COVID-19 has rocked the world and our culture over the last month erupting in cancellations of schools, day care, work, holidays, professional sports seasons, and even the beloved NCAA basketball tournaments. As much as I would like to say the biggest adjustment for most Americans is not filling out a bracket and competing with family members for bragging rights for a year, the real struggle will be working from home with your kids. State Governments have closed K-12 public schools which has led to thousands of parents working from home while their children are home.
For the last seven years I have been working from home and the last year I have had the opportunity to work from home with my child. Now, I would like to mention that 98% of my job is done internally from my computer, and very rarely do I have to speak with the outside world or a customer. I also realize how blessed I am to have the ability to be the trial employee working from home with my child. Here are some ways that I stay productive in life and work while working from home with my child.
1. Plan Your Workouts
My husband and I were both collegiate athletes so we operate well on a schedule. As much as I would like to just always go with the flow and be spontaneous like I was before we had a baby, I know a schedule is best for our family. I view Sunday as the first day of the week. So, Sunday my husband and I will plan out our workouts for the week every day one of us has a morning workout and the other will get an evening workout. My husband will print off the color-coded workout plan, but that might be a step too far for most people. Also, right now many gyms and studios have moved classes online some of my favorites are the Tone It Up app and Longwave Yoga because they allow you to schedule in advance.
2. Meal Prep
I plan our meals and prep slow cooker or grill dinners for the evenings that I go to yoga (when we aren’t quarantined) and my husband puts the baby to bed. All prep is done on Sunday. It takes time upfront, but usually under an hour to cook and do dishes. I am a big fan of one pan wonders for dinner two - just chop everything in advance.
Also prep lunches and breakfast!!! You might be home, but you’re still on the clock so prepare yourself to cook quickly like you do in the office. My little man loves quiche and breakfast casseroles. They are quick to reheat, require little clean up, and you can sneak veggies into the dish. It’s all about being prepared for the day when working from home.
3. Schedule your day
Start your day by planning your tasks and writing out a to-do list. List your tasks from the tasks that need the most focus to the least. Then plan your day around your environment for example: I know that at 2:30 my kid wants a snack and gets a little fussy, so at 2:30 I will be doing a task that is less focused and detail oriented so I don’t pass any stress onto my child. I also know he will play independently from 10:30-12:00ish so during that time and the 2:00-1:30 nap I can do detail-oriented work.
4. Move your WIFI router
I moved my WIFI router to the middle of my home, so I can work in any room, the front patio, or the backyard. I do all my work from my laptop which gives me the ability to move around. It is great for kids to get outside especially during quarantine. The ability to get outside and receive Vitamin D is very important to fighting illness and getting out built-up energy is good for your sanity.
I have created two work areas outside; one in the front patio that is covered and shaded so I can see my screen and my son can draw with chalk or play in the driveway, and a second area in the back with an umbrella so my son can climb around, play with dogs, and just be a wild man. If your yard is windy tilt your umbrella to block the wind it makes a big difference on calls.
5. Schedule calls around nap time
I try and make any outward calls during nap time. Internally my team doesn’t mind hearing the coos or noises associated with a child, but I want to be completely focused and respectful when we have outward calls.
Sometimes your new co-workers don’t want to adhere to the nap schedule which brings me to the next point.
6. Be upfront with everyone that you have a kid and/or dog in the background
I start every call by saying “You may hear some noise in the background I work from home and I have a baby and two dogs who can be unpredictable and noisy”. Usually this leads to genuine conversation about family, dogs, daycare, nannies, parenting, and more, but it is a great ice breaker. Occasionally these calls are video calls and I will have the at home crew say hi if I know there is a chance for background noise. It’s amazing how much the honesty and a sweet smooshy face relaxes the call. You can physically see the person on the other end relax their shoulders away from their ears and smile. I would say about 90% of the people outside my office that I speak with have dogs or their own children home too.
Get up and move! When I worked in our office’s headquarters, I would walk the parking lot three time a day every day, so I do something similar while at home. It is so important for me mentally to start my day with some form of movement. Every morning I must either lift, take a class, or do yoga to be even remotely productive. Movement is proven in help with focus and memory. I let my toddler crawl on my mat while I flow, or he must be in the play pen while I lift. During lunch at the office I like to walk the dogs and take out the stroller since everything at HQ is quiet at that time. If you have a creative based job, I recommend some inversions like handstands, headstands, or shoulder stands to get the blood moving and stimulate the creative process. I know that’s a little weird, but it works.
8. Make activities and toy accessible
Kids like to do things themselves or at least mine does. I keep toys low enough that he can choose what he wants to play with at that moment and move on when he’s ready. I will prepare a few activities on Sunday and take those out throughout the week as surprises to keep him busy. These activities don’t have to be excessively creative or time consuming. I like to encourage his independent spirit and imagination. Hopefully it will lead to good things later.
9. Stay Connected
Your co-workers are in the same situation, too. Give them a call to stay connected or video chat the way you would work together in the office. My team probably talks to each other on conference calls 2 hours a day not all in one call but throughout the day instead of emails as a personal touch. If I need to work with my graphic designer, we will video chat and work onscreen together. It is nice to see a friendly face and it’s a great way to stay engaged.
Many companies are sending employees home for their safety, so know this is a big adjustment period for you and your children. Things are not going to go according to plan every day. Your children will feel your stress, so limit that as much as possible. Breathe, everything is going to work out. Calls might have extra background noise, your routine isn’t going to be established for a while, no one knows how long this health crisis will last, but all we can do is our best. We will get through this adjustment together.
Take this opportunity to let your child see how hard you work. This is a great time to share your work with your children. They will feel very important knowing exactly what you do and how you do it. Children are extremely perceptive. Take this opportunity to answer their questions honestly and set an example. You are a hero in their minds, enjoy this time together. This will likely not happen again.