Working from home is something I have been doing on and off for 14 years, since I started my career in Social Media Marketing back in 2006. At the time I was a Community Manager for a social networking site. I remember people being fascinated that I was working from home, and not even understanding what it meant to be a community manager. My how times have changed!
Fast forward to 2020 and here we are in the digital age, going through a global pandemic, where most of the world is trying to work from home. And I say “trying” for a reason. We are not working from home during a global pandemic. We are going through a global pandemic and trying to work from home. Even for someone who has worked from home most of her career, this has been a whole new experience. Why, you ask? Because I’m trying to do it with a 3 year old at home.
I’m not going to lie – the first week was a disaster. My husband and I split the day to take care of our daughter. I would work the first half, and he would do his studies the second half. See, he’s a full time student at USC about 4 weeks away from graduating with his Masters Degree. We’re not about to let 5 years of schooling, and don’t even ask how much in school loans, go out the window.
Well, by the end of week 1 we were defeated and exhausted. Chloe was having multiple meltdowns a day, missing her preschool and her friends, and was miserable being cooped up. She had no schedule, no planned activities, and was eating me out of house and home from snacking all day long! And she just stopped napping, so there’s that too. I wasn’t getting all of my work done and my husband wasn’t prepared for his classes. If we were going to make this work as a family, we had to figure out a plan that suited everyone.
Now that we’re a few weeks into the safer at home order here in California, I’ve learned a few valuable lessons that I wanted to share. And I’ve asked my fellow Tribe Moms Vicki Clacherty, Madeline Mirasol and Lauren Darrah to share their suggestions too! I’m hoping that these tips, combined with general work from home suggestions, will help other parents trying to work from home. And just so you know, there is no perfect solution. We can’t be parents, teachers, and workers at the same time. It’s just not possible. So be kind to yourself and know that those around you will be as well!
Working from Home
- Get ready every day as if you are going to your office. Take a quick shower, get dressed, make breakfast, all before you sit down at your computer. This will set your intention for the day and make sure you have some “me” time before you start working.
- Have a clean and organized work space. This will help you stay focused and not get distracted by clutter.
- Block off time on your calendar for lunch and breaks, and make sure you take them! It’s very easy to eat at your desk, but avoid it if you can. You will burn out by the end of the day if you don’t take breaks throughout.
- Use Slack, Skype, GChat, etc. to stay connected with your team. It’s ok to make chit chat as if you were at the water cooler! This will help break up the day and provide much needed social interaction.
- Use video conferences to see your coworkers for meetings. I am a huge proponent of video ON! Human engagement during the day is key to keeping us all connected.
- Personally, I work in silence all day. But I know most people enjoy music in the background. Find what suits you best without being distracted.
- Set your start and end times for the day, and stick to them. It’s very easy to keep working into the evening without the usual “5pm! Time to go home!” Just because you are already home, doesn’t mean you work all night.
- Find the right work/life balance. If you always worked out in the morning, plan that work out before you start your day. More of an evening exercise person? Make sure you don’t forget at the end of the day. And make time to connect with friends and take care of yourself when the day is over.
Tips with the Kids
- Kids thrive on schedules. Come up with a schedule that works for you and your family. Include planned activities, school work time, quiet times and free play. But don’t put too much pressure on yourself to stick to it. Just setting the intention will help bring focus to your day.
- Start the day with gratitude by sharing 3-5 things you are grateful for. Teaching your children to look for the positives each day is extremely beneficial. It sets the tone for the day and they will subconsciously look for things to talk about the next day. If you look for gratitude, you will find it.
- Exercise before you dive into the rest of the day. It will create together time that will “tide them over” until the next break, and forces you both to move before breakfast! YouTube has some great channels for kids with yoga, Zumba, ballet and more.
- Take a morning walk for a fun scavenger hunt. And while you’re at it, collect rocks for painting later. For a fun idea, paint them in rainbow colors and leave them on front steps around the neighborhood to brighten up everyone’s day!
- If you have any homework to do with the kids, try doing it at the start of the day. It’s much harder to come back to it later.
- Don’t put pressure on yourself to limit screen time. There are tons of educational programs for children on YouTube, Netflix, PBS, etc. Find the right balance that keeps the kids busy for a bit so you can get some work done.
- Look up age appropriate activities that are easy and fun, and try to plan ahead for the next day. But don’t worry if it’s not the most amazing art project or that perfect handprint painting. I’ve found that my daughter comes up with her own creative ideas just from putting a few things in front of her, like empty paper towel rolls, pom poms, cups or magnatiles. Let them be creative!
- Include kids in daily activities that are “grown up” that they can take ownership of. “Cleaning” with a spray bottle is super fun! Use these moments to “buy” time for meetings and to get work done.
- Encourage the kids to participate in cooking and baking with you, if they don’t already! It will create an activity for them to do and give them a great sense of accomplishment. My daughter can already crack an egg at 3 years old!
- Use a timer to indicate breaks when you and the kids can spend some time together. Encourage them to play until the timer goes off so you can work and then find a fun activity to do together.
- Don’t forget to get outside and run around when you can! Playing tag or hide and seek will help burn off some energy.
- Let the kids know when you have a meeting. If they do make an appearance on a video call, stay on mute and turn the video off to not distract everyone else. The reality is, the kids are here, and they will be seen.Find the right balance so you and your team can stay focused.
- Make mealtime family time. Do your best to have breakfast and lunch with the kids. This bonding time will help when you are working or in meetings the rest of the day.
- If you have the support of a partner who can trade off watching the kids, try to set up in a quiet workspace. When it’s time to work, let them know you have to go work now. Personally, what’s been working great for us is to give my daughter a hug and a kiss “goodbye”. She picked up real quick and stopped banging at the office door to get in.
- Lastly, end your day at the same time you usually would if you were at the office, so you can spend quality time with the family the rest of the day.
While there is no one-size-fits-all model for parenting, I hope you find these suggestions helpful to get you and your family through this challenging time. I’d love to hear what’s been working for you to manage parent life and work life too. Please share your tips! And remember, at the end of the day it’s all about the support we give each other as both family members and team members as we try our best to work from home.