How are you balancing parenting and working?

On the afternoon of Friday, 20 March, schools across the UK were ordered to close "until further notice" to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic across Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

At the same time, organisations that have avoided being shuttered under the directive of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have moved their operations online or instructed their employees to work from home for the duration of the COVID-19 stay-at-home order.

Whilst the intention behind these efforts is to flatten the curve, they create another major issue for working parents across the UK: how do you work remotely – and effectively, at that – when your home has also become a school and nursery? Below are four tips to help your family navigate these uncharted waters.

Keep the lines of communication open

If your home has suddenly become your new workplace and your children's school or nursery, then your communication skills will be in greater demand than ever before ‒ with both your boss and your family members.

Have an honest conversation with your boss as soon as possible, to understand their expectations and discuss your availability whilst working from home. Depending on the needs and ages of your children, you may need to adjust your working hours to reflect something that's realistic. For example, you may find it more productive to work early in the morning, before your household is awake, and then return to work later in the day. Once you've both agreed on an arrangement, share your availability with your co-workers, reschedule meetings if necessary, and block off time in your diary when you plan to be offline.

It's equally important to speak with your family about this new situation, so that everyone is aware of when mum or dad can play, and when they're "at work" and should not be disturbed (barring an emergency, of course).

Create a new "norm"

Children of all ages thrive on structure and, in these uncertain times, it's never been more important to create one for your entire family. Based on the job demands of your family and your amount of child-care coverage, create a schedule for your household that loosely blocks off time for meals, quiet time, playtime, online schooling, homework, and so forth. The more you can standardise your weekly diary, the easier it will be to manage your children and allow you to be productive. However, don't stress over maintaining a strict schedule, especially in the beginning. Remember, this is new for everyone – your schedule will be a work in progress for some time until you sort out what works best for you and your family. Sometimes, it helps to give your older children some options (e.g. "You can choose to practise your maths at either 10 am or after lunch.") so that they feel as though they have more control over their days.

Re-evaluate your meetings

Thankfully, we live in a technological age when it's easier than ever to conduct business from your home. However, it can be challenging to participate in a video conference when you have a toddler squealing in the background or climbing up your back. Consider this new situation to be an opportunity to determine which meetings truly need to take place and which could be handled via email or a short Slack exchange.

For the meetings that must take place, try to schedule them during one block of time in your diary each day, preferably when you have someone else to watch the children. If your meeting attendees work in a different time zone, take advantage of this fact by scheduling your calls early in the morning or later in the evening when your children are sleeping.

If all else fails, have snacks and movies at the ready when you need to take a call. The same devices and activities you use to occupy little ones on an aeroplane flight also work well at home when you need quiet time to participate in a work call.

Seek support

In this stressful time, it's important to stay connected with others - especially whilst practising social distancing. Call your loved ones and schedule Google Hangouts, FaceTime gatherings, or Zoom meetings to touch base.

In addition, reach out to other working parents to share tips, show support for one another, and commiserate when necessary. 

With the help of technology, the support of your friends and family, a little creativity, organisation, and lots of patience, you'll be able to cope with turning your home into a workplace, school, and nursery.

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Editor's Note: This article was originally published by Undercover Recruiter. It is reprinted with permission.

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