So, we’re now six months into this insanity, and you’ve heard all the platitudes. Most of us are adjusting to the new professional reality. You’ve endured all the generic buzzwords letting you know that “we’re all in this together” (thumbs-up emoji!). You’ve read all the advice to create a quiet, kid-free space, burn some incense and do some yoga.
Want a dose of reality? I have six children. That’s right, six – ages two through eleven. We have no TV, which may simultaneously explain and compound that predicament.
If I tried to do yoga at my place, I’d have at least three munchkins and two guinea pigs (we have six of those, too) climbing all over me before you could say “up dog”.
I reckon that makes me eminently qualified to offer some realistic advice on how to work productively from home while all this COVID-craziness is going on around us.
Ready? Here goes:
Work WITH your kids, not against them
Remember when you confidently thought that you could create an oasis of serenity and leave the kids to diligently sit in their online classes without virtually sneaking off to play Minecraft or Fortnight? You probably had that little dream comprehensively shattered by around 10:30am on day two of lockdown.
There IS no quiet space. Your kids are there. They need you. This is just as hard for them as it is for you. One of the best things you can do for them – and for yourself – is to accept the fact that there will be interruptions during the day.
Kids want their parents’ attention. They will try to get it any way they can, positive or negative. In most cases, you will lose far less time by pausing what you’re doing and giving them those few minutes to let them know that you’re there for them. Fight against it, and you’re likely to end up spending the next twenty minutes arguing and the subsequent hour fuming and irritated.
If you absolutely must have a sacred space free of any interruptions, you can always escape to a serviced office (lockdown laws permitting). Our serviced offices can be rented month to month, so there’s no long-term obligation. Our professional staff thoroughly clean and sanitise all offices and shared resources regularly, so you can get the job done with peace of mind.
Embrace the Zoom bomb
We all recall the infamous video of Robert Kelly being interviewed on the BBC when his two kids burst into the room, followed closely by his panicked wife. Once upon a time that was a hilarious internet meme. Now, it’s daily life.
You can spend your time desperately trying to keep your rug-rats out of the screen. Alternatively, you can smile and introduce your little one to your client or co-worker when they wander over and smile like innocent angels.
Trust me, the person on the other end of the video hook-up is more than likely sitting there without any pants. They will be just fine with seeing your progeny. In fact, if you handle it with humour and grace, it can be a great way to create a stronger personal connection with your client or colleague.
Be prepared to alter your work schedule
I don’t have to tell you how hectic and stressful mornings are when you’re ensuring that the kids are where they need to be, doing what they need to do. Try that with six.
By 9:00 most mornings, I’m groggily trying to recall the license plate number of the bus that hit me. My spouse and I then sob into our cereal for a while, then inject some sweet, sweet caffeine into our veins before heading to our respective corners to get OUR days started.
For many, continuing the regular 9-5 schedule is not a realistic goal. And that’s OK.
Rather than try to wedge yourself into a mould that doesn’t fit, accept that it’s fine to embrace change. You may need to start a little bit later in the morning and knock-off once the spawnlets have finished their classes. If you need to get back in the saddle and crack on once they’ve blessedly gone to sleep, then so be it. Put on some music, pour yourself a glass of wine and log back in for an hour or two. It’s not ideal (except for the glass of wine bit…), but it’s also not forever.
Know your kids’ schedules
They are devious, manipulative, criminal masterminds who will viciously exploit any opening to skive off and play games online. I know, every day you have 23342 WhatsApps on your class chats and 35234 emails from the teachers. Nailing down each kid’s schedule can be the home-schooling equivalent of trying to conduct an orchestra made up of dyslexic Siamese cats. It’s worth the effort, though. Kids are far more likely to fly straight if they know that you know what they’re supposed to be doing. Pop your head in to confirm that they’re on task every now and then and you’ll notice the difference.
Make them lunch boxes
I didn’t think it was possible to fit so much food into such small bodies. They are like those velociraptors from Jurassic Park – terrifyingly efficient eating machines that seem to spend the entire day on a relentless search and destroy mission for every scrap of edible substance in the house. The whinging, the begging, the constant pestering can drive a person to the brink.
This hack is ingenious in its simplicity:
Make each kid a lunch box in the morning. That’s their snack quota. Your day will go from where it is now, to this:
Them: “Muuuuuuuuuuummmm! I’m huuuuuuuuuunnnggggrrrryyyyyy!”
You: “There’s your lunch box”.
Them: “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddddd! “ I wanna snaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaackkkkk!”
You: “There’s your lunch box”.
Them: “ Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmm! Can I have a treeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaatttt?”
You: “There’s your lunch box”.
Seriously. Try it. It will change your life.
Manage your expectations
This last piece of advice may be the most important:
Cut your kids, and more importantly yourself, a break.
Your kids are not failures if they did not pay attention in Maths, and instead spent the entire hour changing the virtual background on their screen and muting their mates.
You are not a failure because Johnny didn’t submit his project to Mrs Davis because he was surreptitiously watching footy replays when he was supposed to be learning about the structure of the Federal Parliament.
Take the pressure off yourself. Everybody is struggling, and nobody is getting it right all the time. The ramifications for our kids’ education are not yet fully understood. One thing’s for sure; virtually everyone is going to be behind where they would have been were this a normal school year. The system is going to have to adjust to account for this. Wherever your children are on the scale, it’ll be OK.
If there’s any way that APSO can help you manage your personal experience of working from home during this pandemic, don’t hesitate to contact us. We can’t stop your kids endless search for snacks. However, we can offer Serviced and Virtual office solutions that may assist you in making it through this experience in one piece.
Because, after all, dare I say it…
We really ARE All. In. This. Together. 👍 ;o)