Five tips for work from home parents who want to maintain productivity by creating a distraction-free workspace.
The coronavirus situation has forced a large part of the workforce to work from home. And if you are a parent with children also in lockdown, then the difficulties of putting in a full-day work are something you grapple with every day.
Parenting while juggling calls, emails and an approaching deadline is not a laughing matter.
The pandemic has been raging for an year now with seasonal resurgences and variants throwing all plans of going back to the pre-Covid era an impossibility.
People now have to adjust to the new norm of working. Remote work is here to stay and parents need to learn how to manage in this new environment.
How to work from home, the right way
We have gathered some tips here from harried parents, work experts and work-life balance pundits to make the transition a little more manageable.
Have a schedule
Plan your day as if you are really going to step out of the house for your usual office day.
Do not procrastinate just because you are working from home. Get up early, set aside breakfast time and get the children ready for the day.
Have a 15-20 minute sit down time with the children where you can discuss plans for the day. If the children are younger, then set aside some play time with them so that they are ready for a nap by the time you open your computer for the day.
Set your calls early in the day so that you face less disturbance during that time.
That said, one of the benefits of working at home is flexibility. If the children are fussing then you can always push aside work and give them time. You can catch up on work later.
As long as you are putting in the required hours and finishing the work on schedule, all employers should be agreeable to a flexible schedule, considering the times.
Keep your role as a parent and a professional separate
It is important to set boundaries with the children. Have a separate room for office or if that is not possible, a cut off separate area that is designated as an office and not accessible until permitted.
Mentally separate home and office duties. Do not let one encroach on the other.
Set timings and walk away from either if it interferes in the other task.
Though that means scheduling and having a time-table.
Plan for interruptions
The iconic BBC interview that was interrupted by toddlers rushing in is a real story of work from home parents.
Many calls are interrupted by a toddler whining for attention. Hit the mute button during conference calls to avoid any unexpected yells of “Mommmeee!” in the background.
Have a nonverbal message or visual sign on when you are on an important call.
For toddlers, the only option is to politely leave the meeting and reschedule it.
You can catchup with a colleague on the minutes later or through some office tool that does it automatically.
Structure your day
Work to build a timetable around your children’s activities and snack and lunchtime.
It should be put up in a prominent place with options of snacks allowed and where they are.
Lunch timings and what it will be.
Your strict office time
Activities/lesson to be done on their own
TV and computer time.
Among all this, you will need to work out how to handle the toddlers. Work out with your partner who will handle the interruptions and scatter attention time between the two.
Initially, it may take some time to work out all the scheduling but it will surely streamline the day for you.
With children there is nothing like a smooth day as all parents know. But a structured week day will be beneficial for both the parents and the kids.
Do not over schedule
Keep everything within expectations. Emergencies crop up, children demand attention and calls get interrupted. The trick is to keep a cool head and not get overwhelmed.
Prioritize and do not feel guilty. Sometimes work will take precedence over the child’s demand for attention and other times it will be the opposite.
Learn to adjust and manage.