Watch Alexis' amazing webinar on Managing Productivity While Working From Home with Kids here:
Ok, we're here, and I bet you're freaking out a bit! School has closed. Work has sent you home. And in front of you lies an indefinite stretch of time where you're going to be responsible both for doing your job and taking care of your kids (and making sure they learn something!).
And if that weren't daunting enough, because you're doing the right thing and practicing social distancing, you've probably cancelled your housecleaner (if you are lucky enough to have one), and all your kids' after school activities have been cancelled as well. This means you'll need to enlist the the whole family to keep things running smoothly and make sure you don't all drive each other nuts.
But don't worry, I'm here to help!
I'll provide you with a 5 point plan to get you prepared to survive (and maybe even thrive in) this new reality. We'll cover:
- How to plan your days and communicate those plans to the kids, so that you are able to maximize your work productivity, even with the kids at home.
- How to keep your kids learning, even when there is no formal school.
- How to keep your kids moving so they aren't bouncing off the walls at the end of each day.
- How to keep your kids motivated and keep the fun alive.
- And what to do if all else fails!
It's a crazy time, but you can get through it. Like a lot of things in life, a little planning does a long way! You can do it! So, let's get going.
1) Plan like your life depends on it!
You need a plan, and that plan needs to take into account both your work/meeting schedule, and the needs of your kids. And once you've got this plan, you need to communicate it to your kids and make sure they understand, and are on board.
First things first, just know from the get-go that you're going to be a bit less productive when working from home if you're also responsible for the kids all day. Accept that now, and plan your workload accordingly. Lowered expectations are your friend.
Then, make a daily schedule:
On this schedule, you'll plan out what the kids will be doing, and you'll color code those activities based on whether you (and your co parent, if you have one) will be available to your kids at these times.
- Red for "you absolutely can't interrupt because parents are in meetings/on calls"
- Yellow for "please avoid interrupting if you can"
- Green for "parents will be 100% available to kids"
Each day, make a new schedule and color code based on your meetings and obligations that day, share it with the kids to make sure everyone understands, and post it somewhere everyone can see (or maybe even multiple locations). Make sure you have a clock near the schedule so your kids can compare the schedule to the clock.
If your kids are too young to read the schedule/a clock:
It's still worth making a schedule and communicating to your kids that even though you will be physically there, you will not be 100% available at all times. This way at least you'll have a pre-decided plan for which activities to move them through during the day and they'll be prepared for this.
You might consider making a schedule with your partner (if you have one) in which you switch which one of you is "on cal" to be available to the kids during the day. Maybe one of you takes mornings and the other one afternoons, etc.
2) Keep 'em learning
If your kids' school is offering distance learning, you're one of the lucky ones! Still, you'll want to make sure your kids are set up tor success with:
- a computer
- a webcam (for video conference classes)
- a mouse (kids often prefer a mouse to a trackpad)
If your kids' school is not offering distance learning, you've got your work cut out for you as a newly minted homeschooler! But never tear, there are lots of low cost (and even free!) options out there:
Huge list of educational services offering FREE subscriptions and/or access:
Khan Academy (free, online classes and practice activities for kids ages 2 through high school)
Use Audible or enable "Amazon Storytime" to read to your kids
Introduce your kids to some great podcastsCommonSense Media's list of great podcasts for kids:
Kids can teach themselves a new language using Duolingo
3) Keep em moving
You know how your kids get when they are inside for too long. And we don't want that because it's not conducive to getting our work done. Everyone will benefit when you build ample opportunities to move their bodies into the daily schedule, depending on age. To keep them from bouncing off the walls try some of these suggestions:
If you've got a backyard, use it!
- Get the kids outside and moving several times a day.
- Arrange to work from your laptop inside so that you can see the yard from where you are and keep working, while keeping an eye out.
Exercise videos for kids!
- Go Noodle (free movement and mindfulness videos) https://www.gonoodle.com/
- Cosmic Kids Yoga Youtube Channel https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga
- Debbie Doo Kids TV Youtube Channel https://www.youtube.com/user/DebbieDooTV
Give em a calisthenics routine!
- 50 sit ups
- 50 lunges
- Run up and down the hallway 25 times
- Run up and down the stairs 15 times
- Repeat until thoroughly worn out
4) Keep em motivated
It's going to take some adjusting to be in the same space with your kids while you are trying to work. Why not build in some motivation with rewards that help you get what you want (i.e peace and quiet) and help your kids learn, grow and have fun. Here are some ideas to get your started:
Read a book > Watch the movie
- Here's a huge list of children's books that have been turned into feature films: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_children%27s_books_made_into_feature_films
- Tell your kids that, as soon as they finish a book, they can watch the movie (For kids who can't yet read, apply this strategy to audiobooks)
- If you don't have any of these books at home, remember that you can get books on Kindle from the public library, without ever leaving your house
Good behavior/compliance during the day > weekday movie night!
No one has a commute, everyone can get up a little later, so why not offer a fun weekday movie night if the kids can successfully keep to the schedule and not interrupt you during the red zones when you're in meetings?
5) Short bursts of undivided attention!
- Studies show that when kids get short bursts of undivided attention, they are better able to engage in solo play/work the rest of the time.
- So build in "breaks" for yourself of 5-10 minutes every hour or 2 to be completely focused on the kids, to get them set up for the next activity, to hug them, get them a snack and essentially to make sure they feel seen, heard and loved. It'll be a reward for both you you!
- Don't check email/Slack during these short breaks; instead, focus solely on the kids.
6) If all else fails...
Use the screens and ditch the guilt.
This is about survival, not perfection.
You're doing the best you can and that's good enough.
Alexis Haselberger SHRM-SCP, SPHR leverages her 15+ years of corporate experience managing Operations & HR in fast-growing organizations to help clients more effectively lead their teams, improve their focus, increase time for strategic work/deep thinking and still have a life at the end of the day. She has worked with 100+ startups as a consultant, coaching and guiding CEOs & Senior Executives through tricky situations and relationships. Her approach is practical, tactical and rooted in evidence-based practices.