In this challenging season, parents may need to get creative in order to balance their workload, responsibilities and time it takes to care for children during the pandemic. We’re sharing strategies to help mitigate potential challenges.
Mapping Out your Workday
There’s a good chance that while balancing children’s schedules with your own, your optimal work hours may not align with the traditional 9 – 5. Define what your working hours will be and how much you can realistically get done in that time.
Don’t assume that your manager knows what your home situation is like. They may not fully understand the complexities of working from home for parents, and even if they are a parent themselves, their situation may still look different. Keep leadership and peers updated on what your schedule looks like and how you may need to be supported. Especially as children begin classes again, there will likely be interruptions and additional responsibilities throughout the workday to prepare for ahead of time. Speak to managers one-on-one via video chat to present the different scenarios that may play out in the upcoming weeks and how you plan to manage your time.
Make sure you fully understand your boss’s expectations. Present your ideas of ways to manage your family and work responsibilities as proactive potential solutions, rather than demands, while being careful not to frame the conversation as how your work must accommodate your family. It may be a difficult conversation to have, but in the long run genuine conversations like these can strengthen relationships and improve teamwork.
Supporting Remote Learning
Both parents and children are adjusting to a new routine of working at home. Maintaining a sense of normalcy and routine while doing school from home is just important as it is while working from home.
While virtual learning plans vary from school to school and by the age of a child, often there is still attendance taken and certain times carved out of the day for various learning goals. Try to schedule your day to complement their schedule, tackling meetings and tasks that require the most concentration when your child is in an online class that doesn’t require (as much!) supervision.
Establish each person’s work space, as to avoid distraction and excessive noise during meetings or classes. When in your respective work spaces, it can signify that you are concentrating and discourages frequent interruptions.
While balancing multiple people’s schedules, set alarms throughout the day to keep everyone on task. The extra organization and structure help ensure no one misses important deadlines and maintains a sense of urgency.
Try to see this challenge as a unique opportunity to teach a strong work ethic and lead by example. This is a rare opportunity to demonstrate self-discipline and focus. By resisting showing frustration and approaching work calmly, kids of all ages will be more likely to emulate you.
Building a Support System
If you have a parenting partner, it is important to communicate and decide on schedules and responsibilities together. It is likely that one or both of you will need to adjust your schedule to accommodate supporting your kids. While looking at the week ahead, set your schedules to balance family and work responsibilities as needed. Keep in mind that schedules will inevitably shift day by day, so make it a habit to check in every evening to take changes into account.
In challenging times such as these, it is helpful to remember that you are not the only one navigating these issues. Consider the ways in which you can lean on your support system of fellow parents. Be open to sharing the struggles you’re encountering and to hearing suggestions that you might not normally consider. While you may not be able to have other’s help with watching your kids, you could share creative activities to keep the kids entertained, take turns grocery shopping or get kids together for a virtual play date via video conference.
Consider also the challenges faced by teachers who are navigating E-Learning for the first time alongside you, and the additional challenges they may face while trying to get students back up to speed. Many school districts cut classes short this spring while navigating challenges due to the Coronavirus, so curriculums may be adjusted. Some schools may be offering additional tutoring or online resources that they can provide to parents. Asking the teachers for advice on how to best support E-Learning efforts may go a long way in getting kids and yourself back on track.
No matter what your situation looks like, remember the bigger picture. You are leading your children through a potentially scary and difficult time. Rather than letting it overwhelm you, use the opportunity to grow stronger as a family and instill certain values. On a larger scale, the Coronavirus pandemic has emphasized the interconnectedness of our world and our responsibility in the health and safety of others.
Below we’ve shared some of the tips from LaSalle Network’s own working parents.
Kitty Brandtner, Director of Major Accounts
Be confident in your abilities: There's a saying - if you have an urgent project, give it to a working mom- they know how to prioritize and manufacture time better than anyone. While that's true in day to day life, being at home with your kids while working presents a whole different challenge. Know that in this new time with COVID, parents around the country are in the same boat. Empathy for a toddler interruption has never been higher. Take solace that we're all in this together.
Set realistic expectations: Setting small, realistic goals lets me feel like I had a “win” every day. By being realistic in my expectations and goals I feel like I can achieve so much more.
Russel Castaneda, Associate Accounting Manager
Set a ‘Playtime’: Take a few short breaks throughout the day to spend uninterrupted time with them. The kids love when I can just play for a short time.
Craig Johnson, Sales Manager
Get up early: I set my alarm for even earlier than usual to ensure I have some quiet time to tackle administrative tasks, plan out the day and get some work done before anyone wakes up.
Set up the kids’ workstation: We have designated e-learning spaces for the kids. It can be tricky for them to separate home and school, so by creating mini learning stations they know that when they sit at their desks it is time to focus and learn.
Provide structure: Kids need structure, so we implemented a chore chart, and schedule for the kids that they follow every day and once finished they receive a reward or “Screen Time”.
Use visual aids: Being organized and prepared is key, every night we go over the following days schedule for everyone in the house, write it down on a white board so everyone can see it, and coordinate who takes on what responsibility to be able to balance work, and the kids schooling schedule to reduce day of stress.
Leighan Pomykala, Senior Unit Manager, Accounting & Finance and Suburban Services
Keep them learning: Choose a few mentally stimulating activities that they can do every day on their own, for example, we’ve been teaching our kids about plants and having them track plant growth in the garden. Every day they take photos and measure the plants, which helps them learn and establishes a sense of routine that they look forward to.
Alan Jagnandan, Vice President of Major Accounts
Have a dedicated work space: Your children can have a signal that your dedicated space is off limits to distractions. Of course, there are exceptions and it's not perfect, but I simply remind them each time I'm going back into my work space, so they know.
Get outdoors: We've been making the most of our summer by getting outdoors, but choosing activities that are still a safe social distance. For example, we've been doing nature hikes at least once a week with the kids and each time we go out we put a brief scavenger hunt together for the kids so it's more exciting for them and keeps their interest high. It's traditionally different color flowers, birds, trees etc which also helps them learn even more about nature. A few other activities include bon fires (and smores), flying kites, hide and seek and a wide variety of sports games like whiffle ball and soccer.
Find fun and educational games: Our oldest has been using Khan Academy Kids to keep her mind sharp.
Jayme Schrieffer, Director of Major Accounts
Find your Support System: Create some sort of a support group whether it’s with your coworkers or friends who are also parents working from home. Start a text or email chain sharing tips or even just to vent throughout the day.
Create Work Stations: This school year I am at designating workstations and making sure every morning my kids are dressed and have had breakfast and are ready to go for eLearning. Mirroring the day at school as much as I can at home is one of my goals.
Jessica Beach, Senior Project Manager for Management Resources
Give kids responsibilities: Our 3-year-old always wants to be involved, so we are getting her involved with everything! Our cleaning and chores have become games. We’ve done some fun activities like planting a starter garden from seeds, making slime, baking and daily scavenger hunts based on color or a specific theme.
Jordan Marks, Project Manager for Accounting & Finance
Utilize nap time for deep work: Plan as much as possible during nap time, if they take naps.
Jason Siegel, Senior Director of Healthcare Partnerships
Set boundaries: Communicate expectations with kids about setting boundaries—then repeat them as many times as needed.
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