For many working parents shipping our kids off to someone else to do most of the work between 8am and 3pm was normal. Then a pandemic set in and suddenly we all have to figure out how to be productive at work, guide our kids through educational activites, prepare meals, keep the house clean….it’s exhausting.
Since we should be practicing social distancing, it can be a tough decision deciding if/when to ask for help.
Maximize Flexibility at Work
Flexibility is essential to working at home with kids. Yes we have to be productive for our jobs, but having a flexibility on what types of task and when we can accomplish them helps to make us more productive overall.
Having kids at home means not being able to sit at a laptop undisturbed for hours on end. Accept it. How many of us actually spend every single minute at work being highly productive at our desks?
Provide Regular Progress and Status Reports
It seems counterintuitive but reporting your progress at regular intervals can free you from staying in constant contact with your team and boss.
The initial transition to the remote work environment left most employees scrambling to prove how productive they can be at home. Constantly checking emails and endless video conferences to prove we we weren’t browsing social media on the beach.
Accommodating these meetings are stressful for two reasons:
- It takes away time from work related tasks
- Having your kids be productive angels can be stressful.
Constant communication does not increase productivity.
Submitting a progress report to your boss and team at regular intervals shows that you are being productive. Consider doing a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly report to clearly communicate objectives for the upcoming month, and showing that you met objectives for the previous month.
Resolve as many Issues as possible via Email
Avoid meetings whenever possible I try to avoid checking email more than four times a day. This means people get a response within 2 hours.
To maintain maximum flexibility you should resolve as many issues as possible with emails. Meetings mean you have to be at a specific place as specific time and focus on work. That is difficult with kids around.
If someone requests a meeting, ask for an agenda and how long the meeting will last. Review the agenda and see if you can resolve any of the proposed talking points prior to the meeting via email.
Also consider having a team member attend the meeting and record minutes. This shows that you are willing and interested in the work being performed at the meeting. It also shows you are willing to take any action items from the meeting.
Delegate highly time-dependent tasks to team members without children at home
Everyone is in a different phase of life. Sometimes as parents we interact with a lot of other parents and think everyone has the same challenge of working with kids at home.
The truth is some colleagues are just starting their career and are single and childless, others have kids that have left the nest. When possible have these team members attend meetings and take minutes. You can sign up for a task such as generating reports, budgets or plans that can be done at any time throughout the day.
Flexible Structure with the Kids
I have a toddler and an infant so I pretty much have to be gumby, when it comes to accommodating them. I make a checklist of things that need to get done but I don’t necessarily do them at the same time every day.
My oldest son gets up around the same time every day which is 6:30 a.m. I give him breakfast, let him play for a bit. I tried to set up a quick learning activity for him before I have to check in for my 8:00 a.m. meeting,this is the one meeting I have not been able to dodge.
If you have school age kids the routine will probably be somewhat similar in the morning. Breakfast followed by the start of educational and work activities.
Prep Breakfast and Lunch at the Same Time
When my son was in daycare I would pack his lunch in the morning. When I started working from home I stopped prepping in the morning and started making it at lunch time. Bad Idea!
It saved time in the morning but it began to feel like I was in the kitchen all day.
When I was working I would normally go out for lunch. The novelty of being able to prepare meals at home for lunch wore off quickly. In addition to trying to keep the kids occupied, keeping up with work assignments, it felt as if I was constantly cooking and cleaning.
Prepping lunch for my son in the morning helped ease the situation. I prepare his meals to the fullest extent possible. So that come lunch time I can pull together his meals in 10 minutes or less.
For myself and my husband, I use leftovers for lunch as much as possible. It’s not leftovers, then something that can be pulled together in 10 minutes or less. Sometimes those are meals from the prepared food section, sometimes it’s a salad with some leftover chicken to us on top. Sometimes it means ordering delivery.
Having added the responsibility of taking care of the kids while working, I wanted to reduce the amount of time during the day spent in the kitchen.
For young kids use screen time and nap time to accomplish work task
I’ve accepted that my toddler needs screen time in order for me to get anything done. It is what it is! While he’s in front of the screen I get most of my work done for the day.
I’m lucky that my 3-year-old still goes down for naps and I use this to get things for work done.
After nap time, I tried to plan another activity block of about an hour or two. During this time we may go outside or have a dance party or story time. Then I let him have more screen time while I get dinner done. sometimes I have to sign on and finish work after he goes to bed.
Foster Independence in in kids in middle school and high school
Encourage your older children to attempt their school related task independently for an hour or two in the morning. Tell them to write down any issues they run into. And then plan time to help them resolve these issues.
Repeat this process after lunch. Let them attempt the school work on their own at first, and have them write any questions down. Pick a time to sit together and discuss and resolve any issues they may encounter while they are doing school work.
When the school day is over give your middle schooler or high schooler task around the house that they can assist with. It could be empty in the dishwasher or loading the dryer having the family chip in will allow you more time to get work done.
Middle schoolers and teenagers can also help with male preparation. Have them lend a hand with washing vegetables and if they’re old enough they may be able to chop vegetables. Have them measure ingredients, preheat the oven, or even start boiling a pot of water for pasta or rice. These little tasks seem insignificant, but they can really help you sneaking a few extra moments to finish up some work.
For high schoolers, this is a good preparation for the college experience. If students have questions about an assignment they have to wait until office hours or recitation to resolve the.
Some families use a clipboard of task as a guide for their middle school or high school students. They must complete the activities on that checklist before they are able to get screen time after school.