Tips for Working from Home and Homeschooling During Coronavirus
In the midst of this new COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are implementing work-from-home (WFH) policies, which means millions of employees are suddenly facing a new reality: working from home for an extended period of time. Add to that, with thousands of school closures nationwide, many workers are attempting to homeschool children while balancing a job–talk about a challenge!
Working from home and homeschooling can be a seriously tough juggling act. Here are a few tips to help make the transition a bit smoother for parents and kids alike.
Be Patient & Flexible
First things first, it’s going to take some time to adjust to this new normal. Not only have our adult routines been flipped upside down, but our kids are dealing with the stress of new routines, too. We’re all dealing with a lot of uncertainty, so you can expect things at home to be a little rough for a while as you figure out how to homeschool and work remotely. Be realistic and patient, embrace the mess, and prepare for some speed bumps over the next few weeks as your family adjusts.
Set a Daily Routine for Work & Play
Your family was probably accustomed to a certain schedule before the coronavirus pandemic began. Try to create a sense of structure at home with a flexible daily routine. Your kids will appreciate the predictability, and it’ll help you remain organized and sane. And don’t be hard on yourself if you have to rearrange things daily. Remember that patience and flexibility are key during this quarantine!
For example, structure your day around key milestones and activities your kids are familiar with, like meal times, clean-up, play time, and quiet time. Your day may start with breakfast, then breakfast clean-up; followed by getting dressed, brushing teeth, and making beds. For older kids, this may mean time for homework, chores then free time. A daily chart, like this one from Scholastic, may help you and your family stay on-task.
If your kids are old enough to enjoy independent play time or schoolwork, use that time to complete your work tasks. If your kids are too young and need constant attention, your working hours will likely be choppy. (We see you, parents of babies and toddlers!) This means you may need to tackle work over meals, nap time, and bedtime. Your new WFH schedule probably won’t resemble a typical 9 to 5 workday any longer.
Alternate with a Partner
If you’re fortunate enough to live with a spouse, co-parent or another adult, discuss alternating childcare shifts so each of you can find longer stretches of uninterrupted work time. Have someone take the morning hours, swap in the afternoon, and so on. This can make remote work a lot easier, especially when working parents have set obligations, like Zoom meetings, conference calls and big projects to complete. Plus, it’ll help your kids understand who is available and in charge, preventing interruptions and outbursts.
And if working from home with kids becomes too difficult, be sure to talk to your employer: everything is in constant flux during this pandemic, and expectations for work should also be adjusted.
Create Designated Work Spaces
One of the hardest parts of working from home can be maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It’s easy to blur the line when working remotely, which can quickly lead to burnout, exhaustion and difficulty unwinding. That’s why creating specific spaces for work, homeschooling and play is essential.
If you have the extra space to create a private home office with a dedicated office desk, consider yourself fortunate. If you live in a small home or apartment, try to carve out a space that feels separate from the rest of your home. While tricky in tiny spaces, find an area that you can “exit” at the end of your workday so you can fully disconnect from work. And while it might seem nice to work from your bed or couch, try to avoid doing work activities in spaces where you typically relax.
The same goes for your kids during this coronavirus homeschool schedule. Being home among toys, siblings, and pets can make it hard for kids to focus. Try to find a quiet, low-traffic area of your home, where they can complete schoolwork free of distractions. When work is complete, pack up the crayons, pencils, and scissors so your kids understand that work is over.
We’ve all seen the hilarious WFH and home schooling memes. While they provide some great comic relief, interruptions from your kids are the new reality. Communicating when you’re available to help with kid and family obligations is crucial to productivity during this new normal.
Explain to your kids when you will be working and try to find a private room, preferably with a door, so you can excuse yourself. Better yet, give young children an arts’n’crafts project to help them learn these boundaries. Have them create fun signs for your office door–such as a thumbs up or thumbs down, or green and red stop lights–to let them know when they can enter your workspace.
Likewise, try to create boundaries for your child’s new school day. Set a timer so kids (especially young kids) know how long they have to remain seated and engaged with a project or activity. And while screen time is likely the least of your concerns these days, consider rules for when screens will be permitted each day, just like at school.
Take Breaks and Have Fun
It’s easy to overextend yourself to prove you’re working while at home. But just like a regular workday in the office, breaks are mandatory for your mental health. Instead of powering through work, schedule 10 minute breaks every hour to unplug and reset. Grab a snack, say “hi” to the kids, take a walk, jump in the shower, or do at-home yoga. Not only will you feel recharged, but you’ll get more done–and that’s according to science!
The same goes for your kids during their new homeschool routine. Don’t expect kids to last hours upon hours completing school work each day. Their typical school days included breaks to socialize, switch subjects, eat lunch and even play.
After they complete an activity, go explore the outdoors, dance out the wiggles, play a game, finish a puzzle, or prepare a meal as a family. If you can, try to focus less on their work and more on fun and quality family time these days, as dedicated family time boasts many benefits for children.
What Have You Learned?
If you haven’t figured out how to balance work and homeschooling just yet, don’t be hard on yourself! Give your family the time and space to adjust to this new normal. Be patient and flexible with yourself, and try to make new family memories. This COVID-19 transition is tough for nearly everyone, and every family faces unique obstacles. Hopefully by the time this ends, a bad case of cabin fever, a messy house and some stinky sweatpants will be the worst you’ve encountered.