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The Corona Virus keeping you at home? How to work from home with kids around

Stuck at home because of Corona? Well, Work From Home (WFH) karo na!  While it is true that there is technology that allows many of us to work from home, it is also true that there is a reason people opt to work from offices, even when there is a commute involved.  But the COVID 19 pandemic has made it increasingly common for companies to ask employees to work from home. Social distancing is a prime necessity today, especially as we have to all work towards slowing down and deterring the virus from spreading for the sake of our kids and our elderly. While the world gets a grip on the virus, you have to get a grip on how to be your most productive at home.  Many of us have worked from home on occasion, but this is different also because we do not yet have a resolution in sight for the Corona Virus, and it may be sometime before we can go back to business as usual.

With the children home from daycare or schools being shut this task is even more daunting. Sometimes it is difficult as you miss the buzz of the office and the people you can reach across to with a little time problem or share a small advance on what you are doing.  In many studies, loneliness comes very high on the list of those working from home as there seems to be a general feeling about a lack of structure and camaraderie.

However, there is no reason all this cannot be overcome and why everyone cannot make WFH a great success as we get ahead of this virus crisis. Here are some tried and tested tips and tricks that everyone can customize to suit their situation.

To start with, the first challenge may be to get going. Just because you can lounge about in night clothes, there is no need to do so. So get ready as you would on a regular day. More importantly get your kids ready in the same way. Let them be bathed and fed and ready to start a regular day. Instead of dropping them off at the day care or school, tell them that you will all be working and learning at home. If there are any assignments to be done for school, let them do that while you sit at your work station.

Make it clear that you are at work. It may seem like just what the doctor ordered but do not give in to the temptation to take the laptop to a cosy lounging space. It signals to both others and yourself that you may not exactly be in the mood to work. Sit in a straight backed chair at a regular table. If you have a workspace that is wonderful, otherwise, just clear the dining or any table at home and just make yourself an instant home office.

Connect with the team. This is more important when WFH, than if you were at work physically. Start with a message in the morning, so people know that you are at work and  that it is okay to send you work queries or schedule calls etc. It also makes everyone feel like they are a part of the team. 

Keep your necessities nearby. Be it the phone, the laptop, the charger, or any books and papers you might need as reference material, make sure you have it right where you can reach it.

Schedule a break. Unlike at office where you take a break as you feel like to go get a coffee or visit the restroom; at home, be more specific about breaks. Time them when you think they will work for everyone. Your child might need a bathroom break or a snack. They might also need to change of pace from what they are doing. You may want to schedule a longer and more meaningful break, but remember, you can do this as you have saved yourself a lot of commute time.

Prepare for the unexpected. You might not be able to have a working lunch as the kids have to eat as well. There may be an unexpected skype call now that everyone is WFH, so be prepared to take these interruptions in your stride.

Flextime is not so flexi as to hinder others. Just like when you are at work, you need to work as a team; you need to overlap with your team members through your regular interactions. While you could start a little later if that works better, or even earlier before your kids are up and about, make sure you have some overlap with your coworkers so that they can also synchronize work.

Stick to a general routine.  Eat as usual, stop work as usual as your child who is

also missing his friends needs you to be their friend. If they understand that you will play with them after a certain time, or they will have your attention, post working hours, they also will be cooperative. When you get busy or distracted, you often forget to take a meal break.

Do make your time count. It’s important to set boundaries when you telecommute. Your neighbor may think you are available for a 20 minute chat when she spots you out in your front yard taking a quick break. Or, a friend may text you from the mall wanting your immediate feedback on which purse you suggest she purchase. Don’t let others infringe on your professional time. Speak up and let your neighbor know in a firm, but friendly, tone you are headed back inside momentarily to finish up a project. Ignore inconsequential texts and turn your ringer on silent. It’s not necessary to feel guilty when prioritizing your time.

Don’t let distractions get in the way. It may be tempting to attend a call from a friend especially to compare notes on kids or talk about the dreadful Corona virus that is creating so much anxiety. But refrain from indulging yourself and giving in to distractions.

Keep children engaged. There are toys and books that can hold a child’s attention for longer. Try and get some exercise and fresh air even if you cannot engage in playdates.  Stay active with the kids.

Manage expectations. No two situations are alike and nothing will go exactly the same. You may have saved time on the commute but do not pile up your schedule, as WFH may be slightly less productive due to unexpected interruptions. On the other hand it may also work great especially if your commute was very long to start with. Do not get frustrated to not meet expectations.

Once you start on a regular basis you will find that you can manage WFH more easily and smoothly. The first priority now is to stay healthy and safe. We wish you happy and healthy times ahead. 

March 16, 2020 — Suchismita Pai

Comments

Piyali

Piyali said:

Thank you. Very simple and practical tips to remain productive as a professional and also manage home.

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