By Deborah Ricketts
If you have transitioned into a home working, home-schooling parent you can feel like you’re not winning at either. And while some of us are heading back to work and school it looks like working from home is set to become a more permanent option for many. These strategies may help you to survive this year with your sanity (mostly!) intact.
1. Create a schedule but be flexible
One of the benefits of working from home is flexibility. You can adjust your schedule for the most part. Strategically plan your most critical work during a time when the kids can be occupied for a solid two hours straight. If they’re really young, capitalise on their nap times. Bonus points if you can schedule critical work to coincide with when you’re most productive. Provide your children with a schedule they must follow. Set alarms, creating checklists, empower older kids to transition the younger kids to their next activity. Equally, provide your work with a spreadsheet outlining your availability for virtual meetings and work delivery timeframes. Remain realistic and be prepared to be interrupted. Consider working at night when the kids are in bed to play catch up.
2. Enjoy health breaks
Set time for you and kids to exercise and eat together. It’s important to stay healthy, and active and bond. There are so many activities indoors like Zumba, aerobics or yoga. Or outdoors try gardening, a bike ride or a trek in the bush. It will help clear the cobwebs, re-connect you with your children for some ‘fun’ time, and ensure you’re getting a healthy work-life balance.
3. Set realistic expectations from the outset
It’s important to set expectations early on: for colleagues, family and yourself. Open and clear communication is vital. Your goals have changed, you’re balancing your work commitments with yours and your children’s mental and physical health and needs. Be transparent and forthcoming with work about the limitations you’re faced with at home. This enables colleagues to understand and work more efficiently around the hurdles with you. Address any parts of the job that may be impacted. Remember to point out some benefits too: less ‘coffee’ breaks, utilising travel time and out of normal work hours for work. Similarly, be upfront with your kids, clearly stating what you expect from them during ‘work’ time.
4. Utilise all support options available to you
If your partner is working from home too, work in shifts to be with the kids. If your situation permits it, consider an Au pair or a nanny. Book in virtual catch ups with their friends. Utilise grandparents too, consider virtual stories, singing, playing a virtual game of Scrabble or Uno, or sharing jokes and family history. This is a win-win-win scenario.
5. Look after yourself
Remember the oxygen mask analogy. Fill your cup doing some restorative activities. You may feel like you need ‘you’ time to binge-watch Netflix and eat snack food after all work is done and kids are asleep. Do it but limit it! Pay yourself forward and get a good night’s sleep. Your family and work will benefit from a healthier, well rested version of you.
It’s absolutely possible to work from home with kids. Be realistic, schedule what you can, communicate clearly and relish in some time out being present with your children. Find the balance that works for your family, utilising your circumstances and resources around you.
Deborah Ricketts from Versatile VA supports Australian small businesses with copywriting and outsourced marketing support. (www.versatileva.com.au)
Want more? Click here for our tips on Time Management and here for 5 Psychologically Proven Ways to be More Effective Working From Home.