It’s safe to say that 2020 has been a year of unpredictability and stress because of COVID-19. Back to school plans might not look any more exciting. Working from home has become the new normal for many and adjusting to this lifestyle can be difficult for anyone. Throw toddlers or school-age children into the mix, and the ability to stay focused and complete administrative tasks can feel impossible.
If you are debating sending your child back to school like many Canadians, something to consider is how to make remote work more feasible when you have a child in the home. Although routine is a normal part of our everyday lives, there are other considerations as you prepare your at-home back to school plan.
#1. Attempt to create a schedule
Although it’s sometimes useful to be flexible with your regular schedule, it can be counterproductive when it comes to working from home. For Elyssa Kirkham, founder of finance blog Brave Saver and her husband, their difference-maker was a staggered schedule. She and her husband switch out between working and being the primary caregiver to their two children (4 and 7).
|Time||Partner 1||Partner 2|
|6 AM – 1 PM||Work||Handle morning routine with kids (get ready for the day)|
|12 PM – 8 PM||Handle afternoon routine with kids (prepare dinner and bedtime)||Work|
Kirkham says that this schedule style gave each partner a substantial amount of concentrated work time, with a couple of “flex” hours in the middle of the day during lunch breaks or more parenting-friendly work – like answering emails or sending invoices. On top of their staggered daily schedule, each partner would have a designated day where they could use the home office, lock the door and focus on projects as needed.
If your employer isn’t as flexible with your work hours, it’s always good to brainstorm a few alternative options. It might mean you have to decrease your hours or break up your staggered schedule to allow for mid-day meetings. Regardless, try to keep any request as collaborative as possible. It’s more likely your employer will be understanding if you are prepared and have well-thought-out resolutions for them to review.
#2. Create expectations and boundaries
Unlike the typical back to school plans, working from home with a partner and kids can completely change the course of any original limitations you had in place — particularly if you don’t have a designated office space. Now is an excellent opportunity to have a family meeting to discuss your new schedule and each family member’s expectations.
For example, how will you create a quiet atmosphere during a meeting or business call? It’s best to over-communicate your work schedule ahead of time, if possible. Otherwise, have a backup plan in place for last-minute video calls that might pop up mid-day.
These same expectations and boundaries also need to be set with your employer and employees. In an interview with CPA Canada, Rhonda Scharf, president of Ottawa-based On the Right Track, says, “People do have to be flexible about what blurred boundaries look like because we have to do [other] things,” says Scharf. “I recommend people say, ‘Here’s what I can do, and is that okay?'”
In the same interview, Scharf also recommends people remember that these changes are temporary. “You’re not giving permission to abuse those boundaries later. But [you realize] right now, it’s the right thing to do, not only for your boss, but for your company and all the people [there].”
#3. Dedicate a day or night to get ready for the week ahead
Just as you would prepare for back to school plans by organizing meals and activities for the week ahead, remote work requires the same organizational skills. It’s okay to make lunches the night before and do any necessary homework and assignments. Remember to stick to what works for your family.
For Kirkham and her partner, it’s a daily conversation that helps set the tone for 24 hours. The couple also spends time reviewing the upcoming week before it begins. “That conversation gives us a chance to catch any schedule or workload conflicts,” says Kirkham. From there, the two can figure out a way to navigate their schedule in a way that works for everyone.
#4. Give yourself a break and ask for help
When you become focused on work and your children, it isn’t easy to find time for ourselves and the separation between the two. At times, you may feel you have to work late at night or early in the morning to make up for the lost time between managing this new back to school plan.
It’s important to give yourself a break and time to recharge. Whether it’s alone time with your spouse or alone time spent exercising, journaling or reading, it’s essential to find a balance between your new work-life. “In times of stress, I tend to fall into perfectionism mode and try to fix everything at once,” says Kirkham. “But what has helped is being more accepting of how messy our reality is right now and knowing when to let go.”
Being a parent that works from home while now dealing with the added adjustment of many Canadians 2020 back to school plan can be overwhelming. But, the best thing you can do to stay upbeat is to stick to a routine that works for you, overcommunicate with your family and employer, and to be open to anyone who is offering help. If you have support from extended family or anyone in your cohort, you shouldn’t feel guilty for accepting that help.