If you had told me a month ago that we would be working from home and our kids would be doing school at home online all at the same time, I would have probably laughed and said, “Yeah, right! Like that would ever happen!” Little did I know that this would become the new reality for most of us very quickly! I have had the opportunity to work at home before the COVID-19 pandemic and I actually really enjoyed it. Things have certainly changed, though, now that I am working from home with my husband and children here 100% of the time. This is a whole new ballgame, and, like many others, I have had to learn quickly how to handle this new way of life.
I have read several blogs and articles this week about how to work from home and I have to say that some authors have offered great advice and some have not. Basically, what I have found is that advice from people who are not working at home with children is pretty much useless for those people who do have children and vice versa. They are two completely different things – and neither one is easy, by the way! Those people working at home without children are still having to deal with technology that doesn’t work all the time, constant distractions, lack of interactions with others, and a complete upheaval of the normal workday. Since I have experience working at home with and without children, I thought I would share just a few ideas with you of things that have worked for me.
For those working with their children right now, here are some ideas to make this work for you.
- Set up a tentative schedule with your children. Let them have some input on when and how much free time they should have, when school work should be done, when snacks and lunch should happen, when they are allowed/not allowed to interrupt your work, etc. And remember that this schedule is tentative. It will have to change sometimes. Try your best to go with the flow of those changes and be patient.
- Get up before your children every day and spend a little time on your own doing whatever you want to do. This could be taking a walk, doing some exercise, reading a book, watching tv, drinking coffee, reading your Bible; it doesn’t matter what you do, but make it something you want to do. Moms and dads, this may be your only time all day long to be selfish – take it! I do this for 30 minutes each morning and it makes my whole day better.
- Accept the fact that your work week will not look like it did before this all started. My time sheet is as long as my arm these days because most days I clock in at 7:30am and then out at 10:00am and then back in at 12:30pm and out again at 2:00pm and then back in again at 3:00pm and then back out at 4:00pm, and so on. I do this because I am not okay with completely shutting out my kids for an 8-hour stretch. They need me for a myriad of reasons, and I am okay with that. Does it make my days seem longer? Yes. Does it mean I have to put in some hours on Saturday and/or Sunday or work at night when they are in bed? Yes. Does it make us all get along better, though? Yes, so I am willing to do it on the days that I can (appointments willing).
- The most important thing for working parents right now – remember that every other parent is going through the same thing. All of the other parents you see in Zoom meetings for work are having the same struggles as you. Every time they mute their audio during a meeting, it probably means a child is screaming or a dog is barking at the mailman, or someone is knocking on the door and asking for help with something. Personally, I think it’s okay to give each other some grace here – we are all in this boat together, so let’s accept it instead of trying to pretend it’s business as usual.
For those working at home without children, here are some tips for you.
- Set a schedule for your workday and try to follow it. Get up at the same time each morning and do your normal morning routine. If you used to exercise before work, you should still follow that same schedule. Do your workout, shower, get dressed for work, and sit down at your workspace at the same time every day.
- Next, make sure you have a dedicated workspace. Even if it’s at the dining room table, try to work here a majority of the time. This way, you don’t have work materials strewn around the house. Your files live here, your computer charger is plugged in here, and when you need something you know this is where you’ll find it.
- Take a lunch break and actually step away from your workspace. Move to another area of the house and eat your lunch, so that you can get a break from working. Since it’s springtime, maybe you could sit outside while you eat and get some fresh air. It can be really refreshing to just get outside in the sunshine for 15 or 20 minutes and have a change of scenery.
- Stop working at a specific time each day. Once you stop, try not to check your email again until tomorrow. It’s really easy to work too much when you work from home. It may be hard, but try not to keep going back your email after work or answering the phone after hours. You will be more productive in the long run if you set boundaries for work and leisure now.
No matter how you are doing this new way of life, we at Thrive hope that you stay healthy and happy. Take care of your physical and mental health and we will all get through this together!