I’ve worked from home for many years, and most of the time it’s been with kids at home. If you’re in self-isolation, here are my tips on how to navigate working from home.
1. Create a zone for work
If your home is limited on space, the dining room table or kitchen bench maybe the only option. But don’t write off other rooms in the home which can give you privacy.
I have two work zones in my house. An open office where I do my blogging and family admin. I also have a corner desk in our master bedroom for my night job.
You can set up a home office anywhere so long as you have ventilation, good light, a desk/bench, power, internet connection and of course, a computer.
Don’t write off the butler’s pantry or a storage room if you need to carve out a designated space for the long haul. These out-of-the way areas can minimise disruption to your home as well as give you privacy as you work.
2. Don’t put high expectations on productivity when kids are home
It is really hard working with kids at home. They don’t understand when they’re little that you need space and quiet to work. Often devices can only offer as short reprieve. There will always be interruptions for food requests and kids can’t just fend for themselves by themselves. It often results in fights which make it difficult to work anyway.
I’ve found spending time with the kids first with an activity (here are 70 kids activities to check out) gives them ‘parent time’. I keep the device time for when I need to make important phone calls or quiet to concentrate.
Over the last few years, the times I work have changed. I’ve needed to adapt to new seasons of family life. I would (and still do) work night shifts when Jacob is home and complete writing work during the day when the kids are at school/kindy/daycare.
Now the girls are older they will be easier to keep busy. I’m going to be juggling a bit… but with dedicated night shifts and fluctuations with writing work, I know I will manage.
3. Keep to a semi-flexible schedule
In part with starting the day with a kid’s activity, I would then schedule an hour or so of device time straight after so I could get one major item off my checklist done during my work day. I can concentrate better in the morning so ‘I eat the frog first’ and then attend to emails or admin in the afternoon.
Often early mornings work best for getting a major item ticked off the to-do list. It depends on what type of work you do and if you work better in the morning than the afternoon.
In my open office, it’s easy to set up toys or an activity to entertain one kid that likes to be near me. A roll of paper on the floor with some pens has been a savior many a time. Use the back of wrapping paper if need be.
Social media can be a rabbit hole and you can lose unproductive hours. If you need to schedule posts, do it via your phone while you watch a movie with the kids. I have started to schedule during school pick on an afternoon while in the car. When the kids are home though, I will need to change my tactic.
Keeping a semi-flexible schedule allows kids to have a familiar routine too, but it’s not rigid enough if something needs immediate attention.
4. Team work makes the dream work
Jacob and I have to work as a team. There are days when I need to be somewhere for work or start an earlier shift and he will need to pick up the kids and work from home.
We also both work in essential services which won’t shut down during COVID-19.
When I start work at night, Jacob is walking through the door to serve dinner and do the bath and bed routine. It can feel like we’re ships in the night. But it works for us and we have to put in extra effort to spend time together.
Often when you’re pressed for time, you will forgo breaks like lunch. Or you will develop bad habits like hunching or sneaking a chocolate bar for a snack.
Schedule breaks for yourself. Eat lunch with the kids so you don’t forget to have lunch and eat an unhealthy snack.
Check you have your monitor at eye level and you have the right chair and desk height. Keep any receipts for work equipment so you can be reimbursed from work or claim it on tax.
You may not be able to book a massage, but my Shakti mat helps relieve tension in my shoulders and neck. I use this at night, before I go to bed and it helps muscle tension.