Many of our social media feeds are filled with hilarious anecdotes about working from home—in particular, stories about those “coworkers” who play the recorder loudly during phone calls, scream frequently, and refuse to wear pants during a video conference.
These “coworkers,” of course, are kids and now maybe spouse!
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, schools and daycares have closed, and many companies are requiring employees to work from home. While many make light of the situation (after all, better to laugh than cry!), the truth is that it’s certainly not easy to work from home—especially while caring for infants, toddlers, or preschoolers and homeschooling older children.
We may be in this for the long haul. To help you make it through, we’ve gathered a few tips and tricks to simplify the work-at-home life. And to all of you limping through the workday with noisy little coworkers running around—our hearts are with you!
1. Communicate with your employer about your needs
You’re not alone—many employees are in the same boat right now! Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, communicate openly with your supervisors. Let them know that you’re doing your best, but be clear that your children are home with you. That will lessen the surprise of any unexpected interruptions or background noises during work calls.
2. Set up a schedule for the kids
No, you don’t need one of those enormous Pinterest-worthy color-coded schedules that detail every moment of their day (but power to you if you do!). It’s fine to set a loose schedule designating certain blocks of time for waking, eating, playing, reading, homework, and going outside. A schedule helps your kids know what to expect and makes it a little easier to plan your workday.
3. Plan fun activities and snacks
If kids get immersed in an activity they enjoy, they’ll actually let you get something done. Think about activities they can do independently: building a LEGO tower, lining up dominoes, or playing with measuring cups, spoons, and water. And don’t underestimate the power of snacks: “When food is in their mouths is the time to get anything done,” says mom Stefanie McGill.
Related: Fun Activities to do with Toddlers
4. Reach out to others
Many of your family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers are facing similar situations right now. Reach out! Share a funny story about your day. Ask for advice on working with little ones underfoot. The key here is connecting and feeling a little less alone.
We invite you to join us on Monday’s Nights for our Virtual Mom Social at 7 pm.
5. Make time for the kids
No matter how stressed you are by your workload (and life in general), do your best to carve out plenty of quality time with your little ones every single day. Play a game. Work on a puzzle. Snuggle and read a book together. Talk. Their lives are also different, and they are craving normalcy just like everyone else.
6. Get a virtual babysitter
You can’t ask a friend or relative to watch the kids … or can you? Grandma Kim Brickley offered to entertain her young granddaughters via FaceTime while their parents worked. “We can talk with them while they color, watch them dance, watch and interact with them while they play, let them watch while we garden or cook, be silly with them, or just keep them company,” she said. “We have to get creative.”
7. Take shifts with your partner
If you and your spouse or partner are both working from home right now and your employers are at all flexible, trade-off childcare shifts. You could even stagger or alternate shifts so, for example, one day you can work all morning uninterrupted and the next you can focus on work in the afternoon. And of course, plan around important meetings and heavy workloads.
8. Come up with a silence signal
For those times when you really need zero interruptions (think conference call with the CEO), teach your kids a super-important signal for silence. Mom Gena Sussman swears by the tried-and-true “hold it a sec finger, while mouthing, I am on the phone!” You could use an object: For instance, set a designated stuffed animal on your desk or display a QUIET, PLEASE sign.
9. Remember to plan alone time
Yes, we know—parents’ needs often come last. But your days cannot simply consist of eat, sleep, work, kids, lather, rinse, repeat. You’re going to need some time to refresh and recharge. Even if you only get a few minutes, reward yourself with a long drive by yourself, a walk, favorite book, or a (still-hot!) cup of coffee. Trust us—you deserve it.
10. Be flexible and understanding
Let’s face it—regardless of any preparations and good intentions, unexpected complications will arise. We are in an unprecedented situation here. If a tantrum interrupts a video call or a clingy baby limits your productivity, give your kids—and yourself—some grace. Tomorrow is another day, and someday this strange time will be a memory.