Working parents around the nation are waiting for the perfect storm. That moment when your workplace sends you home to work in isolation and then the schools decide to close. In most states that looks like being Tuesday.
How are you meant to keep on top of a full day's output while also managing the school's expectations of what learning the children should be doing from home?
Anecdotal evidence suggests parents are struggling to realise how these dual demands will be met.
"We've only got one computer at home, who gets to use it, me or the kids?"
"I'm lucky in that I can work from home easily enough, but with three kids under 10, that's a full day there before I even think of work."
"I'm unsure whether to just take leave to make sure the kids are ok, rather than try and do both, but I don't have much leave left."
Nicole Avery, mother of five, parenting blogger at Planning with Kids, and the most organised person you'll ever meet, has some tips for making it work.
"I have been working from home for the last 10 plus years," she says.
"My work has varied in the number of hours I work a week and where I would find the hours in the day to work. But I have learnt that working productively from home with kids around can be very challenging."
While two of her children are now at university, she has children in year 11, year 8 and year 6.
"The younger the kids are the more challenging it is," she says.
"When the kids are prep age, preschoolers or younger, you have to be realistic about what you can achieve with them awake and around."
These are some strategies that worked for her when she still had little ones at home:
Use the early morning hours - get up well before the kids are up (at least an hour), have a big drink of water and get straight to work. It is amazing what you can achieve in an hour when you know the clock is ticking before the house erupts into the morning activity buzz. This can be hard if you are not used to working in the early hours, but to get through periods like this, it might just have to be something you have to adjust to for a short time.
Use screen time wisely - work out what time of the day you will need to be interrupted as little as possible eg conference call, report deadline etc and keep screen time for then.
Early dinner time - aim to eat dinner at a reasonable early time so if you have a partner, you can be ready to tag them as soon as they walk in the door and you can secure another hour or two of work time where you will be interrupted as little as possible. Plan this with your partner if they are still going to work and even leave the house and work in the library / cafe if you need to in order to prevent the kids from coming to you.
These next tips apply to those with kids of any age:
Have an effective to do list - create this the day before. When you finish up your work for the day, write up the key work and home activities you will need to achieve next day. You want to be able to get started on your key activities as soon as you can. Having a well organised and prioritised to do list prevents procrastination and allows you to move from one activity to the other without losing time.
Have a plan for the day for primary school kids - as they are not actually on holidays, work with what the school has sent out and what you know will work for your child/ren in terms of structure for the day. Include indoor and outdoor time and use screen time sessions strategically for when you need them to be quiet.
Stick to your normal routine as much as possible - if you are an early morning exerciser or meditator for example, still get up and do that at the same time as you would if you had to leave for work. It can be tempting to sleep in because you are working from home, but you are going to have many more interruptions to your day than normal, so you want to be able to have some buffer in it.
Make the lunches the night before - keep your normal processes for school lunches, making them the night before. This means you can then have a lunch break with the kids and spend time with them, not making them something to eat. It also means they have snacks easily available without having to bother you for them.
Set expectations with the kids on noise and mess - everyone is different but personally I can work with noise, but find it difficult to work when I am surrounded by mess. Set up what your expectations are with the kids about how loud and how messy they can be.
Set additional household tasks - discuss with the kids that at times like this, it requires everyone to work together. Give extra tasks to kids that will help decrease your workload. Primary school kids can easily peel and cut up veggies for dinner, sweep floors and fold washing.
Stay active - go for a walk around the block or jump on the trampoline with the kids for morning and afternoon tea. Everyone will be better off for some fresh air and some physical activity.
For more ideas on how to combine working from home and looking after the children head to planningwithkids.com
- You can also call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080
- If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000)
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