Remote work is likely the new normal, even as social distancing guidelines ease. Simply put, companies have now been able to see just how well remote work can do for productivity. The shift had been coming for a while, and the pandemic accelerated it.
This can be perceived as both a blessing and a curse for parents -- that’s more time and flexibility to spend with the kids, but also may mean there are endless distractions at home. Ariel Rule wrote for Trello that kids may perceive the time that you’re at home as “family time,” vs. when you’re at work as your “work time.” Blurring the lines can cause complications -- which is why it’s important to have a game plan for how to work from home when the kids are home.
1. Opt for clear communication always.
First, transparency is the best policy. Sit down with your kids and let them know you’ll be home more often moving forward -- even as quarantine lifts -- but that you’ll still be working. Let them know you must work, but you love the time you spend with them, too. Tell them that when you’re working during certain hours, you will always be ‘there’ for them but need your concentration. Perhaps you can come up with a fun name for the work hours, too.
2. Create designated work spaces in the house.
A designated physical space of the house for ‘work’ is a great way to expound upon that communication -- because then your family will know when you’re in the ‘work zone’ and not to disturb you unless it’s an emergency. If you have a home office, that’s of course a perfect place to call “work only.” If you don’t, you’ll have to get a bit more creative.
Can you convert the laundry room to an office? Can you get a makeshift table and set it up in a corner of the living room? Or, can you use that barspace in the kitchen as the ‘office’? Of course, this is less ideal than working in an office -- so consider (if you have the childcare), moving to coffee shops or co-working spaces on at least a few days of the week.
3. Talk to your boss or team about different hours for work.
How flexible your company will be to your new working situation will entirely depend on the company’s culture, but ask about expectations. They may expect you to be online the entirety of the traditional work hours - 9am to 5pm, like it would be in the office - but perhaps you know you work best after 9:00pm when the kids are asleep and the house is finally silent. Communicate this.
One good way to approach this subject is to ask to do it on a ‘trial basis’ - just two weeks to see how your productivity fares by doing your own work on your own terms. Remember that managers are figuring everything out as they go, too - and you may set a new company mandate for remote work, based in hours of productivity rather than standard office hours.
In fact, everyone is figuring it out as they go. Give yourself some leniency and the space to figure out what works best for you and your family.