As a parent, you’ll know that juggling work commitments with family life is always tricky. You might’ve previously had to work from home when your child has fallen ill or has been at home during the school holidays, but adjusting to this new lifestyle when there’s no end in sight is an entirely different experience.
Here are just a few ways to help you find the right balance between your personal and professional life.
Discuss values and boundaries
This new way of life is a learning curve for us all, with many of us living in closer quarters to our family members than ever before. At times, there will no doubt be disagreements and challenges to overcome, so it’s increasingly important to be open and honest about values, expectations and responsibilities at home.
Naturally, children associate being at home with downtime – not only for themselves, but for you too. At first, it may be difficult to establish boundaries between when you’re working and when you’re not. Try not to be disheartened when boundaries are inevitably crossed and consider it an opportunity to teach your child the value of patience and respect towards others.
Start to settle into a routine
It’s likely that you’ll need a lot of trial and error before you find a daily routine that works for all of you. If you have the luxury of choosing your own working hours, consider getting a few hours of work done early in the morning or, if you work part-time, spreading your working hours across the whole week instead of over just a couple of days.
Be realistic about how many hours of work you can realistically get done each day – even if that’s just a couple of hours. The Pomodoro Technique is a really effective way to break down your workload into 30 minute segments – and it can be a great way to feel like you’ve accomplished something in a short space of time. It’s easy to get caught up on what we can’t do, but do take the time to acknowledge your smaller successes too!
Planning your day around our suggested timetables will bring some familiarity into your child’s day, but it will also allow you to identify times when they will be reading, playing or learning independently, leaving you with an opportunity to get some work done.
Schedule in family time too, such as giving children your undivided attention at breakfast time or preparing lunches together. Both of which will help them settle down before you head back to each of your workstations.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Social distancing doesn’t mean that we no longer crave support and a sense of community – in fact, now we need it even more. Could a friend or family member set up a video call to read a story to your children or keep them occupied for a while to free up some of your time? Physical distance needn’t mean that we can’t maintain close bonds with our loved ones, and many of them will be glad to help out where they can.
Chaya Gutnick, an operational efficiency and productivity expert, suggests each parent takes responsibility for the children’s schedule in two-hour shifts. While one is helping their child to work through their lessons, the other is free to jump on a conference call, respond to their emails or make a start on a project that they’ve been putting off.
Of course, it’s an even bigger challenge for parents and guardians who don’t have a partner on hand to help them out. Gutnick recommends slotting in time to get some work done while your child is reading, watching a video or drawing – even if it’s less than an hour at a time. By checking in with them regularly, your child is less likely to interrupt when you’re trying to focus.
That said, distractions are inevitable – just ask Professor Robert Kelly, whose young children ran into the background of his TV interview while it was being broadcast to the nation live on the BBC. Don’t feel guilty if you find yourself in the same situation, as this is the new ‘normal’ for all of us, and your co-workers will likely be more accepting than ever before.
So, let’s make the most of the situation we’re in, by appreciating the extra time we have to spend with our loved ones, being as open-minded as possible and congratulating ourselves and our families after managing another successful day in these unusual times!