You and your husband are all home together with the kids—how special to get some family time together! But wait, you both work full-time jobs, and you now find yourself without a sitter—how is this going to work?
Like millions of others thrust into this situation, ARRA Healthcare Executive Consultant Sarah Summer and her husband have been working from home with the unique challenge that comes with also taking care of two children, ages 4 years and 5 months.
“Some days are harder than others, but my husband and I are trying to work together and tag team the best we can,” she says.
Here are some of her tips for working from home with kids during the Coronavirus.
Set your priorities each morning or, preferably, the night before. What are your highest must-accomplish tasks? What can be put off until tomorrow? What can be delegated to someone else? What may not need doing at all? Creating your to-do list and prioritizing your work will help you to maximize your productivity and time management.
“We have found it easiest to start our day pretty much as soon as we are awake and check our calendars. We both have scheduled calls at certain times, so we try to work together to be respectful about times that one of us has to watch the kids,” Sarah says.
Especially in households with two working parents, it can be hard to find a balance and take turns watching the kids. Sit down with your partner and review your calendars and priorities. Be clear about your needs and the time you need to accomplish your goals for the day. Be respectful of each other’s work, it’s important that neither partner feels like their work is less important.
Set your alarm and choose a start time every day. It may even be helpful to get up before the kids so you can get a few hours of work while interrupted. It can be hard to do, but it alleviates the stress of working late into the evening when you try to catch up.
If you know your kids turn into hangry little monsters around 11:00 am, it may not be the best time to try and dig in on that report or schedule a call.
Strategize your day around those peak times when you know you can make a lot of progress and knock out your to-do list. Imagine this as a time when you hang a virtual “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door and you can devote 100% to your work.
Bring out some quiet time activities when you have a scheduled call or need some time to get some work done. A different or new activity saved only for quiet time makes it more special. For babies and younger toddlers, a safe gated area filled only with safe toys makes a great space for independent playtime.
Capitalize on nap times—if you’re lucky enough to have kids that still take them. If you have kids at home doing schoolwork, plan set hours in the day for those lessons, reading, and other quiet activities, which will also help you to work around those (mostly) uninterrupted times. Kids thrive on a schedule and do best when they know what to expect.
Whether it’s an end table, the basement, or a section of your dining room table, having a designated workspace will help keep you in the work mindset and focused.
Sarah says, “My husband and I both have our computers set up with two monitors, just like we would if we were at the office. We tried to keep everything as normal as possible.”
Doctors recommend kids of all ages have some independent playtime, parallel playtime (they play while you work nearby), one-on-one playtime with undivided parental attention (that means no phone!), and some family time together throughout the day.
Explain that you’re going to be working for a bit, and they can play on their own and when you will next play with them, get lunch, etc. Some kids enjoy setting a timer, when it goes off, Mommy or Daddy can play and give some individual attention.
“Our schedule in terms of the hours we work had to adjust since the kids are here. Sometimes I am checking in on business at 7:30 am, and then logging in after the kids go to bed at 7:00 pm to handle other items that don’t require me to be on the phone,” says Sarah.
Overall, remember to cut yourself some slack. This is a new normal that everyone is getting used to.
These days, no one bats an eye if a kid walks in during a video chat to ask for a snack. Working from home with kids—and without a sitter—is tough. Planning with your partner and setting your priorities each day will help ensure that you accomplish what you need to get done and work more efficiently.