokingly call P.E., is mostly outside or in the living room for yoga – thank you, Youtube. Quiet time has to be upstairs in their rooms. We are moving around all day long, and I can sneak in pockets to get some work done.
Helpful Tips to Manage Stress While Everyone is Home:
- Operate on a daily schedule for everyone’s sanity
- Communicate with your spouse and children what important times you will need to step away
- Try to schedule important calls or meetings around times the kids can be quieter: academic time, quiet time, or nap time
- Find separate spaces for everyone to work and for the kids to move around during their day
- Catch up on work before your children wake up. Early morning hours are some of my best working times.
- Get everyone outside as much as possible. We are doing our P.E. time every morning and a family walk every evening. Thank you, Daylight Savings Time!
- Give yourself (and your spouse) some grace. Everyone is trying to get through this time and is pretty much in the same boat. We won’t be home forever.
Stay positive. Find humor in everything you can. Video conference your friends for support, and enjoy the extra moments you’ll have with your family, even if they drive you crazy sometimes. I can’t wait to get out in the world again with you!