The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has had an enormous impact on all of our day-to-day lives. From toilet paper shortages to restaurant closings, we’ve all had to make some serious lifestyle adjustments. Employees who can do so are being asked to work from home. And schools in many areas of the country have been closed until further notice. The result is that many parents who have never previously worked from home have to now… and if they don’t have other childcare options, they have to try to focus on their jobs while simultaneously parenting their children. Working from home is an adjustment any way you look at it. Working from home with children adds a whole new level of complexity. Following are a few tips that help if you find yourself in this predicament.

1.Communicate
If they don’t already know, be sure to tell your manager that you have children. Try to adjust your schedule and meetings around your kids for fewer interruptions (e.g., if you have young children or kids with special needs, schedule calls for naptime or around caregiver availability). If you have older kids, be sure they clearly understand that dad or mom is working and should only be interrupted in the event of an emergency. It’s also important to clarify exactly what constitutes an emergency (Note to kids: Wanting a snack is not an emergency.).

2. Manage Technology
When you work from home, video or teleconferencing is going to become a way of life. If your kids are on the younger side and you fear interruptions, let your team know that you’ll have your phone on mute and your meeting participation will be “listen mode” only. You can respond to questions and make comments via chat. Remember that you don’t have to participate in the video aspect of videoconferencing if it’s not absolutely necessary; that can be audio-only as well.

3. Reprioritize
When you manage people, it’s important to treat this situation as the national emergency it is. With a few exceptions, when your team members work from home with kids, you’re simply not going to get the same level of production and engagement that you get when everything’s normal. If you have work that isn’t absolutely mission-critical, put it on the backburner until the situation is resolved.

4. Stick to a Schedule
Do you normally wake the kids up at 7:00 a.m. and serve cereal and OJ for breakfast? Keep it up. Let them know that you’ll reserve lunchtime for them so you can have some time together. Having a routine will go a long way toward minimizing disruptions.

5. Take Advantage of Free Educational Resources
Chances are, your school-age kids have been sent home with a lot of homework and you might be stressed out over how to manage their work when you’ve got your own work to do. A Facebook group called Amazing Educational Resources has compiled a massive list of websites that are offering free services (even the ones that normally charge a fee). The sites cover everything from math homework help to music.

6. Work in Shifts
If you have a partner who’s also working from home, you’ve got a really full house. Talk with them to determine when each of you is most productive. If you’re a morning person and they’re a night owl, you work in the morning while they have kid duty and you take the evening shift. Those couples who prefer to work at the same time can swap shifts each day.

7. Use Screen Time
It works, so why not take advantage of it? There’s no shame in giving the kids a snack and putting a show on Netflix. Let them watch their favorite YouTube channel when you have an important meeting scheduled or really need to focus on a project. It’s okay!

Working from home with kids can be a big challenge, but if you make a plan, it can be a successful endeavor. And they’ve got to go back to school at some point, right?

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HR Centre for Excellence