Most of the remote work guidelines and manuals sprouting up across the internet—including Microsoft’s—stress work/life balance. This is not a green light to do yoga all day. Instead, it is a plea to remember to take breaks—go for a walk or run, do some yoga, hang out with your kid(s) or significant other, cook a meal you love, tinker in your garage, do some yardwork, etc.—throughout the day.
This sounds great. How it plays out will depend on a lot of factors. One of the big factors in this equation is children.
Selena Hardy and I are writing about our experiences thus far working from home with young children.
My daughter, Madeline (Ma-de-line, not “lyn”), will be 14 months in a few weeks. My wife is also working from home. With only 1 child, my experience will likely differ from Selena’s.
What is my household’s COVID-19 work experience?
First, we sleep in. It is glorious and amazing. Most families spend a lot of time getting ready to get out the door, including us. We now spend that time sleeping! At least, if Madeline does. Lazy mornings now include books, blocks, and dodging whatever new food item we try to get Madeline to eat. My recommendation: take this time and enjoy it to the fullest.
Second, we have tried very hard to avoid screen time with Madeline. COVID-19 has made that task impossible. I am typing this as Madeline is sitting next to me in her highchair. We have computers open and ready to go most of the day. During breaks and lunch, we have them shut or off. Emails are answered between readings of Dr. Seuss. That is life at the moment.
Third, larger projects and professional development have taken a significantly larger role in my workday. Backburner (or, as my New Hampshire heritage still pushes me to say – backburna’) projects now have time to be fleshed out and finished. Need to transition some files? Go ahead. What about that presentation/training you have been wanting to develop/modify? Have at it. Did you need to do some research for…anything? Pretend you are a professional sleuth and go to town (just not in person). Even better, do all of this and then figure out how to deploy it both live and online.
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Third (Part II), my hope is that students, alumni, faculty, staff, administration, and everyone outside of CNM will be open to working with people via screens when small children are making those interactions a bit…less smooth? This is the reality right now. My wife and I are addressing the issue, we try to identify “no-kids possible” calls and share playing with and entertaining Madeline.
Fourth, I’ve been working in different locations throughout the house as the mood strikes. Maybe I drink my coffee and work in the kitchen for an hour. Madeline loves to open everything she can reach, so I can work and parent at the same time. Sit in bed when answering emails after lunch? Sure. My wife and I do have a desk and computer set up that I use as well, but that feels too formal for me most of the time. Honestly, I’m at the kitchen table a large chunk of the time. I can see the kitchen and living room, so Madeline can roam about, and I can see her and get work done.
Fifth, have open and honest conversations with the people you live with about what you and they need to be successful at working from home. And keep having them. My wife likes more structure than me. We set up a calendar on the kitchen wall and put all our video calls/meetings/phone on it. Then we figured out which ones were “kid friendly,” especially if they overlapped, which of course they (inevitably) do. We each take exercise breaks throughout the day when the other has Madeline or brings her along.
Overall, my experience has been one of increased flexibility and getting used to working with interruptions that happen early and often.
Disclaimer: I recognize that some people have more structured schedules. Therefore, their experience will look different than mine.