Working from home? Sounds fine. But then add into the mix occupying your children and taking on the role of teacher. And the fact that tempers may be getting frayed as we spend so much time in each other’s company. Could be a recipe for significant stress unless you follow some simple steps.
- Be realistic! Plan to work with a stream of interruptions. You’re unlikely to have the luxury of working exclusively and only afterwards dealing with kids. Work expectations have to be different from the outset to avoid feeling stressed about how little you’re achieving compared to usual. Expect less so that you avoid working round the clock to stay on top of things.
- Talk to your manager about how you’re getting on and about your work. Be honest about how much you can achieve, without it being at a significant cost to you or your family. See my insights for managers about useful conversations to have with employees to maintain psychological wellbeing. This will help you lead the call if they’re struggling to think holistically.
- Create ground rules and a schedule for your kids
- Organise a schoolwork timetable and workspace with all your kids’ resources set up and minimal distractions so that they can be as independent as possible. A clock or timer can be useful to give children an idea of how long they have for each activity.
- Make it clear that when you’re on the phone that you are not to be interrupted.
- Identify times when they can help tidy up/ helping out. We’re all in this together!
- Allocate time to spend with your kids proving 100% attention (minus the phone/ tv/ work).
- Create ground rules and a routine for parents:
- Plan a schedule that works for both parents if you’re both juggling work. Communicate daily about the routine, what’s working well, any concerns, and how it needs to be tweaked (or drastically re-written!).
- Allocate times to switch off from the Coronavirus. Make sure you spend quality time together (minus the kids), whether that’s watching a film, catching up with a glass of wine and music, going for a walk (keeping your kids at a distance to give you some space – you can suggest this is a practical lesson in social distancing!).
- Check in with your kids daily to hear their feedback, concerns and ideas about being at home all the time. What’s working, what could be better, what questions do they have?
- Remind yourself of this great opportunity to focus on our families and spend quality time with our kids doing things we can’t do with our usual hectic pace of life. Get your children involved in everyday activities such as preparing dinner, and ‘special’ time such as playing cards/ board games. Doing this strengthens relationships and keeps everyone stimulated.
- Find healthy coping strategies. It’s tempting to reach for the wine or chocolate when we’re watching the news to keep up to date but we’re sabotaging our ability to sleep well and feel physically well. Self-care is critical right now as we take on the additional challenge of caring for our kids 24/7.
- Be kind to yourself and your kids! When everything feels like it’s going wrong (and it will at times), take time out. Remember, your kids need attention and will be struggling with all their normal activities and social interactions suddenly coming to a halt. Sitting with you at home while you work isn’t much fun! Get everyone away from their activities and go for a walk or do a 5-minute dance/singing workout such as Go Noodle on the web, or just have a snack and drink and enjoy the sunshine. See my advice for staying emotionally well at home for top tips.
Remember, we’re only human and we have off days! That tension is magnified when everyone happens to be having an off-day together and in my opinion, it’s better just to shelve the work plans and do something to improve everyone’s mood and strengthen your emotional connection. Maintaining positive relationships has got to be the priority right now.
For more advice on staying emotionally well working from home, see my blog.
TALK! I’m happy to help. If, like most, you’re grappling with how to keep yourself and your team well in these uncertain times, get in touch. I’m here to listen and share my expertise in being psychologically well. This is not a time to be ‘heroic’ and go it alone.