By Angie Kendel
So many things have changed so quickly for us all with the onset of COVID-19. Working from home poses its own special set of challenges. Add the close confines of family, income loss, home schooling, space restrictions and we have the makings for a perfect storm!
I spent years working from home, often with our daughter at home recovering from surgery or illness. I learned some tips that have saved my sanity and lowered my stress significantly.
First a little background info on us. Our daughter had an organ transplant when she was 5 years old. She was the first child, ever, with her rare disease to have an organ transplant. Previously children with her condition did not survive past 10 years old. Miraculously, she just celebrated her 21st birthday, and her case is used as a case study in medical conferences all over the world and is in the top 5% of successful transplants. Flu season every year has her home anywhere from 2-8 weeks depending on how bad it is. She spent her 7th birthday in ICU in a coma from a stomach flu. We didn’t know if she would come home that time.
This has been our reality. Our home has been sterile for months at a time and our family under quarantine with no visitors for months on end. Yet, we managed to run two businesses while working from home and having a remote business location. I’m here to tell you it can be done! We have done it for years. You adapt and move on.
Currently, my husband and daughter are in quarantine at our family cottage and have been there since Mid-March. No one goes in or out. Everything is sterilized before supplies are brought in and then sterilized again by my husband when supplies arrive. They are both safe and healthy, so far, thank God.
One of the most important aspects of working from home is ensuring you have your technology set up properly. Making the most of your time is critical to a successful workday. There is nothing worse than fighting with technology wasting hours of time instead of working!
If possible, with children in the home, having multiple workstations each with working technology will make everyone’s life easier. Spend time teaching your children how to use technology in the evenings — so as not to take time away from your workday and their school day. That way, when the day starts, everyone is ready to go.
Ensure you set boundaries for work and family time during the day. You may need to take 10-15 minute breaks once an hour to check with your children to see if they need help. If they are old enough, ensure they understand you are not to be disturbed without an emergency until the next “breaktime” when you can come together to discuss any problems or questions. Have a backup plan with something for them to do if they get stuck on an assignment, until the designated breaktime when you check back in.
It may not be practical to put in an 8 hour day if you are also expected to be home schooling your child. Speak to your employer if you find yourself overwhelmed and consider job sharing with a co-worker in a similar position.
I have had a personal assistant for years that was my back-up to help get things done when the demands of my family prevented me from doing things myself. Work-sharing is a great way to relieve stress.
Once your designated “work/school” time is over, close the door or put the computers away and engage in family time. Make meals together, play games together or whatever your family does to relax and bond. Keep a separation between parent and teacher. Your kids need you now more than ever. If you had a frustrating work/school day, let it go — don’t allow it to override a happy evening with your family. The flexibility of working from home is a bonus. Take advantage of it and enjoy it!
Make the most of your space. Ask your family what makes their workspace/play space at home more enjoyable for them to weather our social distancing. This is a good time to find out what comforts your spouse and your children. It may be colours — green is healing and blue is calming. Maybe they would rather work privately in their room away from siblings. If they are being productive, allow them the space.
A comfortable chair may be worth investing in if using uncomfortable dining chairs are leaving family cranky and sore. If a bright red pillow will make your daughter happy, it’s a small price to pay for a comfortable workspace where she is productive and content.
If you are required to use your home for work, you may want to keep all your receipts. You may be able to claim those expenses on next year’s income taxes.
Finally, be kind to each other. Understand that this is hard on all of us and we each deal with stress differently. There will be good days and bad days.
In our home, we used to have a “code word” with our older daughter when she was overwhelmed. It did not matter what we were doing, if she used the code word she was immediately excused to be by herself. I would usually give her a bit of time alone before checking in on her. We would discuss what was bothering her and let her know we understood and supported her, and that she was safe and loved.
One of the biggest benefits of working from home is that when your family needs you, you are there! No work is more important than helping a family member. Be grateful you can be there for your family during this difficult time. Give them the love and support they need, when they need it. That is the single biggest benefit of working from home. It allows you to be a better parent and spouse!
One final note on home workspaces. I absolutely love working from my laptop outdoors on our deck or by the pool! There is a sense of real privilege to be able to work while enjoying the peace and beauty of the outdoors in your own backyard.
What does your outdoor space look like? What’s your dream outdoor space? Think about creating your own outdoor workspace this spring if you don’t have one yet. You’ll be glad you have one over the next few months!
As a residential renovation company, and a residential design company, we are considered an essential service and continue to operate while taking COVID-19 precautions for our employees and clients. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com