Working from home with kids during lockdown has been a mix of hilarious, sobering and unexpected experiences. Us working parents have undoubtedly grown a lot these past few months – and we can take those life lessons and continue to use them in our professional lives.
Parents have quickly adapted to new ways of working, trying to find spaces in their homes to create makeshift offices, while getting new tools to help with efficiency and productivity. (How did we ever survive without a noise-cancelling headset before?)
As frustrating as some of those working-remotely-with-kids-at-home-moments have been, working from home is now considered “the new normal,” as many companies have delayed a return to the office through the end of 2020 and some have already announced a permanent shift towards remote working to benefit their employees.
As we continue into the “next normal,” working-from-home might be the reality for some parents for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, here are five lockdown lessons we can use for the long haul to boost productivity, improve efficiency and turn working remotely into something we can actually enjoy.
1. Take regular breaks — and get out of the house when you can
The temptation to remain tethered to your computer when you’re working from home can initially be very high – you want to show you can be just as productive and available in your PJs as you can in your workplace, right?
However, you likely took a lot of little breaks at your workplace in the “Before Times”: laughing over a new meme, enjoying the baked goods a coworker brought in for a birthday and getting out the door to grab some lunch or fresh air. Adopt the same policy at home and remember to take regular breaks during the day.
If one of those breaks can include spotting some local wildlife or listening to the burble of the stream in the woods near your home, even better – researchers have found that spending time in nature has several benefits, from increasing creativity and positivity to improving memory and decreasing stress.
Rachel, a mom who works full time from home with two children (ages six and four) and no childcare shares, “We got into a great routine of a long nature walk every day. Great for them and me.”
If you can’t take a walk with the kids and the dog in the middle of the day, make sure you give yourself an hour at the end of each day to switch off and go for a family walk or a bike ride. Try to move around the house a bit during your workday, too, by answering emails from the backyard while your children play or sitting down for lunch with family members. Moving around is essential, in order to avoid a repetitive muscle strain injury and to relax a bit.
2. Give yourself a space to work
The notion of “a room of one’s own” may have initially stemmed from Virginia Woolf’s feminist treatise, but the idea is absolutely applicable to working from home successfully, too. Just try typing on your laptop from your bed for two weeks and you’ll see what we mean – the arm pain! The back pain!
The home office without boundaries is a concept we’ve all become too familiar with, and many of us have come to the realization that, in order to sustain working from home as a long-term strategy, we need a home office of sorts. And, at least, some boundaries.
Parent-workers have been creative when it comes to finding a place to work at home: Some have turned an upstairs bedroom or a garden shed into a makeshift office to have some space to themselves; others have simply claimed a corner of the kitchen table so they can watch the kids study or play as they type up their latest report.
For many work-from-homers, the right office equipment can be revolutionary, whether it’s a chair that supports your back that you can comfortably sit in all day, a standing desk so you can move while you work, a laptop stand so you can type more comfortably, or a blue light screen filter to help prevent eye strain.
3. Don’t skimp on the tech accessories you need
One of the challenges that many work-from-homers deal with is how to turn the home office into a self-sufficient, remote IT department. We’ve all faced plenty of technology issues these past several months, like patchy Wi-Fi and poor sound quality.
Sound quality is a major bugbear for home workers, with a 2020 report from the audio brand EPOS finding that the average worker loses 29 minutes a week due to poor sound quality, and that 87% of remote workers also have issues with sound during calls or virtual meetings. Add in factors like excessive background noise (children screaming in the hallway, anyone?) and a virtual meeting can quickly become a high-stress occasion, when you miss valuable information and then spend precious time fretting about it.
There are loads of home tech improvement buys that could be worth investing in: a Wi-Fi mesh network to upgrade your home coverage, a webcam for video calls and a headset that gives you clear, crisp audio whether you’re on a video call or hosting a conference with hundreds of attendees dialing in.
EPOS has a range of headsets to suit every remote worker’s needs, whether you’re looking for premium audio technology to boost your efficiency, an audio experience you can personalize, or plug-and-play designs that connect you so clearly in conference calls that you feel you’re in the room with the others on the line — so you never have to repeat the word “what?” again.
4. Call in reinforcements
Accepting that you can’t do everything at once is key to your success when working from home with kids. As Rachel notes, “Basically it’s impossible to work full time – even with two (working) parents.”
Parents have found different, creative ways to manage working while looking after the children, like swapping shifts: One parent does the morning with the kids before working from lunch through the evening or vice versa. Others have found that working odd hours can help (getting up earlier to get some work done or working later into the evening). Other adults can help, too – even if they’re not at home with you.
“The best thing for me was to draft real humans for video calls. This actually meant an hour of schoolwork got done without me,” says Julia, a mother with four children between the ages of two and 15. Julia had a mix of friends, colleagues and family members helping her 15 and 12-year-old sons with a range of subjects, including English and French. “Without this kind of help, it was a total disaster.”
These video-conferencing tools can be helpful for outsourcing some of the trickier aspects of parenting even as we think about returning to our normal routines (yes, we’re talking about homework). They are also useful for maintaining grown-up socialization, as well as helping to combat any loneliness you may feel from being isolated from work colleagues. Make use of the organizational tools at your disposal to ensure that work-life and home-life are both manageable.
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Working parents can be notorious perfectionists, managing to feel guilty for not spending enough time on their work, nor with their kids. While pandemic life has increased this shame for many, the comedy factor of the sheer inability to do it all – work like we used to, teach and entertain children, and somehow bake bread from scratch with them in the middle of the day – shouldn’t make us feel like we’ve failed. Instead, parents should feel empowered to set work-life limits that are realistic, rather than draining.
Reach out to social communities and friends for support when things feel overwhelming. Speak to superiors about making your office hours more conducive to WFH, while also juggling stay-at-home parenting. This way, we can all take away the lesson that we are doing our best, and that’s good enough.
EPOS is an audio and video solution company developing and selling high-end devices for business professionals and the gaming community. Based on pioneering audio technology, we strive to unleash human potential by perfecting audio experiences and delivering innovative design and performance with all our solutions.
This article was paid for by EPOS and co-created by RYOT Studio UK. HuffPost editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.