COVID-19: Managing Your Business and Children From Home

Managing Your Business and Children From Home

If you’re among the working parents faced with managing your business with your children at home during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, you know the struggle.

Even if you’re used to running a home-based business or have worked remotely on occasion, this version of your workday – like everything else since the coronavirus outbreak – is not what it’s supposed to be. 

With schools and daycares closed and everyone in your family sheltering in place, your list of tasks for the day is longer. Managing online education schedules, live preschool video chats, playtime activities, and anything and everything children require during a day’s time – all in a 24/7 shared space.

Alina Dizik, who worked at home before the shutdown, says she’s now adjusting to having two “new tiny colleagues,” ages 7 and 4.

“My husband – also now at home – and I have suddenly taken on new roles as lunch caterers, office admins, therapists and assistants to our mini-executives, all on top of our regular jobs,” she writes in a post for BBC’s Remote Control. “Every day feels like a Monday.”

It’s not easy juggling work with ever-present kids but consider these few ideas to help manage productivity in your new home-based work life.

Create A Physical Space

If you don’t have a space already set aside in your house, try to find a physical location that can serve as your makeshift office, at least during this transition period.
     
“You gotta have a place where you have private times,” says executive coach and author Julie Kratz in an article posted on CNBC’s Make It website.

“That might be your bedroom, your closet, a guest room, your basement or wherever you can find a place where you can have uninterrupted, quiet space.”

Set up Communication Rules

To help keep your “office space” quiet while you’re in your spot, create a system that your children can easily see you’re in work mode.

“I always recommend to parents working from home to have a physical sign on the door with a thumbs up, thumbs down or whatever works as a signal for when you truly cannot be interrupted,” says Kratz, founder of Next Pivot Point, a leadership organization for women.
Brie Reynolds, career development manager at FlexJobs, says she had one of her kids make “stop” and “go” signs to put on her office door as part of an arts and crafts project.

“He knows when he sees a ‘stop’ sign that he shouldn’t come in unless some big, crazy thing is going on,” Reynolds says in the CNBC Make It post. “Then, if the green ‘go’ sign is there then he can walk right in.”

Be Easy on Yourself

As you navigate your coronavirus-imposed workday and physical space – you may even have promising days – there will be limits on what you can realistically get done. 

It’s best to keep your expectations reasonable. You’ve got an unpredictability built into circumstances you can’t control.

Nicholas Bloom, an economist and professor at Stanford, is known for his research on the benefits of employees working from home, including higher productivity for businesses. But he says these current scenarios are not conducive to the same outcomes due to the factors of children, space, privacy and choice.

“Working from home with your children is a productivity disaster,” Bloom said in an article posted on Stanford News.

“My 4-year-old regularly bursts into the room hoping to find me in a playful mood shouting “doodoo!” – her nickname for me – in the middle of conference calls.”

Be Flexible

Flexibility is a given as you strategize the time to continue running your business, and that may mean adapting the household rules.

For example, some working parents have found it helps to extend limits on screen time for kids or bending the rules on where the kids can eat snacks or play with toys.

It doesn’t mean the new freedoms will last forever but at least for now, your kids may need to have less stringent rules while you work.

Take Breaks

This is a tricky one because you might feel like you’re barely stealing pockets of time for work, between managing remote education and play times, hence a nagging pressure to keep pushing through work.

But it’s critical to carve out time to take a break. It doesn’t have to be long – studies show that short breaks during the workday can be refreshing enough to get a recharge. Just a break to grab a snack or a walk around.

And, it’s important to find time for self-care – from getting enough sleep to exercising, as well as activities that relax your mind and body, even a few minutes to enjoy your kids.

“Under lockdown that could mean sneaking in an online yoga class with your child, finding time to play catch or giving children a couple of extra hugs throughout the day,” writes Dizik in the BBC’s Remote Control post.