For many people, working from home is going to be an adjustment. Working at home with children is an even more significant adjustment. I have worked from home since 2012. Thought a quick post about what I have done to save my sanity while working from home would be especially helpful during this challenging time.
1. Try to work regular office hours and take breaks
It can super easy when working from home to work longer than you should and avoid taking essential breaks. Start your workday at the same time you would normally, and take breaks when you typically would. You are more productive when you give your mind a break.
2. Don’t forget to eat
This may sound crazy. “How can you forget to eat,” you might say. However, you can easily forget to eat when you are so focused on what you are doing. Make sure you are energizing yourself by eating at the usual times and getting the nutrients you need to stay healthy. Health is always important, if not more critically important, in the world we are now living in.
3. Have a separate work space
Having a single space in the home where you can shut a door and get down to it is crucial. It creates separation and a feeling of, okay, now I’m at work. The simple act of shutting the door or sitting in the same chair can make all the difference.
4. Make sure you still get outdoors
Yes, if you are sick, please self-isolate, but even sitting outside for a few minutes can have incredible health effects. If you are feeling well, a walk around the block can reinvigorate you. You don’t need to talk to anyone or come in contact with anyone, but this is one way to guarantee your physical and mental health. Boosting your vitamin D is essential when you work indoors.
5. Invest in the right set-up
Depending on what you do, make sure you have the right equipment. Are you working ergonomically? Do you have the best computer? The proper internet connection? These are all important while working from home.
6. Get dressed
Working in pajama’s sounds like a dream and I admit I still do this on occasion. Getting dressed makes a big difference though. There’s something about the act of getting ready for the day that is a powerful motivator. Plus, you smell better and that’s always a bonus. Might not be anyone around but you don’t want to scare the dog. Kidding aside, proper physical hygiene is important.
7. Socialize with others by phone or online
Mental health is super important. All your interactions can’t be about work. When the workday is over, even if you are an introvert like myself, you still need to talk to people. If you can’t go out, then make time to call a friend. Facetime or skype a friend and connect online and on social media. Working from home can be a lonely experience, and it’s essential to stay positive.
8. Watch TV during your lunch
If there is no one to call and you feel isolated or lonely, watching a few minutes of TV during the day can be uplifting. Or listening to the radio or turning on some music. The key is not to stop working and be disciplined enough to turn off these distractions and get back to work.
9. Make a to-do list
Have a list of things you want to accomplish every day. Realize that you won’t get everything done. I usually ask myself, “What do I have to get done today?” and I choose the top three things. Or if I don’t feel like doing something, “What do I feel like doing?” So at least something gets done. For me, a sense of accomplishment is key. I try not to berate myself for not getting things done, and I am even kinder to myself when I have the kids home as well.
9. Leave the house chores
You might be tempted, but try your best not to. Ask yourself, if you were at work, would you be doing the thing you are doing? If the answer is no, don’t do it. Of course, you will still do those things but leave the cleaning and laundry and other house things before work, during lunch or after work. I can’t stress enough that separation is key to your sanity.
10. Now for the kid tips!
It can be nerve-wracking and challenging to work at home when you have children at home. These tips depend significantly on the age of your children. Mine are currently 7 and 10. The first thing I do is to let them know the plan. For example, Mommy needs to speak on the phone with a client, and so I would like you to do XYZ while I do that. When I am finished, we can do XYZ. Once again, this depends on the age of your children.
For younger children, you may have to consider modified hours, working very early in the morning, during nap times, and after they go to bed. Yes, this is not ideal, but it is an option. If you are working from home with your spouse, you could split your days. They watch the kids half the day; you watch the kids the other half.
Of course, with tweens or teens, letting them know the expectations and having something they can do to keep occupied is key. There are quiet activities that can be done in place of screen time if you are worried about them being online too much.
If your kids are old enough and can help you with easy tasks, I say put them to work. There are always things they can do. Even if it’s cleaning their room while you work on something else.
All this said, working with kids at home is never going to be easy. I recommend leaving the guilt at the door if your kids do spend more time on electronics or watching TV while you navigate a new normal. Don’t stress! Compassion for yourself and others is key to making this an easier time.