1. RETHINK YOUR WORKING HOURS
Normal working hours may prove hard to stick to when kids are at home, so re-thinking this and flexing your working day around them can be a better solution. Where you know you’ll be looking after kids, play with the timing of your calls: with younger kids, try scheduling calls or chunks of work for 20 minutes (i.e. the time kids can concentrate for!) If you have older kids, make calls 45 minutes so you have 15 minutes one-to-one time in between. For some, it may be easier to hold phone calls instead of video calls – discuss this with your manager.
If you can, schedule a bit of time in the day to give your kids your full attention and don’t look at emails. Let your manager and your team know when you’re available for calls and when you’ll be busy with childcare, and where possible, keep all calls and meetings as short as possible.
If you have some tasks that simply must get done by a certain deadline, try getting up earlier or use time in the evening to do the work uninterrupted while the children are snug in their beds. Shifting your working pattern to gain uninterrupted time can be a worthwhile trade-off, but make sure it’s not at the expense of your wellbeing. Rest and recuperation are a vital part of your ability to be at your best, as a parent and an employee.
Having a fixed time to do certain activities and getting into some sort of routine will help to make everyone feel settled sooner. If you’re at home with your partner or other family members who can help, sit down and agree what your “shifts” should look like. As much as you can, try to follow a daily routine that mirrors your and the children’s normal routine. Draw up schedules that include school work in different subject areas, as well as time slots for reading, playing games or watching a movie.
Try and outsmart cries of “I’m bored” with plenty to keep young complainers occupied while you work. Find some online movies they’ve never seen or watch some old favourites again. Gather art supplies for a marathon holiday card-making session. There are some amazing on-line virtual hints and tips that have been shared by people across the globe.
The situation that Covid-19 has brought is extraordinary and unprecedented. Our routines and our children’s routines have been tipped upside down and along with it, comes the understandable behavioural challenges. You may find your kids will seek your attention and try to pull a guilt trip on you for not spending more time with them. Try a little negotiation, by offering something fun later if they allow you to finish your piece of work without interrupting. And pick your battles!
You’ll also have to make some compromises with work too. Your productivity may not be the same as when you’re working from your normal workplace or without your little ones around. Prioritise your work and focus on your critical to do list. Your manager is there to support you. Discuss your current list of actions and agree the priorities. Review deadlines and identify which can be extended and, in the current operating context, which can be paused. Work with your manager on a revised working week plan that builds in regular family time and allows you to feel in control of your work and your wellbeing.
5. EXERCISE AND CLEAR YOUR HEAD
Engage in regular physical activity to keep spirits (and endorphin levels) up. If you’d rather not leave home, check out some on-line HIIT or yoga sessions, or simply get your heart rate up with some star jumps and running on the spot at a set time each day. With routines disrupted and families thrown into close quarters, cabin fever is a real danger, so if you can go out at least once a day – make the effort to go.
UK based trainer Joe Wicks and many others globally, are offering virtual PE classes aimed at getting children to join in for some routine activity every day. Why not join in with them? Alternatively, if you have been on a long call, why not try some desk yoga to stretch out and refresh your mind?
Make the conscious effort to have a break from your digital world each day. Try and get away from your laptop, catch up on life, sort what you need and rest your eyes regularly.
6. FOCUS ON THINGS YOU CAN CONTROL
Just as our kids are trying to navigate a new world of being at home; likewise, we as parents are doing our best to forge new routines and still deliver for the business. It is a fine balancing act and one that will of course bring tensions. Being in a house for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is a challenge for any family, so be kind to one another. One suggestion is to do some pre-planning by drawing up a family contract defining the challenges and determining how each family member can contribute, in their own way, to overcome them.
It has been widely recognised that living without the usual daily routine while confined in our homes can trigger a number of mental health problems. These may include anxiety, extreme frustration and depression. Self-isolation undermines three vital pillars contributing to good mental health; a sense of autonomy, a sense of competency and a sense of connection. Be mindful of your mental wellbeing, take measures to keep your stress levels down – get enough sleep, exercise and eat well.
7. PERSONAL SPACE
Respect each family member’s need for personal space. For example, you may designate different zones within your home for particular activities, such as game zone and relaxation corner. Talk to one another about your needs and keep checking in to make sure it’s working for everyone.
8. STAY CONNECTED
Maintain contact with family and friends through social media and video calls. For children, this is especially important for family members that they may be used to seeing regularly. Allow them some time to sit and play or chat with them on the phone whilst you get on with other jobs or work. It’s possible that grandparents/elderly members of the family might also feel very isolated at this time too. Use this time to reconnect with other members of the family that you and your family might not talk with regularly and strengthen those relationships virtually.
9. EXPLAIN YOUR JOB AND WHY YOU’RE AT HOME
If kids do not understand what you do, they may view your time locked away working as shunning them. Talk to them about your role and what the business does and explain that in order to do a good job you will need some quiet time and space to complete your work as others depend on your efforts. Introduce your kids to your team and those you work with, and welcome getting to know each other’s kids in your teams – maybe even organise a conference call for the kids to say hi to each other.
Communication about Covid-19 is critical, so discuss the situation in an age-appropriate way. Be open with them about the facts but also help them deal with their feelings and fears. Children need adults to help them understand what is going on, so that misunderstandings can be cleared away and they can get a better understanding of what is going on. The reason we talk to children about the pandemic is to help them feel safer.
10. CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK
Finally, forget perfection. If you’re attempting to home school, look after a toddler or entertaining bored teenagers, and it’s not going swimmingly – don’t beat yourself up. We are all new to this. Staying positive and taking each day as it comes is very important right now. And don’t forget, they are having more one-to-one time now than they do at school which will accelerate their learning … so cut yourself slack on the academics!
We know that some people may be feeling anxious during this uncertain and unpredictable time. This is completely understandable given the daily changes in circumstance and advice we are given. We recognise that everyone is facing different challenges and worries. If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed – talking through your feelings can help.