Here’s a question. Are those people cheerfully advising us to “Keep calm and carry on” during the current crisis trying to work in a house full of unfettered, fun-seeking kids?
We’ve all discovered that working from home presents a whole new set of challenges. Endless interruptions. Diverse distractions (who knew the fridge or pantry could exert such a pull?). And if you’re working from home with kids? Now that takes interruptions and distractions to an entirely new level.
Whether your bubble is seething with angst-ridden adolescents (hell hath no fury like a captive teen) or fizzing with under-stimulated under-tens, your working environment is probably feeling more punishing than professional of late. So for our second “how to” post, we’re taking a look at the best ways to balance your work requirements with your kids’ ones. Read on for our PEP-inspired advice:
1. Plan with military precision
No surprises here. That simple PEP principle of planning out your day has never been more essential – and right now, you need to put a bit of extra thought into it. If you need to complete one or two hours of focused work, consider what activity could keep your kids occupied for a similar period of time. Try (with emphasis on the ‘try’) to minimise the risk of interruptions by having everything they need to hand – and remember to get yourself sorted in advance, too (more on this in our third point).
2. Communicate with care
Clear communication’s another core PEP principle, and you need to do a lot of it right now. On the home front, you need to explain to your kids why you’re going to be busy for a bit. If you have a partner, do they also understand what you’re trying to achieve? With regard to work, you may need to remind your manager what your home situation is like. Don’t be afraid to ask for flexibility – if you can think of a solution that will enable you to perform better under the current circumstances, suggest it. And don’t forget your colleagues: if you’ve negotiated flexible working hours, make sure everyone knows what those hours are.
3. Prepare as much as possible
When you’re on borrowed time, you need to hit the ground running. Ensure you have exactly what you need, when you need it. And this prep involves a bit of admin, too. Update your email signature, your voicemail and your out-of-office notifications to clarify your current circumstances and head off any unwitting interrupters at the pass.
4. Reward the right behaviour
Or offer a bribe. Do whatever it takes to buy yourself some time. If your children leave you in peace long enough to accomplish at least a little of what you set out to, then make sure you always acknowledge this and reward them however you see fit. As every parent knows, positive reinforcement encourages good behaviour. And this works both ways: celebrating your own small victories is more important than ever in these times of limited productivity.
Above all? Go easy on yourself – and on your kids. Lower your expectations (perfectionists and control freaks, we’re looking at you). These are crazy times. No matter how assiduously you try to adapt, your productivity is probably going to take a hit. Be realistic about what you can actually achieve. As with many things at the moment, figuring out how best to balance remote working with roaming kids will be a matter of trial and error. As you confront the inevitable highs and lows, keep this in mind: at least it’s only temporary.