For parents who have been instructed to work from home, this entails immense effort in balancing work and home life, as well as being on the alert about the coronavirus, said Courtney Connley of Make It CNBC, a news website dedicated to publishing content on help viewers earn, save, and spend smarter.
While they have had a “day off” from work if their child is sick or the weather is bad, the reality of remote work and taking care of one’s kids will be a “steep learning curve” for most parents, noted Brie Reynolds, a FlexJobs career development manager.
Survey Illustrates the Experiences of Workers Who Started Working From Home
Centrix, a company that delivers people-centric solutions for a better way to work, surveyed 2,000 US workers currently working from home due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It found that 64% are currently sharing their house with their partners and 56% are sharing with a young child (aged 3-12). Some workers were found to be sharing their house with a teenager aged 13-17 (41%) and with an infant aged two and below (28%). However, the report found that 5% of workers are on their own.
Since they started working from home, some of the challenges faced by the respondents were slow connectivity – home broadband/WiFi (33%), strict security protocols/no single sign on (33%), conference calls - using more than two services (32%), conference calls - using at least two services (30%), and inability to access all the app they need to do their job (23%). Other reasons cited by respondents were device availability (21%), “working on a laptop all the time is hard – small keyboard" (21%), VPN/private network is slow (16%), and “I don’t like/feel comfortable doing video calls for meetings” (14%).
With regard to interruptions, 29% said their kids and pets made an appearance on their work video calls. 24% said their children appeared on video calls while 13% reported their pets making an appearance. Once the pandemic is over, 37% of workers agreed that their organization in general will be more relaxed about remote working, 36% thought that staff will be allowed to work from home more regularly, and 35% felt that their colleagues will be keen to get back to working in the office.
33% agreed that they are keen to get back to working in the office, 32% felt that they will work from home more regularly, 28% agreed that they will actively look for a new job that will allow them to work from home.
When asked about their experience of working from home/social distancing due to the pandemic, 36% felt overwhelmed, 32% enjoyed the peace and quiet, 30% were unable to focus because there are too many people in the house, and 28% cited loneliness. Other statements included being pleased to get out of office chit chat/politics (27%), focusing and getting their work done faster (25%), and having anxiety (24%).
How to Balance Remote Working and Parenting
1. Set Up A Routine/Schedule
A routine and a schedule help maintain familiarity and serve as a façade for creating your work and childcare schedule, said Avni Patel Thompson of Harvard Business Review, a general management magazine. It is recommended a create a schedule for each week that incorporates other routines, but is tailored to incorporate work and new responsibilities like childcare and meal preparation.
When planning your schedule, be sure to ask yourself these questions: What is your child or children’s schedule? When will you do chores? What will you cook? When are your key work meeting or times it is important for someone to cover your work while you finish a household chore?
Then, you can put your answers into a calendar and assign shifts and duties to your family members. Start creating blocks once you have done this step. Don’t forget to include breaks and unstructured times in the schedule to relax and connect with your family.
It’s okay to be transparent to your colleagues about how you are juggling your kids’ needs so they won’t be thrown off guard, stated Reynolds. If you are in a conference call with your co-workers, you can say, “Hey, just a heads up, I might have a kid walk into this room, and I will handle it and get right back to you.”
In normal situations, it is not advisable to say this regularly, noted Reynolds. But unexpected work from home circumstances such as the pandemic make it even more important to over-communicate, she emphasized. You can also create a spreadsheet with your manager and the rest of your team. The spreadsheet allows you and your co-workers to provide their emergency contact information and your availability for online meetings. Reynolds explained, “This might mean more frequent, but casual meetings, or it might mean fewer meetings altogether.”
3. Take a Break From Work and/or Parenting
You can check in on a colleague to ask how they have been, read a few books to your child, or have a family dance party in the kitchen, recommended Sara McTigue of Healthline, an online source of medical information and health advice. These activities can leave your feeling refreshed and pumped to accomplish more work-related tasks.
Sometimes your job does not allow much flexibility or your superior thinks that remote work should mean you are available for 24 hours. You can try speaking up to your boss. You should also find time for “me time” activities such as spending having a 15-minute meditation or yoga session.
4. Establish Boundaries With Your Kids
Reynolds suggested setting boundaries with your children (especially if they are school-aged) when working from home. It may be helpful to be more flexible with your kids’ screentime and to explain why this privilege will not go on all the time. Reynolds narrated, “With my 6-year-old, I had him do a little arts and crafts project where he made me a ‘stop’ sign and a ‘go’ sign for my office door.”
Julie Kratz, an executive coach and author, agreed with Reynolds, saying that a physical sign on the door such as a thumbs down or a thumbs up helps kids find out when you are not allowed to be disturbed.
Remote work and parenting are difficult to balance, as parents may not be as productive as they were in the office. Parents establish clear boundaries with their colleagues and children, but superiors have to be understanding of the situation they are in.