I've worked from home for more than a decade. I've also attempted to train my three children from an early age to know that when mommy is on a work call, she needs to focus. They do their best, but kids consistently need parental help.
I remember the note scribbled in a 5-year-old’s penmanship that was slid under my door one morning: “Eli needs wiped.” My newly potty-trained toddler sat on the toilet for quite a while before mommy got to him. It happens.
Families in southern Idaho, northern Utah and across the country now find themselves learning how to work from home with kids because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. We can offer each other a heavy dose of empathy and understanding, as many of us are also balancing working from home and homeschooling. Business may not be conducted as usual, but we can keep business going. Our jobs can still be jobs well-done.
As parents attempt to work from home while kids try to school from home, we’ll need to come up with a plan and adjust it as necessary. We’ll probably need to participate in some conflict resolution as well—but we can do this.
Here are a few tips to help us stay sane and productive while working from home with kids:
Create a work schedule
Creating a routine will provide structure and stability and set times for productivity. This involves creating a work schedule for yourself and establishing a school-from-home schedule for your kids. Once you have the schedule rolled out, stick with it the best you can.
Having a separate space for adults to work creates a physical barrier between work and play. Likewise, a separate space for school helps children focus on their responsibilities.
Setting limits and creating boundaries with children teaches them when interruptions are OK and when they’re not. One creative parent posts a paper “stop” sign during meetings, so children know not to enter the room. Another created a “do not disturb” hand signal in case a child peeks into the office in the middle of a call.
The younger your children are, the more interruptions you have. So, you might as well expect (and not resent) them. Some parents choose a mantra to repeat when untimely or frustrating interruptions occur—such as, “they matter most,” “work can wait,” or “small moments make a big difference.”
Capitalize on the quiet hours
Save nap times and early morning hours for the most important and brain-demanding work. Perhaps that’s when to schedule the video conference call or when to bust into full-throttle productivity mode.
Block out the noise
Learning how to block out noise will help you maximize productivity. White noise machines, fans, noise-cancelling headphones and the mute button on your phone are all your friends. Use them as needed.
Take little breaks for big boosts
Checking in on one another boosts family moral, and physical bursts of energy can boost our mental efforts. So, when it’s break time, run to the fence in the backyard, have everyone join in for 25 jumping jacks or take a dance break in the living room. Get the blood pumping and the smiles widening. We might as well have fun during this!
Eat meals as a family
Make your time together as a family count. Working from home has its perks, like the opportunity to sit down and have three meals a day together.
Managing coronavirus anxiety while working from home with kids
Though our normal routines are out the window amid the coronavirus outbreak, a silver lining exists—pets, babies, children and spouses are all in this together. Our homes and days are full, and our hearts can be too.
However, if you feel overwhelmed while you try to work from home with kids during the COVID-19 crisis, remember you are not alone. There is help nearby—because protecting your mental health is essential to caring for yourself, caring for your family and maintaining efficiency in your job.
MountainStar Healthcare provides three outpatient mental health facilities throughout Greater Salt Lake City and northern Utah. At these facilities, you’ll find specialists ready to help you manage anxiety, fear and other feelings during the coronavirus outbreak, so you can safeguard your emotional well-being.
For more information about outpatient behavioral health services or to schedule an appointment, call the MountainStar Healthcare facility closest to you:
- Lakeview, Utah: To learn more about mental health services at Lakeview Hospital, please call (801) 296-3421.
- Ogden, Utah: To learn more about mental health services at Ogden Regional Medical Center, please call (801) 479-2250.
- Salt Lake City, Utah: To learn more about mental health services at Mark’s Hospital, please call (801) 268-7438.
Jessica Poe is a full-time homeschooler of three children and a part-time healthcare writer. She also authored the book, “Everyday MOMents.”