Many parents are currently navigating an entirely new normal: Working from home while taking care of their kids full-time. As school picks back up and many kids remain at home for remote learning, figuring out how to balance their schedule and a full-time job sometimes feels totally unmanageable.
Some parents have had experience working remotely in one-off, unplanned situations. However, working at home day in and day out for the foreseeable future while also caring for (and in some cases, teaching) kids at home proves to be a major struggle without careful planning where needed and flexibility when possible.
Read on to learn how to create better routines and habits that can help parents maintain a healthy work-life integration:
1. When possible, keep things flexible
This is often easier said than done. However, when you do have the ability, consider getting creative with your work schedule to base your hours around your kids’ schedules. Giving yourself the flexibility to work differently during this time is crucial to maintaining work-life balance.
This can work in a variety of ways. For example, if you’re an early morning person or a night owl, or you are used to commuting a long way, consider working on projects during these times when kids are usually sleeping. Of course, there will always be vital tasks and meetings that require collaboration with your colleagues during regular work hours, but finding ways to give yourself time for small breaks during the day will help you and your kids stay on track.
2. Establish a kid-free zone
There will be times when you need to hunker down and complete work items free from distractions, which is why it is important to establish an area of the house where you can separate yourself from your family. Plus, it helps your kids learn that you’re busy when you’re in your “office” (even if your office is just a certain seat at the dining room table).
Not only is it important for this space to be free from other people, but it also needs to be free from other distractions such as dirty laundry, beeping phone notifications, and other messes. Keeping the area clean and organized will keep you from wanting to disengage from work to complete other tasks. Plus training your brain to be in “work mode” when you enter your work zone also works the other way—it helps you switch back to family mode at quitting time.
3. Clearly communicate with your family
If you have a partner who is also working from home and sharing kid duties with you, it is crucial to communicate the times you can and cannot help out during the day. Setting these expectations will allow for a much smoother daily routine.
It is also important to communicate with your children if they are old enough. Set expectations for when there will be breaks in your day that you can check-in, whether it be a quick snack break, lunch, or even hourly check-ins.
4. Utilize special toys and screen time during work hours
Set aside designated toys and other gadgets, as well as movies or TV shows, to be used when you need to focus-in during the day. This will give your kids something to look forward to and will allow for some distraction-free work time.
5. Don’t overwork
During this time, it can be easy to feel like we need to push ourselves to work extra hours, but the reality is that taking the time to unplug and reset each day is critical to success as a parent and an employee.
With schools and offices closed, parents are likely finding themselves faced with a to-do list that has only grown. Although many of us have now had a few months to settle into fully-remote work, that does not mean keeping up with distance-learning while figuring out the best way to accomplish your work has gotten any easier. Designing a schedule that fits your needs is easier said than done, but following the above tips should help ensure you are on the right track.