Thousands of Irish parents will be preparing to work from home this week for the foreseeable future.
Working from home as a parent can pose it's challenges but working from home as a parent during a time of such uncertainty is surreal to say the least. This really is a time like nothing else I can ever recall. If you are anything like me you are probably feeling a complex mixture of emotions. A strange concoction of fear, panic and anxiety.
The fact that Covid-19 is so unprecedented gives everything another layer of ambiguity. As parents we are used to having the answer. Or at least doing our best to try and find one. I'm struggling to stay calm myself so I feel unequipped when it comes to ensuring my family remain calm too.
Our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has recommended that if we can work from home, we should. It will not be possible within some industries but for many it will be their first foray in to working from home. So many of us are fearful for the health of those people we love and will be wondering how, in the midst of this fear, we are supposed to carry on as normal with matters of work.
My role at Family Friendly HQ involves working from home. This is something I am grateful for as it allows me to be flexible and strike a balance between motherhood and having a career. However, it has certainly posed it's challenges. I have learnt what works for me, what doesn't and some tips and tricks that make all the difference.
This post is about working from home in general. There is no denying that trying to balance work and home-life during school closures is going to be extremely overwhelming and for many people it will be impossible to work in any normal capacity. However, I hope these tips will provide even a nugget of help for some of you.
The idea of working in your pyjamas is lovely in theory but for some reason it really doesn't work for me. I don't put pressure on myself to look a certain way or adhere to a particular style of clothing but when I get dressed and "feel the part" I am more productive. It makes me feel like I am in work mode and thus helps separate my two worlds of home and work.
Structure Is Important
Sticking to a routine and structure is so important. If you're planning to start working at 10am then make sure you are dressed, have eaten breakfast and set the kids up with activities for that time. If you treat it casually you'll feel anxious by lunch-time when you realize that you have nothing to show for your working time.
A Separate Work Space
I highly recommend separating your work space from your living space. Every house is different but if at all possible set up camp in a space that is away from the area you typically associate with down time. I work best in the kitchen where it is bright, away from the TV and close to a glass of water when I need one.
Take Proper Breaks
If you have a proper structure you are absolutely entitled to proper breaks. Breaks are so important. Fuel up, stretch your legs and treat it like any lunch break at work. Close your computer, move away from your work space and enjoy some down time catching up on a book, replying to whatsapps or making a phone-call. There is no need to feel guilty as everyone is entitled to a break.
Stay Away From Your Phone
It's tempting because your boss can't see you, but stay away from your phone. You could spend hours replying to text messages, clicking in to articles and dipping in and out of social media but you will be creating stress in the long run. It will soon become very obvious that your output is not as expected and it is not worth the stress and anxiety in the long run.
Ignore The House Work
During a normal working day you cannot stick a wash on or give the bathroom a quick once-over. Ignore the house work and remember that the only thing that has changed is the venue. Try separate yourself from domestic duties or they will thread your entire day and take up huge amounts of time.
There are certain tasks which may not work from home, particularly if you have children. Communicate with your line manager and focus on projects and tasks that make sense from a home office. It may involve altering your schedule or routine but it makes sense in the long run.
Don't Forget To Get Some Fresh Air
There are so many benefits to getting fresh air. Particularly at a time when routine and structure have gone awry. Make time to take a couple of minutes to expose yourself to some light and fresh air. It will benefit your mental health, well-being and work productivity. It can be as simple as enjoying a coffee in the back garden or walking around the block for ten minutes during your lunch break.
Communication Is Key
When you are at work communication is not an issue because everyone is physically present. Working from home can be quite isolating and you may struggle with some work tasks when you are working independently. Consider a platform like Slack to keep the collaborative process alive and to ensure that the office culture and team work is present while you work from home.
Pick A Virtual "Home Time" And Stick To It
When you are working from home the lines between work and home can become blurred. Decide on a routine, write a list at the beginning of the day and stick to your working hours. There will be some flexibility while the kids are off school so it is important to be realistic but there simply has to be a time that you finish up work for the day and return to "normal" home life. Close down your computer and mentally "leave" work until tomorrow.