Productivity Tips on Working from Home — With Kids

With the onset of COVID-19, suddenly working remotely isn’t just a nice option for some workers, but a requirement brought on by state and local stay-at-home orders. So now our typical days in the office are not so typical days working at home — and now sharing space with working spouses or partners, and/or kids going to school at home.

Everyone who works remotely must figure out when to work, where to work, and how to create boundaries between work and personal life.

Remote works brings its own challenges.

  • Collaboration and communication can be more difficult
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Facing more distractions than they would at the office (especially workers with families and kids also at home because of the pandemic)

Unplugging after work is another challenge remote workers face.  According to data from Owl labs’ 2019 State of Remote Work Report, remote workers say they work more than 40 hours per week.

Many working parents are facing working from home with kids for the first time. It won’t be easy or perfect, but there are a few strategies you can use to make your new situation a little easier.

Dealing with distractions

Setting up dedicated spaces for everyone will help you avoid distractions — but it won’t remove temptations.

Here’s how to handle some of the most common productivity-killers you’ll face working from home.

Phone calls: Train family and friends not to call you during your work hours (and school hours). It will be easy if you have a separate phone for work, but either way, don’t answer personal calls during business hours.

Household chores: Do your big household chores during non-work hours — just like you did when you were working outside of your home.

Time on internet: Be careful not to allow productive internet research slide into time-wasting random surfing.

When it’s time to work, you must adopt the mindset that you are at work. Think of everyone going to work (job and school = work for everyone).

Set a Schedule

And stick to it — most of the time. Having clear guidelines for when to be at work (and your kids to be at school) helps to set boundaries about work time and home time. Plus, routines help keep anxiety in check by maintaining consistency in a time where things change rapidly.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your schedule. Consider starting your day early or working past the normal workday to adjust to meetings that take place in different time zones.

Consider an alternating schedule if you have other adults in the house. One is focused on work while the other is on “school duty” and does their work on a different schedule. It may not be possible to get all your work done during your normal business day if you are also on school duty.

Over-communicate

Talk to your manager or human resources. You may need to make adjustments to be able to both work at home and take care of your children who are at home and not at school or day-care because of COVID-19 stay-in-place orders.

Remember that this isn’t your personal situation that you just want to do— it’s a community issue. Having this type of conversation can help everyone (you, your boss, and your co-workers).  Communicate your needs to help make life less stressful and keep work productive.

When you work in an office and you see your co-workers, communication is just easier. If you need to get a message to a coworker, you stuck your head in their office or caught them in the breakroom.  Now most office communication comes through Zoom or email.

Keeping your boss and coworkers informed about what you’re working on and what you’re struggling with can help make life less stressful.

Good and frequent communication helps manage feelings of being isolated from work too.

Prioritize

Look at your most important tasks and projects and work to do them while your kids are engaged in school. Again, if you have another adult at home, you can work uninterrupted in the morning while your partner watches the kids and then you switch in the afternoon.

If you are a single parent, you may need more flexibility — so remember to communicate with your manager.

Set aside hours of the day when you’re available for calls and virtual meetings. Don’t forget to let the kids know when you are uninterruptible too.

And. . . eat that frog before lunch.

This strategy from Brian Tracy’s book, Eat that Frog, recommends that you attack your most intimidating task first thing in the morning so you don’t dread doing it all day. This strategy fuels productivity.[1]

What if you start your work in the afternoon because you are on school duty? Doesn’t matter, the point of the strategy is to start with your most challenging task so that it either gets done or moves forward.

Take Breaks

Schedule frequent breaks in the day. Instead of working in long blocks of time, break up your day a bit. Work for 30 minutes or an hour and then take a ten-minute break to go for a short walk or hang out with your kids. It helps energize everybody.

Adjustments

Working from home takes adjustments. It won’t be perfect. It is okay to fail forward. Try these tips to help you your whole family stay productive at home.

Disclaimer

This article shouldn’t be construed as legal advice. If you have detailed questions, they should be addressed directly with your labor and employment attorney.


[1] How to Increase Your Productivity as a B2B Writer. https://www.awai.com/2018/01/how-to-increase-your-productivity-as-a-b2b-writer/

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