How to Work from Home …When Everyone is Home
By HR NOLA staffer Molly Bruner, MS, SHRM-SCP
“Work from home,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. What they didn’t say was that a nationwide pandemic would cause your kids and your spouse and the dog to work from home, too. And they didn’t say how to #WorkLifeBalance everything in order to be a productive employee and parent.
As someone who primarily worked from home before the coronavirus pandemic, productively working from home is something that has taken some time to master. As a new parent, parenting is something that is proving will take some time to master, as well. And now here I sit, faced with these two important facets of my life, parent and employee, smushed together and forced to coexist at the same time, under the same roof. The uncertainty can be stressful and somewhat scary, but this is the current state of life we’re in right now. If you’re like a majority of America’s workforce, and lucky enough to continue your work remotely, you’re likely facing this same predicament…. How do I work from home, when the entire family is also working from home?
I dove into the depths of the Internet, my own experience, and the experience of colleagues to present you with the Top 5 Tips and Recommendations on how to work from home while the rest of your family is working from home. Here we go:
Tip #1: You Better (Get Ready For) Work
I mean this in a variety of terms. First, you need to dedicate some area of your home as your ‘office.’ Whether this is a desk in the guest room, an entire spare bedroom, or just a traveling briefcase at one end of your dining room table, you need to have a space that will allow your mind to transition into work-mode. Get ready for work by establishing this space and making sure it is as kid-dog-spouse-free as possible. Second, you need to get ready for your day. While you may be working from home, and you might not have anything scheduled, it is inevitable that your boss, client or coworker will request a video conference and you’ll be sitting there, makeup-less in your pajamas with a messy bun. Don’t be this person; don’t let this happen to you. Get up and get ready for your day. You don’t have to put on a suit, but a fresh face and fresh outfit will help you transition out of sleep mode and get you ready to start your day. The same goes for your children and your spouse. Encourage them to get ready for their days as well. Lastly, get ready for work by continuing with your pre-pandemic routine as best as you can. If you would get up and workout, do that. There are so many streaming services available to accommodate at-home workouts, many of which are offering free access during this time. If you would get your coffee on the way to work, swing by the kitchen to get a coffee on the way to your designated ‘office’. Whatever your routine was, try to keep this up as best you can.
Tip #2: Coordinate with your ‘Co-Workers’
And by co-workers, I mean your spouse and children. Start by setting a start and end-time for your workdays with your spouse. This will instill some sense of normalcy and routine and will help you to ‘be on time’ and ‘leave the office’ at the end of the day. Next, try to coordinate important conference calls, video conferences and meetings during naptime or when your spouse can be the POD (parent-on-duty). By knowing the kids are alright, you’ll be able to fully
focus on whatever it is you’re doing and not be pulled in a million directions. Just be ready to be the POD when your spouse needs you – remember, teamwork makes the dream work.
Tip #3: During Social Distancing, Technology is Your Friend
For our extroverts, employees who are not used to working from home, or those who work from home but visit clients, it can feel somewhat isolating to suddenly only interact with your laptop, your children, your spouse and the dog. In the work from home hustle, technology has a wonderful way of bringing co-workers together. Utilizing platforms like Microsoft Teams, Slack or other chat bots can help continue the day-to-day banter, while also being able to share information and files quickly and readily, as you would in a normal office setting. You can also make use of video conferencing capabilities through Zoom, WebEx, FaceTime, Skype, Slack and Teams. If you were going to have a conference call, suggest having a video call instead to increase that face-to-face interaction.
Tip #4: Prioritize & Strategize
We need to be honest with ourselves. You will not get it all done. Just because you’re now home (or should be home) 24/7, does not mean that you will be more productive. This is where you need to prioritize and strategize. Prioritize your work responsibilities and check-in with your boss and co-workers. Make sure that you are working effectively and have communicated these deadlines with the everyone involved. Treat your home responsibilities the same way. It’s easy to get distracted from work or home tasks by having both so closely intertwined but determine which home responsibilities absolutely must get done that day and do that. Whether it’s a load of laundry, cleaning a bathroom (props to you), dusting, or just cooking dinner, whatever it is, make that your home priority of the day and get it done. This is where strategizing comes into play. Strategize your approach to work so that you set yourself up for success. Block your calendar, if you can, so you have time set aside to dedicate to that priority. Like I mentioned, schedule phone calls or video conference during naptime or quiet time or have your spouse take over as POD for a few hours so you can make a dent in that task, then switch. Strategize with your spouse to get your home responsibilities done too. Communicate with them and let them know what you need to get done that day. Can they help you? Do they have more time that day? Can they take the kids outside while you tackle whatever it is? Communication is key when it comes to prioritization and strategizing.
Tip #5: Be Easy on Yourself
During these stressful times, the most important thing you can do is be easy on yourself. Accept that you will probably not be the most productive employee or most involved parent (If you are, then kudos to you and maybe you should be writing this article…) Do the best with what you can, given the circumstances, and know that we are all in this together. Practice self-care: exercise, if you can, meditate, if that’s your thing, stay hydrated, take care of yourself and try to be flexible. If the dog barks while you’re on your client call, or your 4-month old doesn’t want to nap during your dedicated conference call time, do the best you can and roll with it. Remember, everyone else on the call probably has a dog, spouse or child on the other side of their office door and they just got lucky enough to score some quiet time. Don’t be too hard on yourself, this too shall pass (and with any luck, very quickly.)
I’ll leave you with my final thought… while this may be a very stressful time, try to stay positive and look on the bright side of things. You’re lucky enough to be in a position with an organization that allows you to continue earning your livelihood from the comfort and safety of your own home, surrounded by your loved ones. There are some people out there who aren’t afforded this opportunity. You’re also able to spend extra time with your kids, your spouse, your dog, your cat or whatever and whoever else is living in your house. Be thankful for this extra time together… even if your new co-workers are messier and louder then Karen from accounting.