In the light of COVID-19, working at home is already or is soon going to be a reality for most of us. Whether you run your own business, freelance, or have been instructed by your employer, you will all be battling with the same challenges. Possibly the biggest challenges we as home workers will encounter, is not just how to stay focused, motivated and productive at home, but how to do all this when we are faced with the prospect of working around the rest of our family, who are also at home.
Those of us who will face the biggest challenge are parents who have to continue to work, whilst also acting as carer and even school teacher. Many schools around the globe have either shut their doors already or are facing closure over the coming weeks. Children have been sent home with school work and for young children at least, this requires parental input and direction.
Working from home with the rest of your family with you could be chaos if you don’t plan ahead and make sure that there is some structure for the day. Balancing all your hats (teacher, parent, carer, employee, etc) is key so that no area is neglected, allowing you to confidently do the tasks you have set.
Over time, your structure will become known and as a family, you will naturally start to adhere to it as you know what to expect. It’s helpful for everyone to know where they stand so good communication with each other is essential to ensure schedules don’t clash and that the timing is effective for all involved.
A schedule is no easy task when children are involved and there is likely going to be a settling in period. It’s important that you keep to a structure but that it is flexible to account for all eventualities and unexpected situations that may arise. For example, the day could always start with some family exercise, followed by some guided activities for school. This could be followed by time when you need to work and the children or the rest of your family need to get on with some independent activity.
Set up a dedicated workspace. This will work two-fold. Firstly, you can set out clear boundaries stipulating that when you are in this space, you are working, and disturbances should be kept to a minimum. Secondly, having a dedicated workspace will allow you to get yourself into work mode more easily, making you more focused and productive. If you are working on your lap in the living room with your family present, even if you are able to work in this way, you will be far less productive than if you were alone, working in a way that is akin to how you do usually.
In a situation where you are all under one roof and expected to work, communication is vital. If you have a partner and children, it may be that you need to co-ordinate your work time so there is always someone with the children while the other works. You may also need to share resources, and these may need to be scheduled.
Communication with children is equally important. They are most likely going to get bored and this can cause the release of all sorts of emotions. Keeping them happy is essential if you are going to get any work done. Make sure they understand that after a period of you working, comes a period of something they will enjoy. Ensure that you have regular breaks to keep you and everyone else going.
As alluded to above, balance is key. If you are wearing multiple hats of employee, carer, parent, teacher, you need to allocate time to do all of these things. Trying to work whilst also looking after your children or someone who is ill means that you are not fully present for any one thing. Make sure that your schedule allows you to have work time and also time with your family, especially if you have children who are relying on you to help with schoolwork and just generally need parental input.
Working at home due to isolation from COVID-19 is stressful, difficult and a juggling act. You need to be able to schedule some enjoyment in your day to keep yourself both productive and mentally well. The prospect of spending quality time with your family will keep you going through the tough times of the day.
Just like family time, you need downtime that consists of something for you. Trying to work from home and look after your family with no let up will result in burn out. Make sure you factor in downtime, no matter how simple. This may be 30 minutes to read a book, finishing in time for some TV in the evening, some exercise or meditation. Whatever it is that helps you cope with overwhelm is just as important as getting work done and caring for your family. Staying well is your best option.
Working from home with your family present is a team effort. Everyone needs to buy in to your structure and routine or it won’t work. In times like this, it’s important that everyone looks after each other and that there is something in it for everyone. When we get anxious, it can lead to frustration, resentment and even aggression. It’s important to recognise these behaviours in ourselves and others and to address them before they get out of control. Creating a structure that takes into account everyone’s needs should go some way to doing this. A solid plan gives certainty and structure which can reduce anxiety.
by Nikki Vivian