Teleworkers and employers each find benefits from flexible home working but changing to this new working environment requires some new habits and slight adjustments in routine, especially for parents. As a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, a large majority of households worldwide are facing the same scenario with families learning how to work and play together all day, every day. Listed below are 5 useful tips to try and help readjust to this new lifestyle.
1. Communicate With Your Partner
If your spouse or partner is at home caring for the kids, it’s essential that you communicate what your day is like so you’re both on the same page with your expectations and needs. For example, if you’re under a pressing deadline and need to focus, let them know so that they can get the kids out of the house for a while. If you have a lighter workday with more flexibility, offer to take the kids for an hour at lunch so your partner can have a break. You and your spouse are a team, so it’s always best to figure out how you both can help each other and provide support, while still being productive with your jobs.
A little goes a long way when it comes to kids. If you can give your kids 20 or 30 minutes of quality attention in the morning, you’re more likely to get an hour or two of quality work time afterward. Regular breaks throughout the day can help minimize interruptions, if you don’t stop and spend some time with them throughout the day, they’re much more likely to burst into the office for attention.
2. Use Naptime to Your Advantage
If your kids are still taking naps, then you’ve got an hour or two of uninterrupted time to focus. Make sure you save this time to complete tasks that require your full attention. Schedule calls or work on a challenging project while your kids are asleep, and complete less challenging or low-priority tasks when they’re up and about. If your kids are too old for naps, then make them have “quiet play time” every day at the same time.
Some parents have a special box of toys and books that only come out during quiet playtime. For this hour only, the kids get to play with these special toys, and the limited availability keeps them fresh and interesting. Resist the temptation to put the house back in order during these times. Instead treat this like gold and use it to focus on your most important work or schedule conference calls while the environment is peaceful.
3. Schedule daily video catch-ups or an informal group chat
While things are quiet, another useful idea would be to organize video-calls with colleagues, whether it be to substitute sending an email or setting aside 30 minutes a day to create the visual connection with co-workers. When organizing these calls, make sure your broadband is not strained by other demands such as multiple unnecessarily connected devices, apps or streaming services. This way provides you with the best quality calls when speaking with your colleagues. It’s always best to reguarly monitor your network, you don’t want any inconveniences when catching up or on a conference call!
It’s vital not to lose touch with your colleagues, especially in this climate. Share truthfully how your day is going, and allow a safe space for people to share their thoughts and provide support. Set up informal group chats via Slack or Google Hangouts separate to the dedicated work channels as this is a great method of keeping in contact.
4. Creating a Schedule
Kids in school are used to a daily routine with breaks and lunchtime. Try to put some structure and focus for your kids by creating a schedule for the day, broken down into different time slots (e.g play breaks, snack breaks, reading, coloring colourings slots depending on the age of your kids).
Put the schedule up on the wall so your kids can see it also. This will hopefully lead them to be more focused throughout the day and at the same time allow you to plan your work schedule / calls a bit better without interruptions.
If your children need your presence but not your full attention there is work you can do in the same room as them while they work on their ‘homework’ tasks. Not all work needs to be done in a locked and soundproofed room. The simple answer to put on Netflix or other streaming services might not be the most efficient and practical option, especially if your job already has a high demand for conference calls on your network. In the case of real time apps such as voice and video, there will be a high demand on your network, so be sure all your necessary equipment has been tested correctly and works, and to give your company plenty of notice should there be any issues.
5. Practice With Your Kids
Continuing on from the previous point, sometimes being in the presence of your children while working can be a little disruptive, especially if your day will involve multiple conference calls. They mysteriously somehow know when you’re on an important conference call, and they’ll likely choose that moment to burst into your office screaming and you’ve had to either exit the call or mute it. However there is a viable solution to this problem. All it takes is a little practice.
Children learn through repetition, which is why your kids want to do the same task or read the same book again and again. You can use the power of repetition to teach your children what to do and, more importantly, what not to do when you absolutely must be left alone. How? By playing pretend, of course. First, figure out which tasks you do during your workday that demand no interruptions. For most parents, this will be phone calls or video meetings. Then, talk to your kids about what they need to do when they notice you’re doing this activity.
For example, what should they do when they hear the phone ring or see you step into your office and close the door for a meeting? Another useful tactic, for older children especially, is to tie a ribbon on your office door as a nonverbal “ Do not disturb” sign when you need quiet time. Give them specific instructions, which will vary depending on if you have a spouse or partner at home to help. Pretend to take a call or have a meeting, and see how your kids react. Go through this drill over and over again. Praise and reward them when they start to do it right, and give them gentle guidance when they don’t. The more you practice, the more they’ll catch on to what’s expected of them.
These useful tips were brought to you by Spearline’s Enterprise Solutions Manager Howard Meredith. Connect with Howard on LinkedIn here.
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