With the global spread of Coronavirus, now, more than ever, the workforce is taking a dive into the wonderful world of working remotely. For many, this will not be the easiest transition, but for parents, especially, this requires discipline and creativity.
I’ve had jobs where I’ve worked remotely, and some where I’ve been able to work remotely and take care of my child when daycare was closed or my daughter was sick. I’ve learned some things along the way I’d love to share to help during this transition.
1. The first hurdle in working remotely is determining where you’ll work. Do you have a home office? Can you set up at the bar or the kitchen table? Are you dedicated enough to work from your couch? Once you decide this, your next step is deciding where “work” goes for the night. If you’re like me, you don’t want to see it after you’re off the clock. I suggest having a designated cabinet or bag you can tuck everything away in for the night. This will help you feel like you’re not constantly working in your home and can enjoy your time off the clock.
2. Maintain your normal hours and schedules. If you’re at your desk at 8 starting your day in the office, make sure you do the same working from home. You’ll have additional time without the commute, so use that time to set up your “office” for the day. Grab your breakfast or cup of coffee and get ready for the day! Obviously, there is usually some additional flexibility, so if you work later one day, make sure to take additional time the next. You need to remember, you’re still at home and don’t have to feel like you’re constantly working. Work your required hours and don’t feel obligated to do more. To me, that is one of the hardest parts.
3. Make rules for your new work space. If you’re working alongside a spouse or roommate, talk about where you’ll be setting up and what hours you’ll be working. Just because you’re working from home does not mean you get to play maid or babysitter for others. It’s okay to tell others that. Now, will I switch over a load of laundry midday? Yes. But I don’t try to do all the laundry or clean the home. Don’t let people take advantage of you and your working situation.
4. Make sure to take breaks! You’re losing your social interaction with others, make sure to take a few minutes to walk around, refill your drink, maybe take a few minutes outside.
5. Take your lunch! It’s important to take a break, feed yourself and reset for the rest of the day.
6. Keep your space clean. It’s easy for things to get cluttered since you’re at home and have work. Attempt to keep everything in its place and move work to its dedicated space when the day is over.
7. Talk to your co-workers. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you need to be isolated. Utilize your phone, call a co-worker, text, email or use your chat functions to ask questions, check up on them. You’ll need some human interaction!
8. Participate in meetings – even if nothing pertains to you. If you’re invited, attend! This will make sure you get some interaction and no one forgets you’re still working. A simple “great idea” or “have a great day, bye!” will go a long way in the company.
9. Watch your words. Working from home you don’t get the face-to-face interaction and body language. This means it’s not the time to be sarcastic and you’ll need to reread your messages a few times over to make sure they’re clear and don’t sound passive-aggressive or defensive. Something funny to you (and meant to be taken lightly) could start problems if your coworker reads it a different way. Make sure you understand your tasks and ask questions to make sure you fully understand so you don’t waste a day of working for something that could have been easily handled after taking a minute to ask a follow up question.
10. End your day with a routine. However you wrap up your work day in the office, try to replicate it at home. Clean your coffee mug, put your papers away (then in your designated space!) and turn off your computer.
For the parents! Take note of all 10 tips before, and here are some additional ones!
1. Make a routine, but be forgiving, you’re doing this with kids! I wake up at my normal time and get everything ready for the day instead of driving to the office and to daycare. I’ll also try to get in 30 minutes to an hour of work done before having to worry about working with little ones running around.
2. Switch it up! I’ve found it helpful to have different “bins” of toys to rotate throughout the day. At a certain time, we’ll clean up the bins and tidy up the play area. After snack time, we’ll switch to a new bin of toys to keep things interesting.
3. Free play! Puzzles, pretend food and colors will keep my little one occupied for long segments throughout the day. There are plenty of Pinterest boards if you want to get really creative (and not just trying to survive!)
4. Have easy snacks readily available. This will certainly helps when you’re mid-task and getting things done. In my house, the healthy snack bin is on the bottom shelf of the pantry and easily accessible.
5. Give yourself some grace, you’re doing a great job trying to do your job and keep the kids alive and the house undamaged!
6. Naps are KEY! If your child takes a nap during the day, make sure they keep it in their routine. It will help everyone!
7. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you do screen time. Throw on a favorite movie, let them play an educational game. It’s okay!
8. Hello, sunshine! If you have a yard, take them outside! On a pretty day, some sidewalk chalk, a slide and bubbles can really get the kiddos going (and tucker them out for their nap) all while you work on your laptop!
9. Get creative! My little one LOVES the bathtub. If I’m really in the groove and need to get some things done ASAP, it’s off to the tub we go! We grab the letters, toys and bath paints and that buys me a good 30 minutes of her being entertained (and contained!) Have the towel ready and a place in mind to put your laptop in the event you need to suddenly.
10. Pinterest is your friend. There are moms dedicated to making some great activities. Don’t reinvent the wheel – it might save your sanity!
Working from home definitely has advantages. I’m very curious how many work forces will continue this trend after Coronavirus concerns dwindle. Until then, take a breath, enjoy your time at home and make sure to reach out when you’re feeling isolated. We’re all in this together!