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Facing the realities of a new workspace complete with its own distractions and challenges is hard for anyone; however, for those with kids added into the mix it can be even more daunting. With the schools closed and the majority of us working from home now, this is the new reality. With not much choice in the matter, parents have accepted this challenge and undoubtedly will be looking for ways to cope through this time. From setting boundaries and establishing a routine to being flexible and realistic about your own time, we’ve outlined some ways which might help buy some precious time (even if it is only 30 seconds).
Working from home can bring with it its own challenges with motivation, productivity and routine however combined with some new, smaller and likely louder colleagues it becomes even more challenging. It is important that first of all, you cut yourself a little slack in this time as whilst it is important to look after others and your work it is also essential to look after yourself. Juggling work and family life is daunting at the best of times but now as they merge together at home, it may become much harder to be productive and patient simultaneously.
Once you have dealt with the logistical issues associated with working from home; finding a quiet spot to work and rearranging all of your furniture to resemble your usual office space, comes the time to consider how your kids are going to come into the mix and how you can balance both work and family life whilst the lines between both become blurred. We understand that this is a stressful time for families, adjusting to new ways of life as well as living and working in close confines so we’ve outlined some things which may help find you a balance.
Boundaries are important for both you and your family; start by setting some for yourself. Some parents may not have the option to have a designated workspace, however if you do it can help you to focus and separate work and home life; something which can be a challenge whilst working from home. The best home working spaces are those which you can shut the door on, as it allows you to distance the two. However, this isn’t always possible so even if your workspace is a small corner of your dining table; make it your designated workspace and don’t sit there when you are not working. If you can, try not to work from bed or the couch as this can stop productivity and focus in its tracks.
Next, set boundaries for your family. If you have a dedicated workspace and can close the door this can be a little easier. Talk to your children about how when the door is closed you are working and should not be distracted. You can then choose when to have the open or closed and with any luck they may adhere to the boundaries set. However, this can be easier said than done so bear that in mind. For younger children who need supervision, a different approach may be needed. Consider giving younger children a matching workspace; complete with toys and art supplies for them to, with any luck quietly, play near your workspace.
Of course, these tips are subjective and if you find you work best sat in your bed or on the couch whilst your children play or watch TV next to you; that is your call and you should do whatever works best for you in that moment.
Routine is important for both children and parents alike; it gives some structure for the day as this can start to slip when we spend so much time at home. There doesn’t have to be a great amount of rigidity to the routine, but enough that you feel motivated and productive when you need to be. Your routine does not have to be the same each day and should be flexible; if you have important calls or work to do your routine will likely centre around this. For the times when you do have a call or meeting and need silence consider planning something such as quiet play, reading time or simply putting a TV programme on you know your kids would, usually, sit quietly and watch. Obviously, nothing is guaranteed but those tend to be the favoured activities among parents who have experience working from home. It is important to remember when it comes to things like this to do whatever works best for you and your family, and it may be a case of trial and error as to what is best to plan whilst you have calls and meetings. As you go you will be able to tailor your routine to suit your own family dynamic.
Aside from scheduling time for your most important calls, meetings and work time it is important you schedule free time. Both you and your kids will need a break from whatever you have planned that so make sure you plan adequate breaks to eat, play and get some fresh air where possible.
If your kids have schoolwork to do and you are concerned about their learning; you can adjust your routine accordingly and schedule time for certain schoolwork or online learning time. This could be time you sit and work together in order to ensure you all stay motivated and focused.
One of the most important things to remember when setting your boundaries and establishing a routine is to be flexible. Parenting Vlogger, Louise Pentland, advised Hello! Magazine that working flexible hours where possible is one of the most helpful things when working from home. With kids, nothing is set in stone or guaranteed therefore it is essential to bare this in mind when planning anything such as meetings or calls. It is best to allow yourself to be flexible with your routine, whether this means setting a new one each day or simply using it as a guide. Some people find that having too strict of a routine can be counterproductive, especially if it is not followed exactly. This is completely personal preference and will work differently for each family but is something to bear in mind if you find a routine is not working for you.
One of the most important things you can do in relation to this is to be honest and open with your employer, clients and colleagues. Everyone is adjusting to a new way of working, and therefore will likely have their own scheduling concerns and may have kids of their own too. Just let them know that your kids are around and may make some noise or intrude at any moment; with everyone adjusting to a new way of life there are bound to be a couple of issues here and there.
Arranging regular intervals throughout the day to spend a little quality time with your children is a great way to ensure they don’t feel like they are missing out on your attention; in the long run it may help them adhere to the boundaries set for work time. Anything from playing a game with them, reading or spending some time outdoors on a walk or in the garden can help ensure they’re not bored and that you have a little break also.
It is important to try not put too much pressure on yourself and remember that everyone is doing the best in a situation which is far from ideal for most families. Being realistic can refer to a number of things associated with working from home. You might be used to setting yourself daily targets or goals related to the working day however these will likely be different now you are working from home. If you can, try to give yourself more freedom and be kind to yourself. You will likely not achieve as much in a day at home than you might have done in the office, and that is perfectly fine. If you work better by setting goals like this, consider setting weekly or monthly goals as opposed to daily goals as this can give you a little more flexibility and freedom. Focus on your success and remember you are doing a great job.
Rewarding good behaviour is something parents will likely be very familiar with, and this remains super important in current circumstances. However, what we consider good behaviour has probably changed. So, for example when your children have stayed quiet during your important call reward them with a fun activity or TV time; you could even spend a little time playing with them, getting creative with them or baking something tasty. It goes without saying why this tactic is advised; when your children have associations with rewards for this behaviour they will, hopefully, remember for the future.
Although this can be a trying time both in terms of working life and family life, it is important to try focus on the positives and remember you are doing a great job in both aspects. It can be easy for us to let work slip into home life, and now more than ever it is important to do the best we can to avoid this. It is important, therefore, to find the best work-life balance for you, your family and your circumstances. It can be hard, especially with social media, to focus on the positives but be sure to remember not to compare your balance or life to others; this is an extraordinary time, and everyone is doing their best.