I have been a work-from-home (WFH) mum ever since the identity as “mum/mother/mummy/mama/milk source” came along. I brought work home when it was overwhelming, I worked at home to run a health food business and now I work mostly from home to write. We have all worked from home at one point or another. Have I nailed it? Sadly, no. There are still hair-pulling moments, times when a child answers the work call or clings on to me while I’m rushing to meet deadlines.
Challenging as it sounds, here are some tips to make the WFH experience more productive and pleasant. Yes, #WFH is possible!
Tips for WFH Parents
1. Manage Your Expectations
The home environment is NOT going to be as conducive as your office. So do not expect the same amount of productivity nor instant help you will receive. Colleagues are also not going to be within reach. Similarly, your work-from-home colleagues might experience similar struggles so give everyone a little more time to respond to your requests or questions.
Productivity and efficiency might be affected when you work from home. There are many distractions and perhaps other “home duties” to see to. For instance, expect the doorbell or phone to ring. Someone at home might need help in the kitchen. Or you might be asked to change a dirty diaper. You just need to put on other hats when necessary.
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2. Think of Children as Unruly Colleagues
If your children are on Home Based Learning (HBL) or are unwell, treat them as unruly colleagues. Yes, unruly – as in disruptive, loud, inconsiderate and uncooperative. If you need the peace and quiet, shut the door or use noise-cancelling earphones. During conference calls, it is best to inform your “unruly colleagues” that you will not be disturbed during a certain timing. If there is no one else to watch the children, then it’s time to play them some audiobooks or let them have some enriching screen time.
3. Set Aside a Dedicated Space for Your Work Station
A dedicated space is necessary to keep your workspace separate from the rest of the home. This way, you can keep things organised. Baby proof your workspace for best results!
I’d also advise keeping a coffee tumbler, bottle of water and a snack basket within reach so you minimise the walk to the kitchen. Also, put all sources of distractions far away, if possible.
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4. Be Clear When It’s a “DND”
Unless you want a BBC Dad scenario, lock the door and communicate clearly to your family that they should not disrupt an important call, task or meeting. Lock the door to your room, place a Do Not Disturb (DND) sign or keep pets and family members in a separate area.
5. Get Organised: Schedules, Routines, Task List
Come up with a schedule for WFH scenarios. Fit in routines such as a quick workout, lunch break, possible disruptions such as school runs and incorporate a list of tasks you set out to do. Listing out the tasks for the day also gives you a sense of what needs to be completed. Personally, I find it easier to include pockets of time in the day to focus on the children’s needs and completing the rest of my work when they have gone to bed.
6. Manage Time Wisely
While you cut down on commute time and lunch breaks, there is a tendency to “waste” time in the comfort zone. For instance, you could easily turn on the TV, take a nap or start playing online games. It is important to make full use of time given the amount of distractions. Focus on the task, watch the time and give yourself specific timings for task completion to achieve high productivity.
7. Patience Goes a Long Way
When everyone’s home, there is a tendency to step on one another’s toes. Siblings start bickering, parents step in to mediate, phone rings – you get the point. Be patient in stressful times and model the example you want your child to be. For instance, when the children interrupt your thought process, remind them gently that you are trying to focus on a task right now and you will speak to them in fifteen minutes.
8. Perspectives to Take
Take a moment to consider your position. Working from home is a privilege and not everyone’s job roles can be executed at home. Medical workers, service staff, transportation drivers, educators are unable to have the same privilege. Consider it a blessing and know that your presence at home can lead to more bonding time with the family. The chance to see your loved ones more should be cherished. Besides, less time and money is spent on commuting to and fro! No more squeezing onto crowded buses and trains!
9. Destress with Hobbies
Being home means you have the opportunity to look to hobbies to de-stress when there times of tension or moments when you just need to step away from your desk. A quick stroll around the home, tending to plants, stroking the pet cat, whipping up a quick snack – are all stress-relieving opportunities.
WFH Parents, This is But for a Season
Relish the opportunity to go to your work desk in your pyjamas comfortable clothes. This period is but for a season. With some planning, setting of expectations and patience, it will be a productive experience. After all, who gets to give their family countless hugs while being “at work” at the same time?
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