The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work and go to school.
Currently, more than 42% of Americans work from home full time. When it comes to education, a recent study by Burbio found that 52% of American students are attending online school only; 25% are attending in-person classes every day, and the remaining 19% are participating in some form of hybrid schooling.
With new outbreaks reported every day and the flu season fast approaching, it’s likely that even more students will end up making the transition to online classes. This makes a lot of sense from a public health perspective, but it also presents unique challenges for busy professionals who are also parents.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make this new reality easier for the entire family.
Have a conversation with your employer
Working from home, monitoring your child’s education, and staying on top of routine tasks like cooking meals and running errands is exhausting. When combined, these responsibilities can result in overwhelm and poor job performance. Therefore, it’s important that you set aside time to talk with your manager.
A brief 15-30 minute discussion presents an opportunity to explain the challenges you’re facing and your family’s unique situation. For example, if you have young children that need help logging on to class in the morning, see if you can start work a little later. If your employer has already recalled workers to the office, see if you can continue working from home for the time being.
We’re living in strange times. If you’re open and honest with your manager, chances are good they’ll work with you to establish a schedule that aligns with your needs. Likewise, if you don’t say anything, no one will know you need help. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
The importance of an established routine
Attending work and school from home can make it difficult to establish a routine. But setting a schedule is one of the easiest ways to stay on task. If your child doesn’t know what to expect on any given day, it can translate to trouble focusing, behavioral issues, and poor academic performance.
If you haven’t already, designate specific times for:
- Waking up
- Eating breakfast
- Getting dressed and preparing for class
- Logging on
- Lunch and snacks
- Free time
Though this may seem tedious, it’s an effective way to keep everyone in your household on the same page. Once you create a schedule, hold a family meeting to make sure everyone understands and is on board. You might even want to write everything out on a whiteboard or poster that members of your family can refer to regularly.
Create a designated workspace
Working from home presents many distractions. Nobody’s monitoring you throughout the day, so it’s easy to turn on the TV, make a phone call, or get side-tracked.
To limit interruptions, create a designated workspace for yourself and your kids. Setups will vary depending on the age of your children and their educational requirements. Here are a few things to consider:
- If your child is an infant, you may want to wear a sling or baby carrier. This allows you to stay seated and get things done, while still attending to your little one’s needs. If your baby gets fussy or hungry, you can stop what you’re doing without getting up to go to a different area of the house.
- If your child is old enough to crawl or walk around, you might want to bring their playpen or a blanket and toys into your office. This saves you the hassle of constantly checking-in and allows you to keep an eye on them at all times.
- Elementary school-aged children. If you have young children who need to attend online classes, set up a desk, and chair for them in your office. That way, if they have trouble logging on or need some other type of help, you’re there and can easily assist.
- Junior high and high schoolers. Older kids are more tech-savvy and able to stick to a schedule on their own. Your child doesn’t have to work in the same room with you, but they should do their work somewhere other than the couch or their bedroom. Check-in every few hours to make sure everyone is on task and getting their work done.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Managing work and school from home during a pandemic requires a team effort. If you have a spouse or partner that’s also working remotely, divvy up your responsibilities. For example, you can take care of the kids in the morning and they can take over after lunch.
If you live in a multi-generational household with grandparents or other relatives, see if they can assist. During these challenging times, a solid two hours of peace and quiet can make all the difference, especially in terms of productivity.
Consider using digital tools as well. Programs like Google Calendar, Cal, and TimeBlocks make it possible to set reminders throughout the day. In addition, many accept multiple users, allowing you to coordinate and adjust schedules throughout the day.
Do you and your kids currently share the same workspace? If so, what tools do you use to make the process easier? We’d love to hear your thoughts and story. Please submit a comment below.