Top tips for parents working from home
Hira Ali looks at how to juggle the daunting prospect of working from home and having to home school too
Maybe you have been dreaming of this for a long time but couldn’t make it happen because of a lack of flexibility at work? Or perhaps this is your worst nightmare? Either way, it’s here: the opportunity to work from home is right now, and it’s seems like we are in this for the long haul. While the benefits of working from home are many, it admittedly brings an equivalent number of challenges, especially if you throw bored, home-schooled children into the mix. However, by taking conscious efforts and employing specific, effective tactics, this can actually be a very productive experience.
Prepare A Schedule For The Family And Stick To It
This first week will set the tone for the rest of the days so ensure there is a schedule or plan in place, even better if the whole family gets to participate in this. Start organising and prepping two or three days in advance so you can actually implement the schedule. Communicate the expectations to children with understanding and empathy, and talk about the importance of staying home amidst the crises. This is a novel situation for all of us so be prepared for friction, tears, resistance and restlessness before they can fully adjust. Divide the day into slots to include work from school, screen time and other engaging activities, so you can also focus on your own work during that time. It may also be a good idea to introduce reward charts to reinforce good behaviour. We can be with our kids 24/7 and yet never be fully present in the moment with them so make sure when you are with them, you are not distracted and are giving them your full attention even if it’s for short durations only.
Prioritise Work-Space, Healthy Meals & Exercise
De-clutter your work area and keep healthy snacks on the side. Research has proved that messy homes and work places leave us feeling helpless, anxious and overwhelmed. Focus on creating a pleasant work ambience, maybe switch up your space, add a plant or two and ensure adequate sunlight. Any form of exercise, whether it’s dancing, yoga, walking, or even daily stretching at work will make you healthier. What’s more, you can make it into a fun family activity, even a few minutes every day is enough to improve circulation and kick start your metabolism in the right direction. Have a fulfilling breakfast and timely meals; the last thing you want to do when you are stressed is to starve, splurge or over-eat. Don’t forget to take your vitamins, as a lack of certain nutrients can have an effect on your mood and energy level.
Schedule Breaks To Pause And Breathe & Nurture A Hobby
Never hesitate to consciously unwind from the daily overwhelm and give yourself permission to slow down to collect yourself, especially in a time like this. Most people working from home can relate to the lack of discipline an unpredictable work schedule can bring. While flexibility can be advantageous, it can also work against us if we can continue working non-stop and don’t follow a 9-5 schedule. Also, don’t forget to invest time doing something you enjoy; it will be reinvigorating for your mind and soul. It’s also quite reassuring to know that though you may no longer be sipping cocktails on a beach, you can still distract yourself from the daily grind and choose to do something that you enjoy. Also set-up virtual chats and calls with office colleagues/ friends to check in regularly and do a much needed vent out.
Stay calm and learn to let go
We are all experiencing unprecedented times, and emotions are raging raw, but understand that everyone is trying to cope in the best way known to them, with the tools they have available at that particular moment. It isn’t easy for any of us, none of us have experienced a situation like this before, so we only act in ways we think is in our best interests or of those we love. Every individual including the ones you share your home with may be acting and reacting very differently from you as everyone’s coping mechanism is different. A little kindness and empathy will ensure a peaceful and harmonious work from home experience.
Delegate & Avoid Gatekeeping
It’s disconcerting to recognise that some of the time pressure we experience is courtesy of the self-imposed, excessive and unattainable standards we set for ourselves related to housekeeping and other family responsibilities. One survey revealed this sobering detail: the majority of women respondents believed that if they did less around the house, they would feel as though they weren’t taking care of it properly. In the same survey, 28% of married women frequently avoid asking their spouse/partner for help because they don’t believe that their partner would do chores the way they would want them done. Don’t waste your time doing things that somebody else can do, even if they can’t do it as perfectly as you. Similarly, do not avoid delegating tasks to your partner or even children. Make it into a fun chore. Before making the bed on weekends, my husband and son have a long monster fight and tear it apart. Moreover, my son is eager to do chores so that he can earn some reward points that will lead to a weekend treat. Some people might call it bribing – one friend even called it child labour – but I call it inculcating a sense of responsibility at a young age. And if he can do a few age-appropriate tasks at half the cost, then why not? Often, people rise to the challenge when work is delegated to them.
Hira Ali is an author, writer, speaker and executive coach focused on women’s & ethnic leadership development, closing the gender gap and breaking glass ceilings. She is the Founder of Advancing Your Potential & International Women Empowerment Events and Co-Founder of Career Excel and The Grey Area. Her book, Her Way To The Top: A Guide to Smashing the Glass Ceiling, is out now.