The coronavirus lockdown has been especially challenging for parents. With schools closed, they have had to pull off the fine balancing act of looking after their children at the same time as fulfilling their usual work duties from home.
Even in ordinary times, it’s difficult enough for parents to juggle both commitments at once. Working from home can make this easier to manage – less time is spent commuting to the office, and there’s less of a need to constantly be in two places at once. Out of necessity, working from home has become widespread during lockdown. In fact, according to recent research, 32% of working Australians have been working from home over the past couple of months due to coronavirus. But will this change in work culture last once life returns to normal? A study from Direct Line suggests that working from home could be here to stay – with HR directors expecting a 45% increase in the number of flexible workers in future.
Although working from home offers greater work-life balance, it does also come with its own pitfalls.There is less of a clear distinction between work and family life. Because of this, it’s possible that neither sphere receives the full attention it needs.
With that in mind, here are some strategies that may be able to untangle the difficult knot of working from home and being a parent at the same time.
Set clear boundaries
It’s certainly easier said than done, but setting clear boundaries is one of the key issues that needs to be addressed. Constant distractions are not conducive to either a productive work day or effective parenting. Instead, our minds need clearly defined and separated tasks to focus on. Although it can be tempting to try to multitask, studies have shown that this could actually reduce productivity by 40%. Our brains can trick us into thinking we are multitasking well, when the reality is quite different.
A definite structure and timetable for the day can help with this. It lets us carve out separate hours for work and family responsibilities. Life is messy, and so it’s inevitable that it won’t be perfectly successful. But, having a clear plan and direction can help to calm the mind; bringing a sense of order to the chaos. Try and get a diary like this one or this one to write down your plans for the day and set specific tasks to focus on. As you work through them, cross them out. It seems basic, but it can really help you to prioritise and get things done (plus it’s a great feeling to have a completed list by the end of the day).
Share the load
When children are at home full time, however, separating home and work life can become almost impossible. If you have a partner who’s also working from home, the solution would be to rotate family responsibilities during the day. This means one parent is always there for the children, and the other has the freedom to fully concentrate on their work.
Childcare is also a potential solution, but this has become problematic with the current coronavirus situation. For many families, too, childcare is simply too costly an option to be considered.
Go part-time or job share
Another solution that’s worth considering (if it’s possible for you) is to reduce your work hours. This will take more of the load off your shoulders. This in turn will allow you to dedicate more time to your family life during the week (among other benefits). If you have a flexible home working arrangement, with no specific hours, it becomes even easier to shape your work hours around the demands of life at home.
It may seem scary to ask for reduced hours at work, but communication is key here. Your work colleagues will be sure to understand your situation when it’s explained to them. It IS possible that a job-share solution can be found. You won’t be the only working parent seeking part-time hours, and so it may be more feasible than you think to share your job with a like-minded colleague.
Juggling working from home with family life is certainly a challenge, and the coronavirus has made this even more difficult. There may not be a perfect solution. However, a combination of some of the strategies above may be able to bring balance back to your life. Hopefully, it will allow you to give each of your responsibilities the attention it deserves.
Read ‘work-life balance tips for parents’ here.
About the Author
Ross is a freelance researcher and content producer from Kent. He is finalising his post graduate research papers on modern day parenting and technology effects on children’s behaviour. His recent work includes Lockdown, School response, and Children’s Boredom.