Let’s face it, sometimes there’s not enough time in the workweek to make a dent in our to-do list. So, what happens when that’s compounded by working from home while also homeschooling and entertaining our children? As a mom of two elementary school-aged daughters, I can tell you the struggle is real. We’re learning as we go. Here are 10 things we’re implementing (and I highly recommend) to create a successful and less stressful quarantine … and still get work done!
10 Tips to Successfully Work from Home … With Kids
This tip might be an obvious one, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. When you sit down to make your daily work agenda, make one for the kids, too. It’s up to you how detailed you get, but even jotting down a few notes and ideas will help make the day go more smoothly. If you think your kids will benefit from it, carve out a few minutes each morning to discuss the rundown with them or post it on a whiteboard.
Find a dedicated workspace, and create your own office culture.
One of the best parts of working from home is you get to establish the atmosphere. Find an area of the house that speaks to you, and make it your own. Light some candles, add a few plants, put out a couple of pictures that give you the warm fuzzies, and make sure you’ve created the most constructive arena you can. Oh, and be sure to carve out a separate learning space for your kids that’s close by, if at all possible — just far enough so you can concentrate but close enough to field questions like, “Is it snack time yet?” If you and your children have your own spaces to spread out, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed.
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Let them be involved.
Your kids can’t help you create PowerPoint presentations or look over contracts, but they can provide input on what they’re learning. And the more excited they are about what they’re learning, the more it will keep their attention so you can get work done too. Other opportunities for help with decision-making include what they are wearing for the day, what art activity to work on and what snacks to have.
Be a solid role model.
Work ethic is everything. If you change out of your pajamas, stick to a schedule, and set an example of how to tackle your workload successfully, your kids will have an easier time doing the same. It also communicates clear expectations, so everyone knows how the day is going to unfold.
Children thrive on consistency, and, to varying degrees, so do we. (We just happen to have Google calendars.) So, get everyone up at the same time each morning, follow your typical routine for getting everyone ready for school and work, and treat it like a normal day.
While it’s easier to stay in cozy sweatpants all day long, studies show that looking professional makes you feel more professional, which directly translates to being more productive. Children are no different. In fact, on day one of homeschooling, when I gave my oldest daughter a choice to wear anything in her closet, she actually picked an outfit that falls under the Standard School Attire guidelines for our school district. (And here I thought we were unicorn sweater-bound.) She has reserved Fridays for non-uniform clothing days, which I also recommend for easing into the weekend. Casual Fridays all around!
Keep your mind calm and your space clean.
Easier said than done, right? But there’s a lot to be said for eliminating clutter, be it mental or physical, and one often segues into the other; it’s all about embracing healthy habits. If that means you employ a daily dose of mindfulness or meditation, go for it. If your desk is organized and your thoughts are clear, it’s easier to compartmentalize — and the current overlap of office and home life means it’s crucial to have those personal practices in place. Set up your children for more success by encouraging them to keep their workspaces clean too. A tidy table or desk promotes the productivity flow, increases focus and even helps keep germs at bay … which we can all use right about now.
Depending on the age of your children, they may or may not have the ability to do a lot of independent work. But anything you can do to teach age-appropriate independence is a life skill that will pay dividends. Sometimes the simplest solutions help — for example, we implemented a food basket system (including their water bottles), so my kids have access to a few snacks for the day. This offers structure, allows them to choose which snacks they want and when, teaches them basic management skills, and keeps them from interrupting me each time they get hungry. Win-win.
Find ways for everyone to experience social interaction.
Being quarantined puts a severe damper on our work and social lives. Many of us have careers that include daily meetings with our boss and co-workers, and we’re substituting with convenient online platforms such as Zoom or Skype. It gives us a dose of built-in face-to-face communication during our isolation. But what about our little ones? They’re used to learning from their peers, having close guidance from teachers throughout the day, lunching in large groups, and running around together during recess. It’s tougher for them to reconcile a less interactive existence. It also means they are relying on you for all of their structure and connection. With that in mind, it’s all about outside-the-box methods to promote interaction. Since we’re all in the same boat, there are tons of resources popping up to make our lives easier — we can live stream zoo visits and museum exhibit tours, watch celebrities read stories aloud and attend online concerts. (Check out our “virtual events” article HERE for some fun ideas!) If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even try organizing a weekly Zoom party with the entire class. And while in-person play dates are temporarily suspended, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of waving and talking to friends over the fence line.
Keep it interesting.
Getting too comfortable can be our work-from-home kryptonite. While you want to have a space that maximizes serenity and comfort since you’ll be spending a lot of time in it, studies show it’s best to avoid camping out on the couch. Being too comfortable can equate to lethargy and a lack of productivity.
Keep in mind that spending too long in one spot can also be counterproductive. Our kids are used to leaving their classrooms to go to other learning areas such as the gym, library and cafeteria — they need a change of scenery here and there, and so do you. When you start feeling a decline in focus or energy, get up and move to a different room. You can also alternate between sitting at your desk and standing up at the kitchen counter throughout your workday.
Sitting all day is draining, for you and your kids, so schedule a break or two for some physical activity. It can be as simple as a walk around the block, 10 minutes of yoga, an impromptu kitchen dance party or kicking a ball around the yard if the weather holds up. When I asked my oldest daughter what she views as the most effective teaching tool or approach we’ve embraced in our homeschooling schedule, she immediately answered, “Starting the day by stretching, and doing more free play than sitting.” If you can infuse some movement into your daily routine, you might just find it cuts down on the boredom and puts everyone in a better frame of mind.
No one asked to be quarantined, but here we are. The best way to be successful at your work-life balance right now is to make the best of it. Things are drastically changing from one day to the next, so buckle up, enjoy some quality time with your kids, and take your sanity where you can get it. Good luck, and stay strong!
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