9 Tips and Strategies for Parents Working From Home
For many families, September represents the end of summer and the beginning of a new seasonal routine. As work picks up and the kids go back to school a new schedule begins to establish itself. And, as with so many things in 2020, this year is different. For some of us working remotely, the home has now become a multi-purpose workspace, learning space, and depending on the children’s age, also a daycare. Without the structures and patterns of the office or school, this balancing act can take a toll on both employees’ homelife and their sense of employee engagement.
In such a situation it can be hard to balance productivity with parenting. To help remote workers maintain their focus, reduce stress and stay engaged, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help stay on track during the “new normal”.
1. Narrow your focus – It may feel like you are lowering your expectations but limiting the number of tasks you lay out for yourself will help you focus. When you begin the day with a long list of goals, it amps up your stress levels and creates a frustrating sense of urgency. Narrow it down to 2-3 priorities to stay focused, when the distractions start.
2. Take a lunch break – It’s easy to power through a day without stopping to eat lunch or take a break. Nonetheless, eating a healthy meal is key to maintaining balance. Just as important, take a short brisk walk for at least 15 minutes. Studies show that even a short burst of exercise not only raises the heart rate and endorphins, but also provides a boost in focus and alertness. This will go a long way to improving remote workplac performance and employee engagement.
3. Be open about your juggling act – There can be a lot of empathy and understanding from other colleagues (especially parents) about the difficulties of a work/home balance. It’s important to inform co-workers up front about times that you are busy or unavailable due to family obligations. Let them know if lunch is a busy time or if Friday mornings your remote workplace is unavailable before 10 am.
4. Create blocks of distraction-free time – Similar to setting expectations for your colleagues, make sure there are clear times during the day when your kids know you are busy. Maybe it’s as simple as closing the door and putting a stop sign on it to signal you are unavailable. A clear message makes it easier for kids to recognize you are busy working rather than having ambiguous remote workplace boundaries and unstructured schedules.
5. Set aside dedicated time for your kids too – Creating a clear boundary and time you are unavailable will only work if your kids trust you will be available for them too. It’s much easier for them to tolerate you being unavailable if they know they can look forward to uninterrupted time where they are the complete focus of your attention.
6. Keep a closet or drawer with school supplies – When kids can’t find what they are looking for they can go to that supply chest, rather than having to come to you. This is a simple solution that will foster your children’s independence skills while allowing you to avoid one more distraction.
7. Breathe – When distractions feel overwhelming and frustration sets in, breathe. Before answering a call, firing off an email reply, or snapping at your kid, take a few deep breaths to reset. Often, in the rush to catch up and get back on track after being pulled away from what we were working on, we fail to pause and reset. The result is escalating stress and frustration which can lead to decreased performance, on both the home and work front.
8. Turn your mind off for a moment with exercise – If you find it hard to calm yourself and get your thoughts back on track, especially after returning from a disruption, do some quick exercise. A set of push-ups, air squats, or jumping jacks done until fatigue sets in will create a quick release. The refocused effort will bring your mind back from whatever was distracting it a moment ago.
9. Go easy on yourself – There will be times you lose your temper with the kids or something slips your mind. It’s easy to get frustrated and turn that frustration inward, castigating yourself for not being better at this balancing act. Relax. Accept that you are doing your best in a difficult situation and cut yourself some slack.
Successfully balancing remote work and family life during this time will be more like a marathon, not a sprint. To help your efforts succeed and not make things more difficult than they already are, consider which of these strategies can help your situation the most. Establishing routines, boundaries, and structures in your family’s day will help ensure you can apply your focus where it is needed most.
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