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I’ve worked from home for more than a decade and have attempted to train my three children from an early age that when mommy is on a work call, she needs to focus. They do their best, but kids consistently need parental help. I remember the Post-It note scribbled in a 5-year-old’s penmanship that was slid under my door one morning: "Eli needs wiped." My newly potty-trained tot sat on the pot for quite a while before mommy got to him. It happens.
Now that families across America find themselves under one roof, we can give each other a heavy dose of empathy and understanding. Business may not be going as usual, but we can keep business going. Our jobs can still be a job well done!
As parents attempt to work from home while kids try to school from home, we’ll need to come up with a plan, adjust as necessary, and we’ll probably need to participate in some conflict resolution – but we can do this!
Here are a few tips to help us stay sane and productive while working from home with kids at home:
Establish a schedule right away.
Finding a groove will provide structure, stability and set times for productivity. Once you have the schedule rolled out, stick with it the best you can. A University of Texas pediatric psychologist recommends scheduling meals, quiet and play time, homework time and outdoor time (if possible).
Having a separate space for adults to work creates a physical barrier between work and play. Likewise, a separate space for school helps children focus on their responsibilities.
Set clear guidelines.
From the start, teach children when interruptions are ok and when they’re not. One creative parent posts a paper stop sign during meetings, so children know not to enter the room. Another made up a do not disturb hand signal in case a child peeks into the office in the middle of a call.
The younger the children are, the more interruptions will occur. So, you might as well expect (and not resent) them. Some parents choose a mantra to repeat when untimely or frustrating interruptions occur – possibilities include, "they matter most" or, "work can wait" or, "small moments make a big difference."
Capitalize on quiet hours.
Save nap times and early morning hours for the most important and brain-demanding work. Perhaps that’s when you should schedule the video conference call or when it's best to bust into full-throttle productivity mode.
Buffer the noise.
White noise machines, fans, noise-canceling headphones and the mute button on your phone are all your friends. Use them as needed to help drown out any noise your children might make.
Take little breaks for a boost.
Checking in on one another boosts family morale. Make these check-ins the time to do small bursts of exercise. So, when it’s break time, run to the fence in the backyard, have everyone join in 25 jumping jacks, or take a dance break in the living room. Get the blood pumping and the smiles widening. We might as well have fun during this!
Eat meals together.
Make your time together as a family count. Working from home has its perks – like the opportunity to sit down and have three meals a day together. Enjoy it!
Though our normal routines are out the window, a silver lining exists: Dogs and babies and children and spouses are all in this together. Our houses and days are full – and our hearts can be too. We can foster environments of gratitude, understanding and empathy as we work through this with our favorite teams.
Jessica Poe is a full-time homeschooler of three children and a part-time healthcare writer. She also authored the book, "Everyday MOMents."