Over the past six months, almost all of us have had to make changes to our daily routine and lives thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak. Whether that’s meant working from home, home-schooling or spending more time indoors, these changes to our routines and sense of normality have been disruptive, to say the least, but imagine if you had to juggle both working from home and parenting?
Working parents, single parents, unemployed parents and key worker parents have all had their own set of challenges to face in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, but mix in parenting and childcare with those challenges and you can understand why some parents have struggled to keep up with it all. Many workplaces have turned to work from home during the pandemic in a bid to offer flexibility for their employees, but with childcare disruptions and school closures, being both an employee and parent simultaneously is an almost near-impossible task.
If, like many other parents, you’re struggling to balance parenting and working from home, here are some top tips to help you through.
Try to maintain a flexible routine
One of the biggest challenges with working from home is that you’re no longer able to carry on your “usual” office routine. When you work in an office, you’ll likely have had a set daily routine, whether it be the time you get into the office, grab lunch or schedule meetings. It’s hard to set a routine when working from home, never mind whilst trying to parent at the same time. Be sure to set a schedule and routine for both you and your children.
Instead of rigid, to the minute schedules, look at block routines instead. For example, mornings are quiet time, where you can make phone calls or schedule video meetings and your little ones can do some school work, or have some downtime. Having a routine minimises the stress and chaos of the unexpected and everyone knows what to expect.
Have a designated workspace
There are few things which can be controlled, but ensuring that you have a designated workspace is something that you do have influence over. Whilst it doesn’t need to be your own private office, it should be an area of your home which has little distractions and which you can make your own. Make it clear that your workspace is yours and isn’t to be used as a space to store clutter or be fiddled with.
Try to make sure that your workspace is organised and tidy so that you’re not spending too much time looking for that lost piece of paperwork or your work phone. Studies have shown that your work environment has a direct link on your productivity levels, so if you work in an area which inspires, rather than distracts, then you are much more likely to be productive, efficient and, most importantly, happier. If you can, give your workspace a little makeover to transform it into a space which you love.
Communicate with your family
There is no such thing as over-communicating. Be sure to let everyone in your home know your schedule, especially if your partner is also working from home. It might help to sit down and work out a schedule which works in favour of both your schedules and timetables and work around these to make the juggle between home working and parenting that little easier.
It’s important that you set time aside during the day for breaks and lunch, so use your lunch break as a family mealtime, where you can all sit down and spend time together. Doing this will help your mind switch off for that hour, meaning that you will be more focused when you return to work and avoid doing household chores or running errands during this time, as you’ll likely only be more stressed and flustered when you return to work.
Instead of making elaborate lunches, make the switch to “cold-meals”, where you don’t need to warm food up or cook and there is much less mess to deal with afterwards. If you have young children or babies that are weaning, look at mess-free investments, such as weaning bibs or fun lunch packs, to make them more interested in their lunch and the tidy-up easier for you when you have to return to work.
Whilst the lines between your home and work-life balance are more blurred than ever before, it’s important to be flexible and communicate with both your family and coworkers. Remember, we are in a health pandemic, so give yourself space to make mistakes and figure out what works best for you.