With the latest advice from the government around shutting schools and childcare settings from Friday 20th March, I thought it would be a good time to share my thoughts and experiences of working from home and also to outline Rullion’s stance on our remote working policy when it comes to working parents.
I am by no means an expert on how to manage during the times ahead of us, as this will be new territory for all of us on such a long term basis, but I hoped that writing a short blog would help any others that are in my situation, and also hopefully provide some useful advice and resources.
First things first, please rest assured that your managers ‘get it’. Senior members of staff across all businesses are also working parents who will have to face the same challenges as you over the next few weeks. Managers totally understand that work will inevitably be disrupted with the added pressure of having your children at home with you on a potentially full-time basis – and the overwhelming message I’ve heard this week is not to worry about it. We cannot be expected to stick to the usual norms of a 40-hour week with our kids hanging off our ankles, demanding snacks, playtime, to go outside and so on…
Here are my top tips to get through this:
Be open with your manager
Keep in contact, share your challenges, and agree what is likely to be achievable from your working day / week. They will appreciate that this will have to be fluid and flexible, and that you may not be switched on for your usual working hours. These are unprecedented times and we all have to do what we can while managing our home life also.
Work flexibly to balance work and home life
In this new world, there is no such thing as a standard working week anymore. We need to think outside the box, and there are a number of options around this. For example, if you have a lot of work to do, can you start work earlier, then switch off for an hour or so to entertain the kids, then pick up again before lunch – or work after the kids are in bed, or even at weekends if you’d have support from a partner. Whilst we do not want to encourage being ‘switched on’ until late at night / over a weekend, at the same time you shouldn’t feel guilty about this if you’ve taken a few hours in the middle of the working day to entertain your children. Employees should be trusted to be able to manage their outputs in a flexible manner during this time.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
If you are struggling to balance, please talk to someone. Whether it’s your manager, a colleague or family and friends, everyone wants to help and support each other at this time.
Enlist technology to help with entertainment
It goes without saying that we have access to an amazing range of kids TV shows and films from the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky etc (Disney+ can’t come quick enough for us), but there are also loads of apps for kids of all ages that can help with entertainment whilst also being educational. For me and my little one, it would be the CBeebies App, the Sky Kids App (iOs) and for older kids it could be BBC Bitesize and the various kid friendly apps on the Play store. A quick Google search will help guide you with this – the first two options I saw were elearningindustry.com, which has a Top 10 list and Good Housekeeping.com, which has a list of the best apps for kids but there are loads more online activities such as virtual museum tours, printable resources and websites offering activities and games.
Look to social media for inspiration
For all its faults, I am so grateful for social media right now (and not only because it’s telling me which local restaurants are now delivering!). I’ve seen so many examples on my network of baby and child classes which are being forced to close their doors but are now going online to provide hour long sessions for your kids via web link or videos. For older kids, I’ve seen loads of my teacher friends on Facebook who are sharing resources and guidance about how to support with your children’s homework (for example PhonicsPlay, a resource for teachers in school, which is now free for all children to use without a subscription), and showing that they are happy to support on a virtual basis with any more difficult elements.
There are also a huge number of Facebook and Instagram accounts which have now dedicated themselves to showcasing ideas for entertaining bored kids in the house – some of the best ones I’ve seen recently are things like Five Minute Mum (on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), Play at Home Mummas (Instagram) but again, Google is your friend here , with so many options around crafts, cookery, games etc.
Spend time with your kids
I don’t mean this to sound patronising whatsoever, but the message here is don’t feel guilty for spending time with your kids during your working day. My little boy will certainly not leave me alone for more than 20 minutes at a time, so my strategy is going to be set him off with a task / puzzle / game / toy/ TV show, and then try to get some work done in that window before moving on to the next activity. Depending on their age, this is going to be really stressful / worrying time for children who are losing their usual routine and structure, so don’t feel guilty about dropping work tasks to give them some attention – they need their normality too.
The usual rainy day suspects like jigsaw puzzles, colouring books, crafts materials, baking together, Lego and so on, will go a long way here. This is an opportunity to make memories! Make sure you are getting out for some fresh air over lunch, or after work, for your own mental wellbeing also.
I hope this guide has provided some useful hints and tips during this incredibly uncertain time. Stay safe everyone – we will get through this.