The COVID-19 pandemic has completely disrupted daily routines. With lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders across the country, millions of workers and schoolchildren have been forced to work and learn from home. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), school closures have impacted over 91% of the world’s student population. In the United States, virtually every state has either mandated or recommended school closures, affecting tens of millions of students.
This presents a non-trivial challenge to working parents, who must now shoulder their own workloads, their kids’ educational obligations, and keeping their kids entertained the rest of the time, all without the support of the childcare services they normally rely on. So, how can parents thread this needle and balance the needs of their work against the demands of their children?
1: Remember it gets easier.
“If things seem totally overwhelming, I would remind parents that the first week, and few weeks, of any time transition, kids are the hardest. After that a routine comes,” says Cindy Hemming, an elementary school teacher, tells Fast Company.
2: Focus on the essential
“You’re likely not going to get as much work done as you would regularly,” says “Chaya Gutnick, founder of Control My Chaos, an operational efficiency consultancy.” She recommends setting aside “extraneous” tasks, meetings, and demands, if possible.
3: Enlist your kids
Involve children, if old enough, in discussing and identifying daily priorities and in setting daily schedules. That helps the parent, but it also helps the children feel more in control and more apt to follow the schedule.
4: Use screen time
Don’t feel guilty for using “virtual babysitters” during a time of crisis. “We are always lax with screen time on these days — an episode of ‘Sesame Street’ can make it possible for us to get through a conference call or power through some emails,” recommends Amy Elliott Bragg, special projects editor at Crain’s Detroit Business.
5: Set boundaries
Teresa Douglas, co-author of “Secrets of the Remote Workforce,” tells The New York Times that when her children need to understand that she’s working, Ms. Douglas puts a “STOP, in a meeting” sign on her door.
6: Leave the house (for the garage)
Consider removing yourself from the house entirely. Beth Erickson tells the Poynter Institute: “I also would put him down for a nap, wait ‘til he was out cold, then go to my car (in the garage) with the baby monitor and make my calls.”
7: Ask for help
Bottom line: working remotely while having to simultaneously manage childcare is incredibly difficult. Individual tips can help take the edge off, but ultimately, it’s fair to ask for help. Talk with your bosses about the situation and try to work out a mutually satisfactory strategy for getting work done under suboptimal circumstances.
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