As mandatory shutdowns of offices around the world are in place to ensure the safety of employees and their families, many are faced with a number of new challenges including how to manage your workload when multi-tasking as parents of children or furry friends.
Before joining SteelSeries, I was a management consultant working from home for 11 years and worked from home for 5 years before that during my ad agency stint, traveling to the office about once a month.
My kids are now 13, 16 and 24. There have always been at least two of them around while I work, so I’ve had to find ways to manage:
1. Time shift
Plan solid blocks of work during nap times or early morning, late night when the kiddos are sleeping.
2. Tag team when possible
If you have a spouse, partner, or relative in the home who can help, put together a schedule so each can get blocks of work time in.
Even if you are a single parent, getting help is still a possibility. I speak from personal experience here and, on many occasions, had to learn to be creative.
FaceTime is a great option if you have family not near you. While story time cuddled up on the couch with grandma isn’t the same as story time with grandma via FaceTime, it can still be pretty great and can give you small respites to do work.
3. Remind the kids that you are working and try to create some boundaries while also making sure you meet their needs
Give them activities to do independently for 30-45 minutes at a time (e.g. coloring, reading, playing with their toys) that allow you to work too. Then take short breaks to be with them.
During the break times, be with them – without anxiety. Go for a walk or play outside, game together - play MarioKart, Minecraft, Fortnite or whatever you like to play as a family.
But whatever you do during those breaks, be present for them and allow yourself to not be preoccupied with the fact that you aren’t working in those moments. This will allow you to focus during the times you ARE working without feeling guilty for the breaks you took with them during which you were preoccupied. Yes, this can become a downward spiral, so be present no matter what you’re doing.
4. Coordinate your children’s school activities in blocks of time when you can also work relatively uninterrupted
Since this is not free time for kids, but rather distance/e-learning, presumably they are supposed to be working too. This sounds great in theory, but they may need help with their work or have a hard time focusing.
Remember that this is an adjustment for them too! For little ones not in school, forget this step entirely. They are delighted that you’re home and will want to play ALL THE TIME. See previous bullet points.
5. Ask for help
Above all else, during this time, remember to communicate with your colleagues, employers, friends, and family. I realize this is seems extraordinarily oxymoronic – that you should communicate when literally stuck at home – but it's imperative!
It's difficult to be successful in a silo. Speak up if you need someone to take on a task that is time-sensitive but that you can’t manage on any given day. Or ask someone to provide an early morning story reading session over the phone with your kiddo so you can get your work done.
These strategies will work better some days than others. That’s OK.
When you adjust for transit time to and from the office, dropping off and picking up kids from school/childcare, time spent chatting with colleagues in the office and other things that suck time out of an ordinary day, you are likely to have just as much time to work from home, just delivered in different increments. Stay focused on the deliverables and be flexible in achieving them.
Through teamwork, flexibility, nimbleness and sharp time management skills, I hope you stay strong through this unprecedented time, and will emerge stronger as an individual/team/parent with a hell of a lot of great stories to tell!