When we packed up our offices in the middle of March we did not expect to still be working from home into 2021, we barely expected it to last until the summer. While your days may still start with a cup of, much needed, piping hot coffee, and a conference call, you might find yourself also dealing with barking dogs and sibling arguments. Being a working parent requires you to wear a lot of hats usually, but when working from home it can be hard to balance them all on your head at once. Being a chef, a teacher, a business person, a board game referee, a dog walker, and a parent can seem like a very daunting task, and you have been tackling this for a very long time. All of that mixed with the anxiety-ridden feelings of uncertainty and fear that are spurred by the events happening in the world right now can take a serious toll on your mental health.
We at PA Parent and Family Alliance are here for you and want to help ease as much of this stress as we can. If a person is lucky enough to have a job that allows them to work from home, chances are they are doing just that right now, and have been for a while. That is why we sat down or rather called/emailed due to social distancing, with several parents from around the state to get some of their best tips on working from home. If you are feeling overwhelmed try some of the tips listed below, and just remember that many people are in the same tough position as you are, and doing the best you can is all you need to do.
1. Keep a Schedule
This was the number one tip from every mother and father we asked. By sitting down and writing out a schedule for yourself you can have a better sense of how you are going to fit it all in that day. Laying out all of the meetings, meal times, dog walks, and family time can keep you on track with everything you need to do. Creating a schedule that you can post somewhere and show your children can also help them structure their own day a little better. Kids thrive on that structure and it will help show them that mom or dad are going to be busy until a certain time, or they can expect some playtime later in the day.
We know that this is easier said than done. After months of trying to balance distance learning and running back and forth between calls from your boss and helping your child get in and out of their classes having a set schedule may seem like a foreign concept to you. Make this idea adaptable to your family. If a loose schedule that gives time frames for meals, chores, and everything else makes more sense, implement that. As a parent raising a child who is struggling you know how essential it is for your child to get on a routine, and that is one main reason why distance learning is so challenging. Creating and displaying that family schedule will not only help you stay on top of your work tasks but can also help the rest of your family understand the day they have ahead of them.
Distance learning feels impossible at times. Check out our tip sheet to troubleshoot some of the most common distance learning challenges we have heard about from families.
2. Separate Office Spaces
One mom explained how she and her husband are taking a divide and conquer approach. " My husband and I are trying to team up and switch off. He runs a major company so he is in meetings most of the day. I set him up an office in our room. I try to catch kids from screaming and dog barking but let’s face it - everyone is in the same boat so kids in the background are not unexpected. In fact, I think he has had comments that people enjoy the sounds of children playing, it is just part of the norm now. I take shifts. In the evening or late afternoon - I go back to my office and he is in charge of the chaos so I can focus uninterrupted."
If you and your partner are both currently working from home try and set up two separate offices. This can help to prevent your spouse's conference calls interfere with your call with your boss. Some houses are not laid out in a way that allows one functional office space let alone two so if you are finding it hard to make separate spaces try what the mother above says works for her. By staggering your time with your partner you have the ability for one of you to fully emerge yourself in your work while the other keeps the house running; and then switch.
3. Get Dressed in the Morning
Try your hardest to keep some normalcy in your schedule right now. There is no need to strap on those uncomfortable shoes or put on that stuffy blazer but it can increase your productivity by getting out of those pajamas you have been in for 3 days. Keeping your self-esteem up will help you continue to kill it on your conference call and help you feel like life is staying as normal as possible. One mom, we spoke to mentioned that showering is obviously good for you to do but also is a moment of peace in her otherwise crazy day. She showered every morning before leaving for work and has kept it going in her working-from-home routine. It allows her to center herself before stepping downstairs into her hectic day. "Showering and running a brush through your hair is very important if you have video calls with people. It helps me feel better and it helps show that even though we are working-from-home I still am putting effort into my meeting with those people."
4. Set a Time for your "Working Day" to End
"Just because you have the ability to work all night now because there is no set end time does not mean that you should," said one father from Philadelphia. He mentioned that when working in his office it was clear that at 5(ish) everybody would start to turn off their computers and begin their commute home. Now that he is working at home there is not that hard stop end unless you create it. For your mental health sign off around the same time every night if it's possible. When the clock strikes the end of the day tie up all of your loose ends of the day and focus on yourself or on family time. You don't have to worry about sitting in traffic after work right now so use that extra time to try that recipe you have always wanted, or support your local pizza shop and get a delivery order together.
Need some ideas on how to stay busy? Visit our Safer at Home page for links to virtual field trips, vital information on unemployment and food banks, and much more.
5. Try to Relax, Everybody is in the Same Boat
It may help to ease some of your anxiety to think about how the people on the other line are not sitting in a big board room. Mostly everyone is in the same boat and up to their ears in loud children and pets. When asking one mom how she is handling the stress of having her coworkers hear her she mentioned that at first, it was something that stressed her out. Then she mentioned that her boss sent out an email about all of the extra background noises happening on calls and to not stress over it.
Are you experiencing Remote Working Paranoia? Professionals across the country are becoming increasingly paranoid about their homes being judged on Zoom calls, feeling out of the loop, and being concerned about their job status. This has caused a lot of people to overanalyze every interaction they have with their bosses and coworkers, to read more about this new phenomenon and some tips on how to help ease your anxiety if you are feeling it check out this article here.
6. Actively check in with your mental health
These days we work, learn, and spend an overwhelming majority of our lives in our homes. This can take a serious toll on your mental health and the mental health of your family. Being trapped in the house all day with your family and the stress of running a household and working is exhausting. It can benefit the whole family if you can carve out a little time where you all get some fresh air. Even a quick walk around the block will help your children get some energy out and help you to try and prevent burnout from sitting in front of a computer all day.
Other things that may help your mental health right now include making it a point to stay in contact with your friends and extended family so you do not feel so isolated from the world. Also limiting media coverage during these stressful times, and trying your best to find little pockets of "me time," maybe after or before your children are awake. For some ideas on ways to practice self-care right now check out our article here.
Are you having trouble balancing working from home, and helping your child who is struggling with distance learning? Reach out to our FREE and CONFIDENTIAL Family Support Partners here.