With the recent outbreak of coronavirus affecting a large proportion of the world’s workforce, it’s safe to say that most of us are having to adapt to new working conditions. Even remote companies are having to think carefully about how they operate and the impact on their employees that government restrictions have made.
A lot of parents have now found themselves in the situation of having to both work from home and look after family members at the same time. Whether it’s due to school closures for children, or also with elderly relatives who need more care and help due to the danger they might face leaving home. Getting your work done in these cases is much more difficult than having a whole day without interruptions.
Solving these issues really comes from two sides: how employers can help parents who suddenly have to spend more time taking care of their children, and how parents themselves can work around their schedule and keep being productive. Even without taking coronavirus into account, there are a huge number of parents who choose to work from home and also take care of their children. Everyone, no matter their situation, can have a look at some of the tips and strategies we recommend to help them work at their absolute best!
Make flexibility work for your situation
A lot of us actively choose to work remotely for the huge amount of benefits it gives us in our work-life balance. The flexibility you can experience does have its pros and cons, but you can use it to your advantage when looking after your family. You may have to work within a certain set of hours for your job, but there are a couple things you can do to make the most of the flexibility that being at home gives.
- Explain to your employer that you may need certain times for scheduled activities, like dropping your kids off at school or taking them to music lessons or sports. You can probably work out a more suitable schedule for key tasks that require collaboration, and then complete other more individual tasks outside of the usual office hours.
- You can plan your breaks according to the needs of your family, as you usually have a lot more flexibility in when to take lunch or have mini-breaks throughout your day. In fact, you have even more flexibility here than when working in an office. Take advantage of this to make your working day more suitable to your family needs.
Practice focused work for when you do have some uninterrupted time
You’re more than likely going to have more interruptions in your day when looking after children at home. But when you do manage to get some free time, you have to make the most of it. That means removing as many other distractions as you can in the precious time slots you get! One top tip is to put your phone on flight mode to stop any pesky notifications putting you off track. This includes emails too. You’re best off checking your emails only a few times a day to help you really concentrate in the time you do get to work on deeper tasks. Getting to grips with deep work and getting into a flow state can be practiced, and improved.
You should also have a think about when you usually do your best, most focussed work and see how it can coincide with your family needs. You might find that there’s a sweet spot that works for both your work priorities and your family schedule. The key point here is to think about the perfect time to get on with deep work, and minimising the possibility for any interruptions outside of your family commitments. The more you can get done in a focussed time slot, the more time you can spend with your family. It’s a win-win!
Set up a private home office space
While we can’t promise that your home office space won’t be totally free of family intruders (especially with young kids!), it’s better to set up your workstation in an area as private as possible. You’ll set yourself up for success in multiple ways. First of all, an area away from your bedroom or where your children play will create a bigger division between work life and home life. This is a pitfall all remoters suffer from, so having a seperate area helps to improve your work-life balance greatly.
Having a proper desk and chair, without a TV or other distractions, is also going to set you up for producing better work in the time that you have to spend in your home office. Again here we’re trying to make sure that you maximise your potential to work in the free and uninterrupted time you get in your day.
Have a chat with your family
This one won’t work so well if your children are very young, but past a certain age it’s worth explaining and discussing your work situation with your family. Even if your children don’t fully understand working from home, you can start a discussion and begin to set up routines that can help you with your job. Setting up times for meals, snacks, and activities well in advance can improve your time scheduling for work and help you plan ahead. If you work together as a team with your children, and hear what they have to say, then you’re on the right path to improving your situation.
Don’t forget to include older family members too, partners, or anyone else who you live with. They may be able to help take care of your children at certain times that you need to work in, or even have their own suggestions and ideas on how you more effectively manage both your work and kids.
Working and parenting can go hand in hand
Understanding here is key, especially in the extraordinary circumstances that we’re all facing. If you’ve found yourself having to juggle a brand new work from home situation along with looking after your family, then your employer should be on your side. For those who work from home already, then the tips and tricks listed above are still just as important and useful.
By minimizing distractions where you can, practicing focussed work, and making the most of the flexibility on offer, it’s completely possible to be a parent and work from home. In fact, when mastered, it allows you to spend more time with your family and complete just as much work as you would do in an office!