How Parents Can Mitigate Stress While Working From Home

ITA Group
ITA Group

woman working from home while parenting

Even if you’ve worked from home for years and have the perfect work-at-home setup, your plan probably never included family members clamoring to be online at the same time. And since everyone might be at home unexpectedly, you need a new work-at-home plan—fast.

One day they were working at an office, and the next they’re at home for what seems like an indefinite period of time.

While there’s no denying the changes you’ll go through shifting to a work from home routine, there’s help to be had.

As you continue to develop the right systems and habits, while also implementing a variety of smart tools into your daily routine, it’s possible to be more effective, happy and productive working from home.

Parenting While Working

Parents who have been fortunate enough to avoid layoffs and work from home are performing a nearly impossible balancing act every day, keeping up with their own work while caring for family and teaching their children.

The status of schools and child care programs over the year will dictate the ability of working parents to fully return to work. If you’re an involved parent, you’re supposed to play down that fact at work or risk being penalized—at least at many American workplaces. But current circumstances, with offices and schools closed because of the coronavirus outbreak, are unique. 

Now, with children popping up in virtual meetings, it’s impossible to hide what has always been true: Raising children is a round-the-clock responsibility.

By understanding and recognizing this reality you can better manage your time (if you are a working parent) or better understand the constraints your team members are working under (if they are working parents). Unfortunately, a quick and easy fix isn’t available, no matter how quickly we’d all like to see one.

Try to come up with the best plan you can, and acknowledge it won’t likely go as smoothly as anyone hopes. Here are some ideas for you to mitigate stress during these impossible circumstances.

1. Cut Your To-Do List Down

When it comes to organizing your schedule for maximum productivity during work hours, start by thinking beyond just the time you spend at the computer. You should consider your routine from the moment you wake up in the morning until the moment your head hits your pillow.

Make a to-do list every day, for both work and home. While it may seem overwhelming at first, your next step is to decide which of these items can be pushed back, passed to a colleague or tossed out. Paring down what has to be done will greatly help to reduce stress!

2. Set Boundaries

Research shows us that boundaries help us protect our emotional energy and give us more control.

Consider using awareness apps, time-blocking, or rules around your toleration limits. Also, consider saying no sometimes. Remember that saying no is saying yes to something else.  

With your family, start the a conversation that working from home means “working”—that means you can’t hang out.

Have a family meeting and explain how work works. Let your kids know that you have certain tasks that you must accomplish, and you can’t always take breaks to help them.

3. Create a Dedicated Workspace

It’s the best option if you have a dedicated office in your home or apartment already—the goal is to isolate yourself from the rest of your house where distractions can come more easily. Not to mention the fact that you’ll also have a dedicated space for your work stuff, by creating a location that’s used only for “work time” during the week.

4. Teaching Opportunities Are Catch-Up Opportunities

Taking care of a pet, setting the table, taking out the garbage, hanging the clothes—getting your family into a routine with chores can help free up time for you. Go a step further and add a reward for those who take care of tasks without being asked.

5. Lean on Family & Friends

Do you know your family history? Do your kids? Why not consider asking your parents or grandparents to lead a lesson on a particular decade filled with personal anecdotes that might have otherwise been left untold. Or maybe your friends have an interesting hobby they'd be willing to share with your kids one afternoon. If they’re on your “quaranteam” perhaps they can take the kids on a field trip around your home town, getting them much needed outside time and you some interruption free work time.

6. Block Time for Yourself on Your Calendar

If your child still takes regular naps, block your calendar for the duration of the nap: no meetings or phone calls. Set aside this time to either focus on tasks that require your full attention or have a quick coffee break or alone time to recharge.

Regular breaks throughout your day aren’t a waste of time. In fact, when incorporated into your schedule well, a quick step away from the computer (or outside of the house) is a great way to be productive working from home in the grand scheme of things.

7. Reward Your Kids for Respecting Your Time

When your kids don’t interrupt you, reward them. Give them lots of praise, and thank them for their help. Spend some extra time with them and read a book or play a game. 

8. Use the Technology & Tools Available

Honestly, giving yourself permission to use media (learning apps, Netflix, YouTube Kids, etc.) is a necessity. The amount of time depends on the family, but the increase in quality family time you’re likely experiencing during this time will likely outweigh the negatives of increased screen time.

Likewise, No matter the challenge you’re facing as a new work from home professional, there’s likely to be some type of technology or tool that can ease your pain. Spend a little time searching around on Google for tools that’ll accomplish what you need—or join some remote work communities on Facebook and ask for advice from those who’ve been in the game longer.

9. Let Go of Perfection

The house might not be pristine, the grass could use a cut, and the delivery person knows you by name. Let go. It’s not perfect, but perfect is over-rated—it’s good enough. Don’t look back on this time with regrets for how you showed up for your family each day. Remember the togetherness, being cooped up in our home, amongst the chaos.

10. Take Care of Yourself & Your Wellbeing

While you cannot control certain aspects of the current situation: how long schools will be closed, whether or not your family will be directly impacted by COVID, or what the fate of your company will be during this time, there are certain things that may be within your control—including how you structure your days. Consider things like downloading a meditation app, standing on your porch/deck/some outside space and deep breathing, listening to music you enjoy, picking up a crossword puzzle, hiding in bathroom to read a comic book—whatever is physiologically soothing to bolster you throughout the day while you work at home.

Working at Home With Kids Is Challenging, But Necessary

Even if it’s not coronavirus that closes school and work, there are plenty of other reasons why you might suddenly find yourself working from home with kids during an emergency. Although it will likely be uncomfortable and difficult to at least some degree, keep in mind that working from home right now—even as hard as it can be with kids—can be the difference that keeps millions of people safe and our organizations in business.

Now that you’re feeling better about working from home, why not take a look at part one of our four-part series, How to Engage Mobile Employees, and learn how the framework for engaging employees and maintaining a positive organizational culture doesn’t change based on work location.