At Red Tricycle HQ we’ve been a solely remote team for a number of years. And while we miss our occasional happy hours and regular meeting room jokes, we’ve come up with a lot of ways to get the job done, even on those days when our kids are home with us. Whether you’ve found yourself unexpectedly working from home with a full house or making it a regular thing, here are nine tips that will help.
Tip #1: Singletasking
We know, you’re a parent. Singletasking isn’t really in your nature. But trust us on this one: taking the time to do one task at a time is key to having a productive day. And that might mean stopping and playing with your kids for a bit. One trick we use is the 10-30 rule. Give your kids 10 minutes of uninterrupted time, then work for 30 uninterrupted minutes. With older kids you can stretch this time. The key it is to make sure during that 10 (or 15 or whatever amount you choose) is 100% with them. No checking your phone for messages or looking at the computer screen. Set a timer and stick to it. The kids will catch on faster than you think. We also recommend taking breaks to stretch and eat lunch like a real human being.
Tip #2: Know Your Audience
Got a co-worker that sends confusing emails? Or someone who never responds? It can take some getting used to but everyone communicates differently. And every topic may require different forms of communication. At our “office” we have tools like Slack for instant messaging, Google Hangouts when we need face-time, phone calls when we need to just hear each other out, or emails when something requires more words or is part of a chain we’re tracking. Sometimes a quick call can hash out something that would have taken ages to explain via email. Remember, tone and humor doesn’t always come across in messages. Use emojis.
Tip #3: Relax the Rules (At Home)
Are you one of those households that limits screen time for your kids? This might be time to relax those rules a little bit and give them more “veg” time to be distracted (so you can finish something up).
Tip #4 A Little Prep Goes a Long Way
That screen-time we mentioned? Get prepped ahead and download a new game the kids will love. Here are our favorite online educational games to get you started. Find some new movies they’ll enjoy too. Take a visit to the library to stock up on books, and have a few activity books and kits on hand. Arrange long distance video chats with the grandparents and have them read a story. We also recommend packing a lunch for kids (and even yourself) like you do for weekdays, that way when lunch time rolls around you’ll save on prep time. Make a little healthy snack shelf or basket too for the in-between times if kids are old enough to grab themselves.
Tip #5: Ignore the Dishes
If you’re not used to working from home, you might find it impossible to not clean or organize something. While we’ve all thrown the occasional load of laundry in or “zen” out cleaning for a few minutes here or there, now is not the time to organize your closet or vacuum your house from top to bottom. Consider if you were gone for 8+ hours; what state would your house be in? Leave it. You’ll never be able to do it all and you’ll end up feeling stretched thin because of it. (See rule #1).
photo: laterjay via Pixabay
Tip #6: Ask for Help
You are only human. Granted, you’re a working parent, so you’re kinda superhuman, too. But don’t even try to do it all. Think you can entertain your well-behaved kids while cranking out that report that was due yesterday? You probably can, to be honest, but your work quality will suffer, and your stress level and work life balance will pay the price. And you know who really pays the price? Your partner? Well, yeah. But also your kids. So ask for help if you can get it. Because of physical distancing with COVID-19, playdates aren’t an option. So try a virtual playdate with other parents. Ask the kids to help you, too. Tell them the situation is tricky and you’re all doing. your best. But don’t try to do it all: you can’t grocery shop, meal plan, do child care and get all your work done. If you need to and you can, take time off to run your necessary errands or do something outside with your kids. No help? See rules #3 and 4 above.
Tip #7: Be Respectful of Others’ Time, Including Your Own
Got a list of things to do for work and in your personal life? Consider how you plan your day and how it affects your coworkers. Keep your calendar up to date so that your colleagues know if they can expect you to get back to them or if you need a break.
Tip #8: Try to Laugh
The conference call where you could hear your boss’ kids singing in the background? The neighbors dogs that started to bark exactly when it was your turn to talk; we’ve all been there. We’ve taken calls from the shower, to keep our kids from interrupting us, we’ve had so many tabs open we couldn’t focus anymore, we’ve obliviously worked through reminders for meetings (that we requested). Working remotely has its challenges, but a little patience and humor goes a long way. (Something parents have in droves).
Tip #9: Get Dressed
It may be tempting to lounge around in your PJs while you work, or keep yourself ready-to-go so you can jam in a workout when the littlest one naps. And if you’re new to the remote working world, for the first couple of days this might be fine. But on the third day, by mid afternoon when your head hurts and your kids have interrupted you 75 times (in spite of rules #1-6) you’re going to want that self-esteem boost that only actual pants and a blouse or a button up can bring.