COVID-19 has immediately changed how we work. National and state emergency declarations have sent millions of people to work at home. Some for the very first time. Families are now navigating a work scenario never imagined: working with children and spouses, under the same roof, all day long.
To complicate things even more, there are more than 50 million school-age children at home with their parents or other caregivers. If you’re lucky enough to live in a multi-generational home, some of the day-to-day responsibilities can rest with a grandparent or relative. Regardless of who lives in the house, many of us are entering uncharted territory. We at CenturyLink are also facing these challenges and would like to offer a few tips on how to work from home.
Check in with your manager or supervisor
Get specific details from your Human Resources department and your manager about working at home. Some HR departments have specific policies when working at home. Due to the sudden requirement for working remotely for millions of people, some procedures may have been waived while new policies (like security enhancements) may have been added. Be sure you know all that you can prior to logging on and getting to work. If you have small children, ask if you can work flexible hours. If your job is not time dependent, it may be possible to work a different shift.
Schedule, schedule, schedule
After you get the details worked out from your employer, create schedules for you and your kids. If you have babies in your charge, work with your baby’s schedule if possible. If working by your baby’s schedule can’t be done, try enlisting your partner in a bit of work-at-home tag team. Consider splitting the duties between the two of you to get the work done and keep the kids happy. Tag team and working together works for parents with kids of all ages. The important factor in all of this is creating a schedule between the two of you and making it a priority. Stay flexible because things will change between you, your family and outside events.
For families with school-age children, dedicate a space for learning and create a schedule you and any additional family members can help maintain to keep grades from declining. Know the expectations of the teacher and when assignments are due. With remote learning, many schools have weekly assignments rather than daily. This will allow for a lot more flexibility for all. If possible, especially for teens, try to have schoolwork completed in a dedicated but communal environment. Create a makeshift classroom in the kitchen or dining area. Have their bedrooms serve as a space for sleeping and chilling out, not schoolwork.
If you’re a single parent working from home tending to babies and children will be challenging. There may be local and government agencies that can offer some assistance. Do a quick internet search for finding help in your area. If your children are older check out these ways you can keep your work life productive.
- Talk to your children about when they can interrupt you. Make it fun and visual. Wear a hat or crown that signifies you’re busy, and they can’t talk to you. Once the hat is off, they can come and talk to you.
- Tell them when you are at work, they need to be patient and will need to play with their siblings.
- If possible be picky about meetings. If you’re not needed elect to opt out of meetings or put yourself on mute and listen.
- Turn on the television and have them watch educational shows or movies. Kids can get bored with watching TV all day long. Schedule it in during times you know your workday will be challenging.
- Enlist in videoconferencing for your little ones. Schedule a Zoom meeting with your child’s best friend. Even a few minutes occupied and attention off you can allow you to get some work done.
- Self-care is important right now. Find ways to take care of yourself. Talk to your HR representative or manager to see if you can work flexible hours that will allow you to work from home and take care of family.
As stated earlier, if you have the advantage of living in a multi-family home, you may be in luck. Grandparents, in-laws and teens can be a welcome addition to your new work-at-home life. Sit everyone down and carve out a plan for each family member. Even little ones can help and will enjoy being a part of this adventure. Enlisting parents and other family members can also be done virtually. Have a grandparent tell a story via Facetime, Skype or Zoom. Build this into your schedule. To hlep you get your work done, embrace television, movies and online learning. For older children, visit museums and art galleries around the world virtually and have them create a fun presentation afterwards. Sign up to NextDoor and communicate (online) with other parents of kids and teens. Exchange ideas and help each other out (again, virtually).
It’s time to get to work
You may have heard people who work remotely work in their pajamas or simply roll out of bed, (or maybe work in bed) groggily get a cup of coffee and start to work. While this certainly sounds like an advantage, if you’re new to work at home, this can make getting into a routine more difficult, especially if you’re a traditional work-at-the-office type. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Start each day as if you are going into the office. This means taking a shower, getting dressed, doing all your usual morning rituals.
- Don’t be afraid of virtual meetings. Virtual or video meetings not only keep you sharp (you can’t be multi-tasking while on a video call) but create a sense of community with your team. Working from home can be isolating for some. Video calls can create a social connection at a time when we need it most.
- Find a dedicated workspace for yourself. This can be a closet, the basement, a corner of your bedroom. Whatever space allows, carve out your area for working at home.
- Determine when you will work. After talking with your supervisor, determine your “office hours.” Download a time-tracking app if you need. When working at home, it’s easy to work more hours than you may normally.
- Take frequent breaks. Walk around your block, throw in a load of laundry. Getting up and moving around will break up the monotony of work and help you focus.
- If you do have little children (and pets) at home during your work hours, you may experience the occasional interruption. A toddler barging in while you’re presenting to the boss. A cat decides to sit on your laptop ending your meeting abruptly. This happens to even the most prepared. Gently shoo away your tot or kitty, collect yourself and start again.
Maintain your sanity
This is an unprecedented event that changes daily. It’s important to keep your sanity by taking time out for you. This last tip may sound crazy with all that you’re in charge of, but it might be the most important. This work scenario could be a long-term event, we just don’t know. Pace yourself, the dirty laundry can wait. Take a walk (while practicing social distancing rules), or snuggle with your new furry coworker. Whatever it takes for you to catch your breath during the day, do so and do so as often as you can.
We’d love to hear from you! What are you doing to manage a household, work a full day and keep your sanity?