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Co-Working—and Learning—From Home With a Spouse and Children
Even those who are accustomed to working from home might struggle with the new realities of shelter-in-place orders. Co-working spaces are closed, and you can no longer pop into your favorite coffee shop for a latte and a change of scenery.
If you're working remotely for the first time, this transition can be even more challenging to adapt to. Now toss in children who are schooling from home and the need for you and your spouse to be productive employees—while also balancing your responsibility as parents—and it can feel a bit overwhelming.
Here is some advice for making the transition go a little more smoothly.
Carve Out Your Territory
Ideally, each person will have his or her separate place to work and study. If you aren’t able to designate individual rooms for each person, you can still get creative with your space. For instance, taking the doors off of an empty closet can create a private nook, or perhaps there’s a corner in the kitchen that can be retrofitted to serve as a comfortable work or homework station temporarily.
Create a Shared Calendar and Communicate
Many families won’t be able to create individual offices for each member of the household. Making sure there’s at least one room set up as a dedicated office can go a long way in ensuring everyone can complete his or her tasks.
In these instances, it’s vital to communicate who is doing what, when, and for how long. A shared Google calendar is easy to update with scheduled conference calls, teaching lessons, and deadline reminders. It can help avoid any confusion over who is using the office at various points in the day.
Set the Kids Up for Success
When working from home while caring for children, you’ll likely be tag-teaming with your partner. In addition to looking at scheduled work obligations, it might help to consider what time of the day each partner is at their best. For example, if one of you is at their brightest in the morning and the other really doesn't get going until after lunch, let the early bird work during the first few hours of the day and then watch the children in the afternoon. When you have a rough idea of what your day will look like, let your boss and colleagues know when they will realistically be able to reach you and when you’ll be offline.
With parks and other popular attractions closed, your children will likely be spending more time in front of screens than they ordinarily would, but free educational programs like Khan Academy Kids can make you feel less guilty — maybe even good — about it.
Stick to Your Schedule
It’s easy to get sucked into the “one more email” mindset. Don’t. Even if you’re working from home, you don’t want to feel like you live at work. Set parameters for when the workday starts and stops and stick to them. It’s easy enough to close an office door at the end of the day. For workstations set up in more visible parts of the house, use the end of the day to tuck away laptops, keyboards, and paperwork. It needs to be out of sight and out of mind.
To further establish a sense of work time vs. relaxation time, it helps to continue normal routines like showering and getting dressed each morning. You might not be wearing a suit in your home office, but changing in and out of work clothes can help you mentally transition from one time of the day to another.
Schedule Time Together…but Also Apart
According to some predictions, we might be working from home for several more weeks or longer. This means relationship-building and bonding are more important than ever. Taking time to plan activities that everyone enjoys — watching a new Netflix series, playing board games or backyard sports, trying new hobbies like cooking or crafting — can help facilitate togetherness.
With everyone living, working, and learning under one roof – all the time – staying focused, efficient and effectively able to manage your time and attention can be challenging.
These are extraordinary times, but they are temporary, and implementing some of these tips will help make this new normal, well, a little more normal.
Stay safe, and please feel free to share any other tips or advice that you might have!