Being a Successful Remote Worker While Caring for Children
Working from home has become a new part of the working reality for many people. According to one recent study, around 71% of employed adults polled stated they were working from home as a result of the pandemic. This practice is also unlikely to be entirely reverted to in-office operations any time soon. While it certainly has its benefits for workers — functioning from a comfortable environment, greater job satisfaction — there are some challenges.
One of the key issues in this sphere is how to be a good and attentive parent while also focusing on the responsibilities of your career. This is particularly problematic during a pandemic, where access to childcare is limited. Indeed, the problem of juggling has been revealed to be an issue of gender inequality, too, as working mothers tend to work disproportionately longer and earn less while also tending to their children more than their male partners. This understandably leads to significant stress.
So, how can you more effectively balance the two roles? Let’s spend some time examining what tools and strategies you can employ to get the most out of your career and your time with your children.
Set Clear Boundaries
One of the issues with being a remote worker while caring for children is the blurring of lines. You might like to think you’re good at multitasking, but in truth, scientific studies have shown us that what you’re really doing is switching our mental attention between tasks over and over again. As such, this can harm your productivity and your level of care for your children, not to mention it risks burnout through mental overload. You, therefore, need to set clear boundaries that allow you to give each area the full attention it needs.
This can begin with physical distancing. If possible, delineate a separate area of your home as your office. Performing a few low-cost upgrades can help to give the impression that this room is a workspace. Replace your bulbs with light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures and apply a fresh coat of paint — this makes your space brighter and more professionally oriented. Adding some well-placed mirrors can give the illusion of space to prevent you from feeling too enclosed. Make it clear to your family that while you are in this area, it should be treated as though you are at work and let them know what times you expect to be in there. This also means that when you leave the room you must separate from work entirely and give your full attention to your home life.
Similarly, it’s important to set boundaries with your employer. There is an unhealthy impression that remote workers are always in their office, and therefore, are open to performing tasks outside of traditional work hours. Indeed, when you’re trying to juggle your role as a parent and a professional there can be an element of personal guilt that kicks in, which finds you agreeing to go the extra mile — but an email here and there soon leads to you spending too many of your after-hours working. Agree with your employer exactly the hours you are working.
Communicate Needs and Challenges
Though remote work functions away from a central office, it doesn’t tend to succeed in complete isolation. There needs to be a culture of robust communication between workers, their teams, and leadership to make sure that operations run smoothly. The same approach applies to successfully navigate your work duties and child care responsibilities — always communicate.
Often the most important discussions need to occur between you and your partner or spouse, particularly if you’re both working from home. Neither of you is going to have a positive experience if one of you takes more of the juggling responsibilities than the other. Talk about the various challenges of your jobs as they stand, and how the new situation affects your ability to perform childcare. Work together to agree on a forward course of action, but also agree that you need to keep communicating on this subject regularly so action can be taken should circumstances change or things get too much.
It is also vital that you are open with your employer. Make it clear that you are committed to your job, but the situation with the pandemic, in particular, presents unprecedented circumstances. If your child lives with a disability or has special educational needs, talk about what accommodations you have had to make to support their learning at this time. If you need to be with them to assist in virtual learning sessions or attend meetings with teachers or special needs administrators, talk about how this could affect your working schedule. Approach this from a solutions perspective, and suggest a collaboration, rather than simply requesting accommodations.
Exercise Self Care
Take moments throughout the day to check in with yourself. Understand what is making you feel stressed, and how it is impacting your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. This allows you to better recognize where problem areas lie, and what the priorities for your focus are. Make arrangements with friends — perhaps those who are also working from home — to just call and chat with them. This gives you adult conversation that doesn’t have to revolve around your work or your kids and gives you a chance to check in on how each other are feeling, or just share a laugh. Using tools like the Davinci Virtual Auto Receptionist during this time to reroute your work calls can ensure you are undisturbed during this personal time.
Working from home is also not conducive to getting the exercise you need throughout the day, Take breaks, head out for a walk at lunchtime — it doesn’t have to be a long hike, just a chance to get some fresh air and stretch your legs. If you sit at a computer all day, start a practice of doing yoga exercises at your desk. Every 30-60 minutes, just take a moment to perform an exercise or two. This can not only mitigate the health issues that come from sitting all day, but also tends to reduce stress.
The twin functions of remote working and childcare are not always happy bedfellows. However, you can succeed by understanding where and how to set clear boundaries and establish positive communication with your family and employer. That said, alongside setting strategies in place to make you more productive as both a worker and a parent, you must take time to care for yourself as a human being.