If creating harmony between work and life wasn’t challenging enough, the COVID-19 pandemic has supersized this pursuit in a way we couldn’t have foreseen. Many of you are trying to work, parent and even homeschool while in isolation – and all this for unknown length of time. It makes for an unsettling combination of factors, and the stress you may be feeling from walking a tightrope of competing priorities is not insignificant.
How you work effectively at home with kids, says career coach Allison Lockett (who’s working and co-parenting with two preschoolers at home right now!) will be unique to you, depending on what your family looks like and the pressures you are facing. Allison was in our community platform to talk about this and share strategies to help you navigate this time.
- Set expectations
With yourself: Start by asking yourself, “Where am I and how can I support myself there?” There aren’t just tasks and jobs to manage but a range of emotions you may be processing as well. Perhaps you have capacity to move forward on work goals. Or, you may need to pause. Give yourself permission to serve your needs
With your partner: Discuss what you and your partner need to best support each other, so that you can both fulfill your respective work responsibilities and share the care of your kids. Develop a plan together to define your work hours or days and when you’ll trade off for childcare.
With your employer: It’s not business as usual, and this disruption is as much a shift for your manager as it is for you. Communicate openly – and regularly – with your supervisor to discuss expectations, review priorities and update on progress and concerns. What are your new or revised priorities? Do your working hours need to change? In a time where employers are making very difficult decisions, they may need your support as well. “Create a space where you can raise your hand up,” Allison says, to offer your manager your input and voice.
- Structure equals freedom
Kids thrive best with a routine, when they know what to expect and when. Creating a schedule (with room to adjust when needed) that captures their needs and activities, as well as when you and your co-parent expect to be doing work hours, eases your mental load. Allison also recommends communicating out your schedule to your manager, indicating your planned work hours, and when you’re most available and productive for input. “And don’t feel bad about it,” she says. “This is not a time to apologize.”
- Mission critical tasks
In a lockdown with kids, it’s unlikely that you’ll have time and bandwidth to carry out everything you did before the quarantine. Whether in your work or home life, really define what your goals are, and focus on the tasks that truly serve your goals. Let the rest go. All too often Allison says, “we don’t link the tasks that we do day-to-day to our bigger picture goals. And we should, because it would mean that we wouldn’t do a bunch of unimportant [activities].”
- The work-life blend
While Allison appreciates the idea of having boundaries around work hours and time with the kids, her current situation at home means that she can’t always count on having dedicated work time. If this is also the case for you, considering experimenting with a blurring of the lines. If you’re with your children and work-related thoughts enter your mind, Allison suggests engaging them. It’s something that she’s trying out herself, and in fact the content for her webinar came together while she was in the kitchen doing other things. Try it and see how it can help you plan or make progress on your work.
- Connect with your kids
Your kids are also taking in the stress of the pandemic – whether consciously or unconsciously – as well as picking up on yours. They need you perhaps even more now. Filling their tanks with your love and presence in the moments that you’re with them is not only powerfully important for their wellbeing, but also facilitates the separation for both you and your children when the time comes for you to break away for work. Create time for those connection points with your children in your day, so you and they can feel satisfied before you transition back to work.
Despite the challenges this kind of work-life integration presents, Allison is hopeful about the opportunity it offers to influence how we work and build a new way. “Educating people that we work with on the constraints [we have as parents] is what’s going to break down the system and allow us to rewrite these rules.”
Listen to Allison’s webinar here.
How are you making remote work with kids work for you right now? Drop us a comment below.
Allison Lockett is a career coach and long-time tellent contributor. Her passion is to help people find and excel at the work they were made for. Learn more.