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How to manage working at home with kids

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One of the biggest changes for those working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic is the need to balance their children’s educational needs at the same time as they complete their work. According to Education Week, more than 55 million children across the country are out of class and engaged in some level of distance learning. Every state has issued a cancellation of schools, some for the duration of the school year. School districts have had to scramble to provide lesson plans that can be completed at home either independently or with parental support.

Let’s be honest, this isn’t ideal for anyone, and it’s not easy. The good news is it’s temporary, but the bad news is we don’t know how temporary. So what are the best ways for those doing double-duty to make it through the next few months?

Identify your flexible routine. Routine helps kids (and adults!) order their lives and they need parental help to do it. The Child Mind Institute notes sticking to a routine will help reduce stress-driven break-downs for kids. Fewer break-downs for your kids means you aren’t spending as much time dealing with the emotional difficulties of social distancing and you both can focus on your school and work. The easiest part of the routine to stick to is bedtimes and wake-up times, but also identify the parts of your day that are locked in. Maybe it’s a daily class check-in time for a student, a Zoom call you have for work, or a locked-in test time for a child. When you have the locked-in parts of your day scheduled, you can fit in other parts of your time around it. Set aside the time where your kid needs your full attention, and then set aside another time for work needing your full attention.  

The routine is important, but so is being flexible. Homework can be done at a different time in the day so it’s done when a parent can help. Work tasks can be at a different times to help a child who is struggling. Employers can do their part by being less rigid about what a work day looks like and focusing more on getting tasks accomplished. Figure out the parts of your day you can’t move, and then build out the rest of your day around it. Don’t forget to build in time to play, get outside, and relax. Recessing in the backyard for your kids can be a great time to get a few work things done for you.

Communication, communication, communication.  

This goes in every direction. Your child needs to know you might have a meeting you can’t miss, and they need to hold their questions until a specific time. If you have a partner at home, you need to coordinate who is taking point on answering questions and if there’s a call that can’t be interrupted.  Your employer needs to know that you’ll be busy for an hour with a family commitment but you’ll be back online at a set time. And most important to all of the communication is to follow through on a commitment. Your child will hold their questions if they trust you will be there to help them later. Your employer will trust you’ll get the tasks done later if you continue to get them done. We discussed in a previous blog post how important trust is in leadership in organizations and how high-trust businesses can improve the productivity and morale of their employees. With everything going on in the world, now is an incredibly important time to build a culture of positivity and trust for your organization.