Tips for Parents Working at Home
With the end of the winter holidays, and a new year ahead of us, many people are returning to work. Still, “returning to work” during a pandemic often means staying in the house. If you have kids at home, being productive in your living space can be particularly challenging, so we have five tips for parents working from home.
Make Some Space
Counselors and other mental health professionals like to talk about setting up healthy boundaries – and this is also an important piece of advice for the work-from-home crowd. Parents who are juggling work and home should establish a dedicated workspace, and if necessary, use tape or some other non-permanent marking to literally create a boundary. This visual cue will communicate to you and your family members that while you might physically be together, your attention is devoted to other important tasks.
Of course, if you have a home office, that’s a boundary you don’t have to go to the trouble of creating from scratch, and something as simple as a closed door can send an easy visual cue that Mom or Dad isn’t available. Signs can also provide clear signals that you aren’t to be disturbed. To make sure your kids feel included, they can even be invited to help design and make a “Do Not Disturb” sign.
Talk to Your Boss
As we consider boundaries, many people choose to keep their home and work lives completely separate, never discussing personal matters in the workplace. That might be successful in “normal” times, but few things about a pandemic are “normal.” You need to be upfront with your boss about a work from home arrangement that involves children.
Make sure you have a clear message, as well as an action plan when letting your boss know you’ll be working from home with kids. Communicate your commitment to your job, and your commitment to maintaining a level of excellence. Inform them that you will be in regular contact to clarify scheduling issues so that all team members know exactly when you will and will not be available. Trust us, it’s better they find out about your domestic situation this way than seeing you show up for a Zoom meeting with Play-Doh in your hair.
Stick to a Schedule
As your work and home life blend, you will find that some home tasks and activities will be best treated like work. This means that meals, snacks, playtimes, and doctors’ appointments should be marked out on your work calendar, just like they were a business meeting. There’s no need to fill in the details of your personal life for fellow team members, but clearly communicating when you are and are not available creates an easy flow of expectations.
Breaks are important elements to add to your schedule as well, and the cost of not including them could be huge. The World Health Organization has included burnout in their International Classification of Diseases. The syndrome can lead to fatigue, nausea, headaches, hair loss, and more.
This is a serious problem that disproportionately impacts mothers, who are 28% more likely to suffer from burnout. Saving a little bit of time in the day for self-care could actually save you!
If you’re working from home with kids, sometimes the best way to discourage flow-breaking interruptions is to prepare ahead of time. If you have older children, try posting a list of meal and snack options on the refrigerator, encouraging them to take charge of their own care, and developing some life skills in the process.
To adapt this for younger kids, you may need to place single-serving packages or prepared foods on the lowest shelf of the fridge, or non-perishable items on a counter, so they can help themselves as needed.
Younger kids can also benefit from having stations to rotate through over the course of the day. This way they can move from re-arranging the Tupperware in your cabinets to building a pillow fort all on their own while you stay nearby but uninterrupted.
The coronavirus has presented myriad challenges, and not just in the public health arena. But with the right plan, most of these obstacles can be overcome.
One way we like to plan ahead is to make sure we never leave the house without a maskSAFE. It’s sleek; it’s handy; and it’s an effective physical reminder to us that our masks are our most powerful tool in stopping the spread of the coronavirus, and that we don’t go anywhere without them.
- the maskSAFE Family