For most of us, 2020 has been a rollercoaster of unexpected — and at times, jarring — events. Of course, the aftermath of COVID-19 has created a slightly different set of circumstances for everyone depending on their line of work, their child’s school schedule, and the interruption of various routine activities and pastimes. You may find yourself setting up your desk at home, managing an unfamiliar homeschooling schedule, or both! In fact, data shows that 64% of Americans now work from home, compared to 7% before the COVID-19 crisis. Though adjusting to a new routine and mindset takes time, there are certain ways to help ease the transition if you have recently been managing your child’s homeschooling, Internet struggles, distractions, or a home office space. Check out the following tips to learn how to expertly navigate all the pressures of working from home without losing your cool.
Juggling Homeschooling and a Full-Time Job
Trying to make a living from home while supervising your child’s homeschooling can be a daunting task, to say the least. After all, how are you supposed to give 100% to both your full-time job and your child’s education? The good news is that you are not alone — many parents have faced this dilemma both pre- and post-COVID-19, proving that a balance can be struck. One such trailblazer, Sarita Harbour, shares a few ways that she has been able to effectively work from home and homeschool her children for the last nine years.
Start by defining your priorities for both your job and homeschooling. Which tasks are non-negotiable and will require some of your time every day? This will vary based on the specifics of your job, but the important thing is to establish some kind of hierarchy of tasks. This way, you can set realistic expectations for what needs to be completed each day. In a similar way, evaluate your child’s homeschooling schedule. You may not have much leeway if your child’s school district has provided a curriculum to follow, but if you are following your own plan you can rank the most “essential” daily subjects (it’s best to knock these out early in the day) as well as more secondary subjects.
To stay sane amid the chaos, create a schedule, and stick to it!
To stay sane amid the chaos, create a schedule, and stick to it! Start by carving out the most important time — sleep. After all, if Mom isn’t well-rested, the whole household is likely to bear the consequences. Next, schedule homeschooling hours, your work time, quiet time, chores around the house, and extracurriculars if applicable. If you are not following a district-wide set curriculum, make your life easier by using pre-planned curriculums that are tailored to your child’s grade level and subject matter.
Remember that homeschooling is as big of a change for your kids as is it for you. Supplement your child’s social interaction with friends by using online chat tools and allowing time for games and playtime. You can even meet up with other families in a public park or another outdoor location so your children can mingle. Being intentional about getting out of the house will round out your homeschooling routine and make your children happy campers.
Overcoming Intermittent Internet
A common point of frustration for work-from-home professionals is spotty Internet or regular connection problems that interrupt your workflow. Studies show that almost 16% of employees who recently switched to working from home experience daily Internet connection issues, with more than 52% experiencing monthly Internet issues. If you count yourself a part of this group, there are a few ways to check that you are making the most of your Internet service.
Start by running a simple speed test. There are several free speed test apps that are compatible with Macs and PCs and show how fast your Internet is. Once you have completed this step, it’s time to evaluate if your current Internet speed is sufficient for your household’s daily use. One thing to keep in mind is that your Internet connection bears the cumulative weight of everyone who uses it at once. To figure out the speed you need, you should think about all the devices that use the connection at the same time. If only one device uses the connection for light tasks such as emailing, social media and audio conference calls, a 2 Mbps speed will suffice. If your needs are a bit more advanced, including uploading photos, video chats and HD streaming, you will be in the market for a 10 Mbps Internet speed. Lastly, 25 Mbps covers any 4k and beyond streaming needs.
When you are experiencing Internet struggles, it is always worth a try to reboot your computer, modem and router. If your current connection simply doesn’t cut it anymore, you may need to update your router. Finally, you may want to secure your connection with the help of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) so that your data stays private. Ask your employer if they provide complimentary VPN’s for remote employees.
Anyone who works from home can attest to the frequency of distractions that pop up, whether they be family, phone calls, social media, web browsing or even house work. Though it can be tempting to put work aside for a few minutes to attend to another task, your boss will sing your praises after you implement the following productivity strategies.
One of the most fundamental ways to avoid distractions during your workday is to stick to your “normal” work schedule.
One of the most fundamental ways to avoid distractions during your work day is to stick to your “normal” work schedule. If you were in the habit of starting your work day at 8:30am prior to working from home, continue to “arrive” at that time. Creating structure and routine for yourself will be beneficial for your long-term efficiency and mental health. Particularly if you are working from home while your children complete homeschooling exercises, let them know when you should and should not be disturbed. If your family works well with a visual, put up a green sign when you are free to talk, yellow for when they need you and red for “do not disturb.” In the same vein, switch your phone to “do not disturb” to avoid getting sucked into messages or social media.
To shift into a workday mindset and prepare your mind to focus, simply change clothes. Even if this means changing out of pajamas and into your “nice” leggings, it will make a difference. To make the most of your day, you can also pre-plan and prepare meals so that lunchtime doesn’t stretch on for hours.
Establishing Your Work Space Without a Home Office
If you have started working from home but don’t have a home office or spare bedroom, do not despair. Even without a dedicated room, there are plenty of ways to set up a functional workspace in your home. Reflect on the layout of your home and where there might be some underutilized space. Try not to exclude less obvious places, such as underneath the stairs or on the landing of the stairwell. If you have the extra space, even a closet can be an excellent place to set up a desk.
Ultimately, any corner, nook or cranny in your home can be transformed into a workspace with the right desk and chair. Consider adding a desk to the corner of your living room. If you are concerned about not having privacy, stake out a corner of your bedroom. You could even work at the kitchen/dining room table if you do not currently have a desk to use. While your new work-from-home setup may not be as elaborate as your former office, you’ll find that creativity and resourcefulness are your biggest assets in establishing a new workspace.
Your WFH Keys to Success
Working from home can be a challenge, especially if you are also managing homeschooling, battling your Internet connection, avoiding distractions, and creating a new workspace. The tips mentioned in this article can help reduce the stress of your work-from-home situation and put you in control of your schedule. Make the most out of your day by blocking out times dedicated to your work, homeschooling activities (if applicable), and crucial quiet times or brain breaks. If you are encountering Internet issues, try testing your current speed and consider investing in a new modem. To stay on task all day, tell your loved ones when you are busy and turn your phone on “do not disturb.” Lastly, make yourself comfortable with a workspace that makes sense for your home and routine. With these suggestions, you’re sure to stay productive and energetic while working from home.