A question often asked of parents whose jobs allow them to work from home is, "Do you really need childcare?" While schools are an option for children past a certain age, parents with younger kids come to a crossroads of either finding childcare to allow for a more office-like environment or entertaining the kids themselves.
Now, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to school closures around the world and forced many employees to work from home. If you're one of the many who are now working from home with children, here are some tips to keep your house in order.
Create your own space
The importance of creating a workspace just for you goes beyond the psychology of training your now-WFH brain to recognize work actually needs to be completed in your home. A physical workspace also helps to remind your family that you are, in fact, not 100% available to cater to their every need. Setting down rules on how to get your attention can also help to ensure you get some time to concentrate. A starter project you may even consider giving your child is to make a sign for your office door that you can update with "In a meeting" or "Busy until 2:00" messages.
If creating a physical barrier simply isn't a possibility (e.g. your kids are too young, you're the only adult home, etc.), you may instead consider setting up both you and your children in the same room, but perhaps in different corners: one for your work and one for theirs. Many schools are providing online instruction and assignments, and turning half your office into a pseudo-classroom can help everyone stay on-task whenever possible.
Make use of noise-cancellation — both for you and your team
We've all been in meetings where there is suddenly a siren in the background or other auditory distractions that derail the call. Considering it takes an average of 16 minutes to re-focus after reading an email, reducing the number of distractions both you and your team encounter should be top-of-mind. Now that you and your children have been thrust into the same environment, make use of both a noise-canceling headset and your microphone's mute button whenever you are on a call. If you're the only one home, having a video baby monitor available to watch your kids can help you keep an eye on them even if you can't hear them. If total separation isn't possible, consider giving the noise-canceling headset to your child (it may help keep them focused on their tasks/entertainment and stop them from attempting to join your meeting).
One handy feature of video conferencing tools like Zoom is a push-to-talk (PTT) option when muting your microphone. Utilizing features like this can further help to reduce background noise and reduce the number of times you have to mute/unmute yourself while on a call.
Overcommunicate with your colleagues
Nothing spells disaster better than leaving your co-workers in the dark. If they're unable to get in contact with you to answer questions, collaborate on projects, or get information so they can do their job, the likelihood of something falling through the cracks increases dramatically. Utilizing group chat statuses and clearly defining what hours you're available can help to let others know what your workload looks like and when you're available during the day.
To further increase collaboration, consider implementing an online project management tool like Wrike to create a single source of truth for your teams. By keeping all information in one spot and centralizing communication, you can ensure everyone stays well-informed on projects' and deliverables' statuses.
Create a schedule with timed tasks
Parents know their children’s attention span never seems to last long enough. No matter what project or entertainment you give your kid, you know they're only going to stay distracted for so long. The good news is you can use this to your advantage to time out your tasks during the day. Studies have shown multitasking is detrimental to productivity, and the advantages of breaking up a large project into smaller ones can also be incredibly helpful. Timing yourself to work on one task at a time should not only help ensure your efficiency, but also help keep an eye on your little ones.
Past individual tasks and daily schedules, creating a shared calendar with project deadlines and milestones can help keep everyone aligned with what needs to be finished by when.
Be (and stay) flexible
We all know something going perfectly to plan almost never happens — especially when taking kids into account. Planning as much as you can will help, at the very least, identify roadblocks and potential issues that may crop up over the next few weeks, but it won't account for everything. Bake in some flexibility when planning out your time and when issues do arise — whether child- or work-related — you won't be as strapped for time as you might have been.
Any tools you use to collaborate with your colleagues should be able to handle rapid changes. Dynamically changing due dates on deliverables (and accurately extrapolating that to dependencies) should be something your tools can easily accomplish, helping to simplify your processes when change occurs rather than complicating it.
Wrike can help
What processes may have worked for you in the office may no longer work now that you and your team is distributed. Now is the time to look at what your workflow management processes are and see how they can be improved. Doing this now will not only help to alleviate potential issues from this radical workplace change but also better prepare you for future business growth and (at least for the next few weeks) familial distractions during the workday.
Wrike's own remote workforce has been sharing tips and tricks from our home offices all over the world, and we've also launched a weekly webinar to talk about this new remote working reality. Additionally, we're offering a free 6-month trial of Wrike Professional to all new customers to help support the change to what is likely the new future of work.