Striking the right balance – a guide for parents working from home

If there was a single word to sum up the world’s situation right now, it would undoubtedly be “unprecedented”.

From the virus itself to its impact on the global economy and people’s mental, emotional and physical health, nothing about this pandemic is routine. Because of this, everyone is having to find what many are referring to as a “new normal” – at least for the time being, anyway. 

With the government requesting that anyone who can work from home should be doing so, employees in all manner of industries are suddenly finding themselves working remotely, setting up a makeshift office in the kitchen or spare bedroom – and this is not without its challenges. 

As parents try to time naps with Google Hangouts meetings, and homeschooling with report writing, the experts at School Uniform Shop have come up with five ways you can find the right balance between your home and work commitments during the challenging weeks ahead.

1) Set a family routine 

For anyone with a busy family life, routine is everything. It’s the thing that gives your days structure when it seems impossible to fit in the school run and get to work on time – and while right now you might want to throw your routine out of the window, it could just be the thing that gets you from one day to the next.

By clearly defining the different times of the day for each aspect of family life, you can hopefully synchronise your household when you need it most. This will help you ensure mealtimes, showering, getting dressed and everything in between stays as close to a sense of normalcy as is possible.

2) Create designated spaces 

As a parent or carer of a young child, you know all too well that it’s just not as simple as giving your youngster a task and expecting them to get on with it.

Their young minds wander and they need creative stimulation, which is why creating spaces that are designated especially for their learning can be a real lifesaver. Explain to them that this is their space and they should think of it like their classroom – while in this area of the house, they need to be carrying out the tasks you’ve set them.

Equally, they’ll need to understand that your office space is where you’ll be busy working. If you’re able to safely work in different rooms to your children, you’ll likely find this far more conducive to productivity.

Wherever you’re setting up office, explain the importance of this area to your kids. This way, you can hopefully avoid your little ones popping into the background of conference calls with your director – although we can’t promise that!

3) Stay active 

Within your daily routine, try and make sure there’s a way in there for you all to stay active. Exercise is good for the whole family, so whether this is Joe Wicks’ YouTube PE lessons, a post-work walk around the block or an hour kicking the ball around the garden together, it’s good to get up from your seat and get moving – especially if you’ve been sitting at your desk all day. 

Exercise is proven to help your mental health, and during this time of upheaval and uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to be taking care of your mind. If you’re used to being an active family, try to find new ways of making this work for you.

And if some days you don’t feel like doing anything at all, don’t give yourself a hard time! Every parent in the country is battling with their conscience right now – but just making it through the day is a win, so go easy on yourself.

4) Delegate childcare 

If you’re fortunate enough to share your home with others, now more than ever is the time to draft them in to support with childcare responsibilities. Whether this is your partner, a grandparent or an older child, if everyone pitches in with keeping the little ones occupied at various times throughout the day, everyone’s lives will be that little bit easier!

If both of you are working from home, try and schedule conference calls and team meetings at different times to each other, so someone can be responsible for the little ones while the other one has their professional hat on.

For times when you really need to concentrate, you could always ask that your partner takes the children out for their daily exercise so that you’re not disturbed.

5) Communicate regularly 

As with most aspects of life, communication is at the heart of getting anything done – and unless you’re being transparent with those around you during this period of working from home, you’ll struggle to think straight, let alone do anything productive.

With this in mind, you’ll want to make sure everyone from your colleagues and managers to your spouse and kids are kept up to date with any work and home life commitments.

By communicating times of day when you’ll be unavailable to your kids or ensuring your boss knows that you’re flying solo with childcare on certain days, you can manage the expectations of those who have demands on your time.

This is no easy feat, we know, but as long as the lines of communication are kept open and you keep talking to each other, hopefully things can run as smoothly as possible. 

With the government’s briefings releasing updates on a daily basis, when exactly it will be that life will go back to normal, no one really knows. So for now, do your best to embrace this new way of living and work on balancing your career and familial responsibilities in a way that works for your household.

Luke Conod is Managing Director of School Uniform Shop, providing high-quality, competitively priced schoolwear to see children from primary school through to sixth form in style.

Photo by Jessica Lewis