This May will be my 13th anniversary of working from home!
During this coronavirus pandemic, where many people are working from home for the first time, it’s important to recognize that our current “work from home” conditions are not what working from home is normally like. Many of us now have spouses and kids in the house making it harder to have quiet, focused work time.
Now that we are six weeks or so into our “shelter in place” work from home mandates, some states are beginning to talk about opening things back up. Other states are extending their restrictions. Either way, it may be a long time before any of us are back to the working conditions we’re used to, with childcare options, kids in school, consistent routines and quiet offices.
Here are a few tips for parents who are trying to work from home and stay productive and sane:
Develop a routine
Recognize that any routine you have right now is probably going to be different from what you were used to, and assure yourself that this is okay. You may need to reschedule (or shorten, or even cancel) some meetings. Think through which parts of your day are going to be most productive – early in the morning, nap time, after bed time, etc. – and block this time to get your work done.
Train your kids (if possible)
When I first started working remotely with two young kids, it was tough. I would get up at 4 in the morning to get work done before anyone woke up. I squeezed in work during nap times and often worked on the couch while my little ones were watching TV. As they got older, though, my kids became aware that when I had my headset on, I was not available. If your kids are old enough to pick up on this kind of signal, this is a really great thing to train them on. It may not work if you’re on the phone all day every day, but it will definitely buy you 10-15 minutes here or there.
Compromise with your partner/spouse
Shared parenting responsibilities are going to look different for every single family right now. Some of our partners are still going off to work every day if they work in an essential field. Some are home trying their best to get work done alongside you. And some (like my spouse) are home not working and either helping or, more likely, distracting you. Talk openly about what you both need right now. Whatever your situation looks like, you both need to come up with a plan for how you can each help each other get through this together.
Plan to work over the weekend (if necessary)
Every time I get distracted by a family member during my regular work time I have to remind myself that we’re still going to be in this same place on Saturday and Sunday. I know I’ll be able to set aside time over the weekend to catch up on things if I get behind this week or I can get ahead for the coming week if I want to feel less stressed when distractions happen. I’m going to make the most of my weekend time—which doesn’t mean working around the clock, but blocking out a little time if needed to alleviate some of the pressure of juggling both work and life right now.
Most importantly, hang in there! This too shall pass.