With or without kids, working from home amid the coronavirus crisis is a challenge for all of us. Here are our top tips for staying sane (and productive) – with extra tips for the parents out there.
- Set aside a workspace (with boundaries). If you don’t already have a home office, choose one room and stick to it. Try not to spend your breaks or evenings in the office area and try not to work in other parts of the house. This helps you mentally separate work from relaxation.
For the kids: Set aside a room for their schoolwork. Maybe the dining room becomes their school room, and the backyard becomes the new dining room (weather permitting). And for your office, consider a door with a lock, especially for those conference calls.
- Stick to a schedule. You can adjust your schedule for working from home, watching the kids, etc., but try to stick to the same routine Monday through Friday. This helps break up the day and train your brain to focus as needed. Just remember you have to stay flexible: Unexpected things will come up, and you’ll have to be OK with that.
For the kids: The schedule should include times to take turns with your spouse watching the younger kids, so that you each have time to fully focus on work. You might also have to eke out work time while they’re sleeping. For older kids, make sure to include PE during the day to burn off that extra kid-energy.
- Wear your normal office attire/work clothes. It can be tempting to stay in pajamas 24/7, especially if you don’t need to do much video conferencing. But dressing professionally can help you feel more alert and focused.
For the kids: Giving your kids a little more freedom with their wardrobe choices can take a load off of you (especially if getting them dressed is usually a struggle), but don’t allow them to go full pajamas. This social distancing period is a lot longer than Christmas break, and it will help to maintain a sense of normalcy to each day.
- Be proactive about distractions. Listen to music or white noise to block out any family or pet noise that might distract you. Plus, consider turning off social media notifications; what seems like a couple of minutes can stretch longer and really destroy your productivity (and, considering what’s happening across the world right now, your mood).
For the kids: Sit down for a family meeting to set boundaries and establish a schedule together. If your kids are old enough that they don’t need constant supervision, make sure they know how important it is that you can focus and they understand what is and isn’t an emergency reason to interrupt you. (Plus, maybe take their phones when they are supposed to be doing schoolwork.)
- Don’t overwork. It’s also easy to work too much when home is work and work is home – without resting properly, you can slow your productivity over time. Take a real break for lunch (in a separate room). Go outside for small stretch breaks. Take a walk. And after you’ve put in eight hours, quit for the day if you possibly can.
For the kids: Establish your break schedule with your kids so they know when they can have your attention and when they should (hopefully) leave you alone to work. Consider blocking off parts of your calendar for non-work time to ensure your coworkers are aware and respectful of that time.
- Mix it up. For another break activity, take a few minutes to call or message family, friends and co-workers. Friendly non-work-related banter can help stave off those feelings of isolation for everyone involved.
For the kids: If your kids don’t have schoolwork to do, keep them busy with at least one educational activity (puzzles, games, book reports, even educational YouTube videos) and one chore (loading the dishwasher, sweeping the porch, mowing the lawn) per day. They can still enjoy free time, but this can help create structure and keep their minds active.
Remember, we’re all in this together, and together is how we’ll get through it. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, reach out and talk to someone. Did you know you can now access confidential counseling seven days a week through our Designed Virtual Care service? Learn more.