There has been so much talk about adapting to a “new normal” since the global pandemic has forced us all out of work and school and forced us into our homes. But it if you’re anything like me, it takes a long time to adapt to a new routine – and it’s even harder when you have to worry about the routines of others (the kids).
Almost as quickly as we could blink the world totally changed. Millions of people had to transfer to working from home and at the same time, so did their kids. Well, of course they were schooling from home.
Working from home can be tough even when there isn’t a global pandemic. There are so many distractions like the laundry, organizing that one closet that you’ve been meaning to get to for 6 months, pets, and kids. But usually, working from home at least means about 7 hours of peace and quiet while the kids are at school! You can get the biggest projects done without anyone asking you to make them lunch, find their sneakers or clean up a big mess.
Now, everything’s changed! These kids, while we love them more than life itself, are home all day, every day. There’s nothing more important than family time but work time has to be made a priority too. Someone’s got to pay for all these quarantine snacks and video stream subscriptions.
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In an effort to make your days a little bit easier, organized and keep you focused, I spent the last few days scouring the internet and putting into practice some of the best ways to stay focused while working from home with distractions.
Without further ado…
Set clear boundaries
Boundaries are important in every aspect of life but especially when you’re working from home with kids. I can’t begin to stress how important it is to find a room or even just an area of your house where you can stake your claim and not be bothered while you’re in there.
Your boundaries should be as definitive as they would be if you were really at work and unavailable to be directly reached at any moment in time. Make it clear to your family that knocking on your door, calling you or coming into our workspace is for emergencies only!
Be open with your boss
This pandemic is changing the way we’re all living and working; even your boss and HR representative. They’re more than likely going to be understanding of your situation if you’re just honest and up front with them. If you’ve got to start your day an hour later so you can get the kids set up with breakfast and plan for the day – ask your boss for that leeway. If someone has a project that they need extra help on, communicate that you need to take a half a day or that you’ll only be available to communicate through email.
Creating an open and honest communication will let your boss know that you’re serious about making your new situation work and even though you’re working from home with kids, you’re dedicated to making it work and keeping your performance top-tier.
Set a family schedule
We all thrive on routines. Even pets perform and learn better when you have a set routine and are consistent with them! Every night before bed, sit down with your kids and give them tomorrow’s schedule. If possible, collaborate with them and ask them what works/doesn’t work for them.
Getting really involved with your kid’s schedules and letting them have some input to how their days are going to go will save everyone a lot of trouble in the long run. Everyone will know what to expect out the day ahead and you’re also allowing your kids to have some control over their day!
Giving your kids a sense of control is really important during these times when everyone feels so out of control. Make sure you work in breaks for cell phone time, video games or playing outside. Even though they should be doing schoolwork for the usual amount of time, you don’t want the kids to get burnt out and start pestering you. Scheduling playtime gives them a necessary outlet.
Tap into family resources
These days, most people are putting off family visits. However, if you can get grandma, grandpa or one of your siblings to video chat with the kids for an hour every morning (or whatever works for you) it will make working from home with kids a lot easier. Sure, it’s no substitute for a babysitter or quality face-to-face interaction but it can be a great way to keep the kids distracted while deepening their connection with the family.
If you’ve got a family member that’s particularly knowledgeable in a certain subject or maybe they’re just a natural-born teacher, ask them if you can set up some virtual “tutoring” sessions throughout the week so take a little bit of pressure off of you! If there are other kids in the family that are of similar age, see if you can do a little “virtual family classroom” where everyone can share what they’ve learned, ask questions, and let you get your work done with no distractions.
Schedule breaks for yourself and the kids
As I mentioned earlier, a schedule of events for the day is super important, especially for the kids when they start to get restless. But when you’re working from home with kids it’s important that you schedule in some breaks for yourself to enjoy some time with them throughout the day.
When you schedule time with the kids, you give them an opportunity to address any issues that they need to bring to you, and you get to spend some quality time with them. This allows you to work from home without distractions because you can say to the kids, “Okay I’ll check in with you guys at this time and this time and we can talk about what you need! Otherwise only knock on my door if there’s an emergency, okay?”
It’s equally important to schedule downtime with the kids! When you’re working, parenting and schooling all day you’re always go, go, go. Surely, the kids are feeling that way too since their school and home lives have melted together. Plan daily or weekly activities to enjoy as a family to release some pent-up energy and frustration. This will avoid distractions while working with kids at home down the line.
Utilize visual cues
Set up a series of signs that you hang on your door to let your family know what’s going on with your day. For example, have signs for
- I’m on a phone call
- I’m on a video call
- I have some down time
- Please quiet down, I need to focus
This goes hand-in-hand with setting boundaries but it’s a bit more tactical and might be easier for your kids when they can physically see your boundaries and know why they’re there.
Be kind to yourself
Remind yourself that this is going to take some time getting used to! You can’t expect to learn how to live a whole new lifestyle overnight. Sure, you’ll probably lose your patience or make a few mistakes every now and again but that’s okay!
Find new ways to treat yourself, too. If you’re missing your “me time” when you would go to the spa, shop, or spend time with friends, find a way to simulate that at home. Schedule a happy hour FaceTime with your girlfriends, order some luxurious bubble bath, or just turn the shower all the way up and sit in your bathroom “sauna.” Why don’t you treat yourself to a fluffy robe while you’re at it?
Juggling life as normal is hard enough. Now that there’s the added stress of a global pandemic, working from home with kids and distance learning it might seem like things are totally out of control. Just remember that things will go back to normal and you and your family are going to be stronger when you come out on the other side.
Keep communication channels open, be honest about your situation and be patient. You’ve got this!