It’s not easy to juggle kids and remote working. Here’s some expert advice on how to handle this during lockdown.
Question: I have a dilemma that is all too common in our ‘new normal’ – as a company, we are all having to work from home during the lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Fortunately, my job can be done from home, but I do have several challenges. Firstly, I’m managing a small team and am not sure on best practice to keep things going as smoothly as possible. Do you have any advice on remote working best practices? My other challenge is that my home environment is a bit chaotic right now – my two kids under twelve are home with me too because the schools have closed. How do I juggle parenting and working? I would really appreciate any advice.
Anja van Beek, Talent Strategist and Leadership Coach gives the following answer: Being a working mom, I have found the following to be very helpful to ensure you maintain productive during your time at home.
To start, Think ReMoTe Care. It stands for:
Think out of the box and
Routine is crucial to both you, your team and your family. You may be tempted to adjust your daily routine. You may even consider sleeping-in as you don’t have to face the morning traffic to work or do the normal school run due to the schools being closed. It is critical to keep your routine as if you were commuting to the office. And yes, keep your alarm clock on! Your brain is used to this rhythm and the signals that it sends to your body that it’s time to work. For the family, I can strongly recommend drawing up a weekly schedule and sticking it on the fridge – “Messy Mondays”, etc. Consider dividing the day into blocks e.g. “learning time”, “eating time”, “play-time”. It is also helpful to pack a daily lunchbox for each child (as you would have done for their school) so that they know exactly they can quickly grab something to eat vs coming to ask you every time which can lead to a lot of frustration.
Movement is important so you don’t get stuck in your home office all day. When looking at your schedule, build in regular breaks. Perhaps you can work in 20-minute cycles with a 10-minute break. During these breaks, get up from your dedicated workstation and move around. Set a reminder on your phone to have these regular breaks; stand-up, stretch, breathe and walk around. It is also helpful to block off the time in your diary so that other work members can’t schedule virtual meetings in those breaks, otherwise you will never leave your desk. With your children, movement can form part of the fun moments in your new routine. Get some upbeat music and have a dance out or do some basic stretches together. Get out in the sun as this will provide the daily doses of D3 vitamin. Late afternoons are a great time for them to blow off steam – hopefully by then, you would have closed your computer and be present with them whilst enjoying the outside air.
Think outside the box
Think outside the box by displaying a learning agility. We tend to fall back to our thinking preference and in times like these, it is good to (virtually) surround yourself with others. Micromanagement is never a good option and is completely impractical in a remote work environment. It comes down to trust, communication, and the company-wide support of shared goals. The teams that are used to daily stand-ups can create a #huddle channel; team members can post what they achieved today and what they’re planning to do during the next working day. For the kids, a good start is to go back to basics like building a fort or playing with Lego before using online tools such as National Geographic kids podcasts, virtual education tours.
Connection is even more important these days. Your mental wellbeing is especially critical whilst being at home, working, taking care of the kids and managing your team. Your thoughts and reactions can either be inspiring or negative – so often we allow our negative thoughts to overshadow our ability to handle the challenge. Remember that if you feel out of control, your reactions to your kids and team members will be out of control. Replace judgement of the negative thought with curiosity. Decide what small step / decision / action you can take right now. Be mindful of how you react in these moments; it isn’t the kids’ fault that you all have to be at home. Remember that your team members will also feel overwhelmed and unsure of what their new normal will be like. Be the person each team member can talk to daily to support them and keep them accountable for the professional output whilst transitioning to working from home. It is a great opportunity to get your kids to open and start sharing their emotions. Give extra love by physically touching your child. As parents, we especially need to show a lot of grace during this time.
We’re in this together. Kindness creates an encouraging ripple effect that positively influences others. Stay safe and please add to the list of tips to make this new normal work for us.
“Nothing is permanent in this wicked world – not even our troubles.” – Charlie Chaplin
Remote working best practice
- Try to create a proper work space that is dedicated to work. This helps to set some boundaries in the home during unsettled times.
- Trust your colleagues. Says Harvard Business Review for managers, “You can’t see what people are doing. But equip them in the right ways, give them the tasks, check on them like you’ve always done, and hope they produce in the ways you want them to. You can’t monitor the process, so your review will have to be outcome-based.”
- Set time boundaries, so your children know when you are and aren’t available. It’s all too easy to work all day!
- Combat loneliness (a common problem for remote workers) by setting up frequent check-ins with your team, and try to turn the video on for those meetings.
- Stick to a routine. This helps things feel ‘normal’ and like you’re in control.
- Set ground rules for team meetings. No phones or emails, video on, and so on. Allow people to share small talk for the first ten minutes before launching into the agenda.
- Whatsapp is your new watercooler. The best way to stay in touch for the “little catch-ups” like you’d have around the kettle is instant messaging. Use it!
- Remember, everyone is in the same boat. All will have a partner in meetings, children in the background, and a mess to deal with.
COMPILED BY: SAMANTHA STEELE