How did the week go for you? Are you working well with family at home?
As we head into the weekend, I like to look back on the week and figure out what I’ve learned, and how I can improve for the coming week.
This week was pretty good, but I definitely got off track a few times. I could improve on the communication and coordination with my wife.
Yesterday, she made a comment that I wanted to share with you.
There’s a big difference between “working from home”, and “working at home with kids who are doing school at home.”
While this statement is evident of the new reality for many people, fewer of us (me included) have completely wrapped our heads around this distinction and used that perspective to establish our mindset and productivity expectations during this time.
Thankfully my wife is a superhero and rockstar all rolled into one and has helped me see this perspective more clearly (Yes, there was some mental “kicking and screaming” on my part).
Typically when we work from home, our kids are in school for most of the workday. We are now in a different time because not only are we trying to do our own work, but to coordinate the kid’s schedules, ensure they get to their online school sessions, complete their homework, and help them navigate learning a wide range of new skills.
They are learning the traditional school information, but have also been thrust into an entirely new level of personal planning, organization, and family dynamics during a stressful and uncertain time.
While this is an unprecedented time in history, it’s also an amazing opportunity to come through it with new skills ourselves, and a completely new perspective on the health and capabilities of our family (I know I’ve already learned A LOT and I feel our family dynamic is improving because of it).
To help with that objective, here’s a simple 5-step strategy for successfully working from home with kids.
Special thanks to my wife for many of these tips…particularly the space plan! Seriously, it’s a game-changer…at least in our house.
5 Step Work From Home Family Success Strategy:
Step 1: Communication
- Hash out everyone’s schedule (Meetings, events, tasks, chores, priorities) –
- Discuss details for all areas of life
- Understand the emotional component of a situation
- Understand and discuss each family member’s personality style and anticipate triggers and solutions
- Beyond the schedule, determine strategies and “rules of engagement” for keeping each other up to date on who needs what, and which tasks are being done at a given time.
- A great example is a sign for quiet areas and “do not disturb” icons on doors. For younger kids who can’t yet read, a “stoplight system” using a coloured piece of paper can be effective.
Step 2: Cooperation
- Determine how everyone will work together to get things done
- This is a different time. What new tasks and duties do each family member need to take on?
- How old are kids? How can they be involved…even at the smallest level.
- Provide clear communication (age appropriate), and get them involved. Stoke pride at their personal contributions and their family support.
- Give them specific, age-appropriate tasks to complete each day and reward their positive steps and success with praise and encouragement. (you can also benefit from doing this yourself)
- Things are changing rapidly, so understand that cooperation will need to be flexible and constantly evolving
Step 3: Create a personal and family schedule and success plan
- Just like a business, schedule weekly overview meetings and daily check-ins on progress/changes
- Schedule key work tasks
- Create a space allocation schedule for various areas of the house (office, school area, quiet room, exercise/activity zone, etc.), and when each family member will need those areas.
- Allocate your time in approximately 30-minute blocks throughout the day.
- Ensure regular intervals to check in with your spouse and kids
- Block time for meetings, focussed work, exercise, social time, relaxation, play, school/homework help, meals, and household duties
- Everyone’s situation is different, and will result in a different schedule, but these are the key “buckets” of time
Step 4: Define your Work Space(s)
- Create a space where you can productively work.
- Do the same for your kids
- It should be quiet, how all the items everyone needs to get your work done
- For you, Harry Potter fans out there, think of it as your own little “room of requirement”…though it doesn’t actually need to be a separate room to be effective
- As mentioned above, communicate your schedule, needs, and the “rules of engagement” around these spaces
Step 5: Set Guardrails on Your Time
- When working from home, personal and professional tasks will inevitably bleed into each other, but be diligent about setting boundaries and sticking to them.
- Start and end work at a specific time whenever possible
- Set family activities at the start and end of each day to help keep you on track.
- A great option is to have breakfast (and ideally lunch) together as a family, and then set an end of day family walk to help everyone transition to the evening routine.
These steps are great and will be very helpful for those who follow them. The most important thing to remember is to give your family members (and yourself) some grace to learn, adapt, and grow. Things will never be perfect. You will mess up. People will get into arguments and become frustrated by a variety of situations.
By going back to the first 2 steps (communication and cooperation), you will be able to work through almost any situation you encounter.
For more detailed information on how to be more productive working from home (including equipment, desk setup, your office environment, ergonomics, etc.), check out my second edition of “Your Work from Home Productivity Handbook”. You will learn how to stay healthy, happy, and productive working from home, even during a global pandemic.
It’s live on Amazon through www.workfromhomebook.ca and I would love for you to leave a comment when you pick it up!