Parenting has always been a hard job, but the shift to working from home during the pandemic comes with its own unique challenges as parents try to stay productive while also caring for their kids. Of course, working remotely has some great benefits like skipping the commute, greater flexibility, and more time around family. Still, it’s made it harder to navigate the balance between work and family life.
With the future of returning to the office unclear, many parents depend on childcare services to allow them to focus on work. However, it’s not a perfect solution. Childcare services and daycares have restricted hours, capacities, and high fees that make them less than ideal or even inaccessible for some, so many families have found themselves taking on full-time childcare in addition to full-time jobs.
With the pressure of work, childcare, schooling, and family duties, it can be a lot for anyone to handle, so here are a few helpful pointers to help you be more productive when working from home.
Manage Expectations With Your Employer
If you don’t typically share much personal information with your employer, now would be an excellent time to make them aware that you have children at home. This will set the expectation that you have obligations that may sometimes take precedent, and your schedule may occasionally need to be fluid. Of course, you should never use your children as an excuse for poor or late work, but at least you can develop an understanding that your productivity may be altered from time to time.
Keep the Kids Busy
Keeping small children occupied and supervised throughout the workday is an immense task. If they are of the age that they are unsupervised some of the time, keep them busy with activities they can do safely on their own like colouring, games, crafts and puzzles, or take advantage of their quiet and nap time to pay undivided attention to your work. And if you typically try to limit your kids’ screen time, experts say that it’s OK to extend their daily allowance.
Naturally, you want to ensure your kids are nourished with nutritious, home-cooked meals but planning and preparing food can be a big job in itself. To make life easier, pre-plan your daily meals the night before, or even draw up a menu at the beginning of the week. That way, you can also get all your groceries in one go and reduce the need for extra trips to the store throughout the week. When it comes to making the meals, think about prepping ingredients ahead of time, like chopping vegetables or cooking a sauce the night before, so it all comes together more quickly when you’re cooking.
Lastly, consider the benefits of ordering a meal kit. Besides containing all the ingredients you’ll need, meal kit services can help you decide “What’s for dinner?,” and that can be a big help with everything else on the go.
Create a Schedule
Set your day up for success by creating a schedule that will help you and your employer plan your time. Block off times you know you’ll need to take care of the kids and let your coworkers know when they can expect you to be back online so things can keep running smoothly.
Your partner is also your biggest ally when it comes to minding the kids. Compare your schedules and alternate times when the other is busy to ensure minimum work interruptions. Swapping duties like cooking and bedtime routines can also allow the other to focus on work as needed.
Designate Working Hours
With no commute and a matter of steps from your bed to your computer (whether that’s at a real desk or your kitchen table), it’s crucial to ensure the lines between work and family time don’t become blurred. What hours will you be available? How many hours do you hope to work on any given day? What’s your turnaround time for emails and calls? Setting these expectations with yourself and your coworkers will help you get your work done without it trailing into family time. Do your best to accomplish all your tasks during the regular workday so you can be fully present around your kids after hours, and if something is urgent, jump back on to finish up your project after the kids are tucked in bed.
Set Up a Workspace
For parents working from home, it can be challenging to separate parenting and professional duties. To help create a physical separation from the rest of your house, set up a designated workspace away from distractions and make sure that your desk and chair are ergonomic, so you’re comfortable throughout the day. If the room has a door, set the expectation with family members that when it’s closed, it means you’re focusing on work, or hang a ribbon on the doorknob to indicate that you’re on a call and shouldn’t be disturbed.
Throughout your workday, it’s especially important to take breaks, not just for yourself but for your kids as well. With their shorter attention spans, kids need more frequent attention, so be sure to set aside time during your day to spend with them. However, don’t forget about “me-time” and try to find a quiet moment for yourself that you’re not working or doing parenting duties. And with much of life taking place inside the home, make an effort to get outside every day, even if just for a walk around the block or to the playground. Some fresh air can work wonders, especially if you find yourself losing focus.
Lastly, be kind to yourself and trust that you’re doing your best you can. Everyone is facing challenges working from home, and no one can balance it all perfectly. However, with a little patience, self-compassion, and collaboration, you can be a great parent while working from home.