Coronavirus related social distancing rules and the closure of schools are posing new challenges for parents now tasked with keeping their children busy while working from home. The reality of having to juggle work commitments and family life can be intimidating. Here are a few tips on how to stay productive.
Although a lack of childcare can throw a serious spanner in the works, it doesn’t mean you can’t still get work done. Planning is absolutely key, however. The ability to adjust a plan even more so. Remember to stay flexible, things don’t always get off to a smooth start right off the bat and that’s ok.
Communicate and set boundaries
Being honest and upfront about your current situation with colleagues and even clients can be surprisingly helpful especially before the likes of online meetings or phone calls. Letting your employer know set times when you are available and others where you’re absolutely not (queue that dreaded bath time fiasco) can also manage expectations, create structure both for yourself and the rest of the team and enhance productivity.
Equally, clearly defining work boundaries with slightly older children is advisable and will help the entire family adjust properly. For example, it’s important to communicate that a sign on your office door means that you’re in a meeting and that (unless there is an actual emergency) children can’t come in.
For households where both parents are currently working remotely: divide and conquer. Discuss workloads and shifts and separate the roles of parent and worker. Scheduling times where someone is on child duty while the other focuses on work and vice versa can avoid unnecessary chaos.
Boundaries also mean having a dedicated space devoted to working. If you have a study, then lucky you! To get the most out of it, set times when family members need to knock before entering. If you don’t have a study, find a quiet corner or a room that you can turn into a temporary office. If you get desperate during those all-important work calls even your car can provide temporary peace and quiet! Out there, I know.
Set priorities and keep them in mind when scheduling
Having a daily routine, especially when your spending extended periods of time stuck in the house together, is important and can help you stay on track. If your kids also need to be home schooled (death) then this step is particularly crucial. Don’t forget to prioritise items and be realistic on what can actually be achieved! Think small specific goals.
- Listing all the tasks requiring attention on the kids front (such as school etc.) as well as your own work-related commitments and deadlines that need to be met
- Put those tasks in order from most important to least important
- Identify tasks your kids are likely going to need help with and those that they should be able to do unassisted
You then want to schedule those items that require peace and quiet to complete, with those tasks the children can do themselves. Leave the duties that are least important or that don’t deserve your full attention for those moments’ your family might need a helping hand.
If you’re working from home with a baby or toddler, capitalise on nap time! Bedtimes will also become your new best friend and will free up a couple of extra hours.
If your children are older and they can get through most of their homework on their own, you can schedule “work” time for all of you. The key is to have an idea of all the things you must get done and the best moments for doing them!
Have a list of entertaining activities at the ready
Prepare for the “I’m bored” moments. Have a jar of activities at the ready and let the kids pick out options when you need them to stay busy. To get by-in why not come up with ideas together? Consider things like arts & crafts, board games, puzzles, reading, painting, and Lego etc.
Make activities specific. Some more ideas include:
- Den or cave building
I’m not being funny, but I doubt you’d find a child or adult on the planet that wouldn’t jump at the idea of building a manmade fort? From planning the use of materials to role playing, an afternoon can breeze by quite happily. Use blankets or bed sheets to cover an array of furniture including chairs or even, dare I say it, the kitchen table.
- Treasure hunts
Before you panic this doesn’t require much skill. You could literally draw a quick map of your home and mark the hidden treasure on it before explaining the game to your young ones. You could even get the children to create their own maps and treasure hunts.
- Hama beads
Hama beads inspire hours of concentration and boost creativity. With so many patters to copy off the internet you’ll be rolling in key rings, magnets and clip on earrings! Just make sure to keep the ironing part separate and well out of the kids reach.
Take advantage of technology
While too much screen time is ill advised, desperate times call for desperate measures. Occasionally resorting to turning the TV on shouldn’t lead to pent-up guilt.
Technology can also present some much-needed social interaction despite it being virtual. Kids can talk with their grandparents, friends or other family members. Technology can also be used to develop and teach new skills. There are tons of apps, programmes and games that are both educational, fun and provide a certain level of autonomy. Three words: National Geographic Kids. Lunii, TipToi , Vtech Genius, or SmartGames also score high on this front. Recommended from the age of three these high-tech games invite you to:
- Solve problems
- Observe and memorise
- Meet challenges and find solutions
- Be logical
- Promote concentration
- Develop cognitive skills
You can also use technology to boost your own productivity during home office. Data rooms and video conference call software make it easier to stay in touch and collaborate effectively with team members