For the last six weeks, many people have been navigating the challenges of work from home while also managing childcare and home schooling. By now, routines have been established that are hopefully working well. We’ve put together some best practices, which cover areas such as mental health and wellbeing, setting a routine and communication that you may find useful.
Organise Your Space:
Some parents may have had some experience of working from home in the past but not all industries enable employees to work remotely. It’s perfectly normal for you to take some time to adjust to your new office environment: including setting up a desk space, organising your computer and stationery. You may choose to set up your home office close to where your children will be following their lessons and also to give them a sense of security and support. Not everyone has a designated office in their homes so, if you are still working this out, look for a space that is bright, not too cluttered and can become your set workspace.
Some parents may also find themselves in a position where they’ll have virtual job interviews during this time. We’ve put together our top tips for succeeding in a virtual interview setting here: https://longmirerecruitment.co.uk/2020/03/25/interviews-during-pandemic-succeed/
As you and your children begin to adjust to the supposed ‘new normal’, you’ll find that some things work, and others don’t. No one knows for sure how long the current circumstances will continue for so it’s vital that you set realistic targets for the day to best manage you and your children’s expectations.
Setting a Routine:
Setting a routine will enable you and your children to have a structure to the day but you should also take into consideration any disruptions that may occur. A routine as opposed to a schedule can be more flexible, which may suit you and your children.
Some schools, which are offering video lessons may have set times during the day when they run. Others may have systems in place where a teacher will set tasks/activities for the day and your children follow it at their own pace. Factor these into your daily routine: while your children attend a video lesson, you can catch up on emails or any other task set for you by your employer.
Your children’s school may also indicate an approximate amount of time spent each day on schoolwork but in situations where this isn’t clear, break up certain activities so your children can also take breaks and enjoy some fresh air. Another top tip that has been listed by organisations is dividing the schoolwork responsibilities with your partner: for example you take the morning session and your partner takes over the afternoon session to ensure that both of you have enough time to take calls, complete deadlines and attend virtual seminars/workshops, if applicable. You may also find it beneficial to make the most of your children’s ‘free time’ during the day to put in a few extra minutes into your work while your children are outside, doing something creative or having quiet time.
However, your routine may not always go to plan: it is inevitable that you’ll have unexpected disruptions during the day. Do communicate with your children and your employer if you’re faced with an unexpected situation. It is also important that you remain open-minded: home schooling and homeworking is a daunting change for many parents, but a general routine is recommended to ensure that your children are staying on track of schoolwork and you can continue with your job.
Do consult the following link for further information: https://www.stonegroup.co.uk/insights/how-to-home-school-whilst-working-from-home/
Communication is Key:
Mental Health UK stress the role of communication during this time: not only with your children but also with your employer. If you are struggling to meet deadlines and look after your children, you should speak to your manager about your worries. They’ll be aware of general issues facing parents in their workforce and it’s possible that your organisation may have a policy addressing these concerns. Moreover, communicating your concerns with your employer will also help them get a better picture of challenges affecting their employees during these times. A regular catch up with your manager will ensure that they are kept updated of your situation and look for ways to support you from the onset.
Although it is important to stay in touch with your employer and communicate any concerns, maintaining good levels of communication with your children is also important: support them as they’re getting through schoolwork. It’s very likely that younger children will require more support during the day. Working Families, the UK’s work-life balance charity, state that it’s important to reassure your young children during this time, especially as they won’t be seeing their school friends for a while. You should also ask them if they need additional help with an assignment and what they learned during an online lesson. Moreover, you should also let them know if you cannot currently help them or if you’re in a meeting.
Make the Most of ‘Free Time’:
Even a few minutes’ worth of fresh air can be beneficial to you and your children. It’s possible that children may get bored after completing some schoolwork but there are several resources available now to ensure that children are kept busy while their parents are in a work meeting or completing a deadline. Museums have launched online interactive experiences and well-known fitness experts are offering free, family-friendly classes on YouTube. Outdoor activities are also encouraged.
During your lunch break, you can engage in a short family activity such as baking or drawing. Alternatively, if time allows, go out for a family walk so you and your children can release some energy. Sitting at a desk or table for long periods can tire you and your children so taking breaks in between different school and work activities can recharge you in preparation for the next set of things on your ‘to-do list’.
Your Mental Health and Wellbeing:
Juggling a full day’s worth of school and work can take its toll not only on a parent’s mental health but also on a child’s. We have covered tips around setting a routine to your day but it’s important to look after your mental health during this time as well.
The mental health and wellbeing of your children is equally as important as yours during this time. It is important to take some time to release the stress: your gym may be running some online classes for you to follow in the evenings and there are also virtual mindfulness workshops many organisations are running. Do go for a walk, catch up with friends and family on Facetime or Zoom after the work/school day has ended.
We understand that this is a difficult time not only for parents but also for children who are used to seeing their friends every morning in school. Do have a clear mind as you begin each day with realistic targets that you can meet including how many meetings you can attend knowing your children will need support with their schoolwork. You and your children’s wellbeing are essential and if you are feeling overwhelmed, take a step back for a moment or two. A wide range of support is available from leading charities, which reminds us that we’re not alone in facing the challenges that this period has put in front of us.