Stay-at-home rules have made working from home, once the primary domain of freelancers and small business owners, the new normal. But how can you survive it with kids?
What was previously a perk for some is now a reality for those of us fortunate enough to still be in work. But it’s not a perk for everyone. For parents, meeting work responsibilities is increasingly difficult with kids at home.
So how can you juggle work, study, your mental health and your children’s needs?
There’s no simple answer, as no two situations (or two children for that matter) are the same. Some kids are highly independent, while others need constant attention. Some will find forced isolation aggravating, while others will consider it their natural habitat.
There are, however, a few tips that will help you find some balance.
Adjust your expectations
This is an “unprecedented” situation, so there’s no point approaching it with a “business as usual” mindset.
If you’re working from home with kids, it almost certainly won’t be possible to do the same amount of work – or to work at the same standard – as you did while working from an office.
Fair-minded bosses, clients and customers will understand this, but if you want to be sure that everyone knows where you stand, get in touch with the people who’ll be most affected by your change in circumstances. Tell them about your new situation and what you think that might mean for your output.
Set strategies for when you’re off-limits
Most managers, clients and colleagues will understand that the productivity goalposts have shifted. But that doesn’t mean deadlines will disappear altogether.
So what do you do when you have to put your head down and get some work done?
If your home has a spare room or a private area, you might think closing the door is the simplest solution. And that could certainly work for a little while. But it’s not a dawn-til-dusk strategy.
Instead, if you’ve got someone else sharing parenting duties, make sure they know when you’re out of bounds.
If you’re on your own, set your kids up with an activity that involves plenty of concentration (but not too much noise or potential for wall painting) while you’re in The Zone. Let them know you’re busy, but make closing the door a last resort – if they wander in for a cuddle or a chat from time to time, enjoy the break.
Get outside (it’s not illegal)
While you can’t go and visit friends or organise play dates, you can still go outside and enjoy the sunshine. In fact, a little fresh air for both yourself and the kids can improve your mental health, and encourage you to keep your physical health intact.
So go for a walk around the block, get involved in a teddy bear (or rainbow) hunt, kick a footy in the backyard.
Social distancing rules are incredibly important, but they don’t make it illegal to go out and get some fresh air.
You may even find that the kids are more settled (allowing you to get some more work done!) once you get back from stretching your legs.
Ignore the unreality of Instagram
There are plenty of resources for advice on working from home with kids. And while Instagram is a source of inspiration for some, it can be lead to a habit of unhealthy comparison for others.
If you’re finding the posts of influencers with kids a little too much to take right now, unfollow their accounts. Instead, search for real parents who are being frank about the every day. Better yet, go elsewhere for your inspiration.
What about this Harvard Business Review article? It talks about maintaining routines, creating modified schedules and finding new ways of approaching the activities you enjoyed before isolation.
Or what about this one from The Conversation? It includes a handy hack for getting time to yourself.
The reality is, working and studying from home with kids is a challenge, and for some it can seem like a game of survival. But there is a silver lining. For people who usually work five days in an office, one of those upsides is the opportunity to be closer to your family during the week.