Written by: Rita Magallona
With the rapid spread of COVID-19, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a pandemic and prompted the Malaysian government to implement the Movement Control Order (MCO). With schools and daycares also closed, parents who are working from home can find it challenging to be productive while taking care of little ones.
How can you deliver work goals, even with no childcare?
5 Work From Home Tips for Parents During the Movement Control Order
1. Practice the split shift
What if you have a child who disrupts your rituals, treats your workspace like it’s her playground, calls for your attention at almost all times of the day, wants to go with you wherever you go, likes watching TV loud, and takes your snacks, what do you do?
If you can’t find alternative childcare options, you and your spouse can split the day. One parent works from 6 AM to 12 noon while the other works from 12 noon to 6 PM. Whoever is not working can focus on childcare and chores. If you both work a few more hours after your child goes to bed, that adds up to a full eight to nine hours of productivity.
2. Follow a work routine
Set your “morning rituals” like taking a shower, having coffee, and dressing up. This will put you into the frame of mind that it’s time to do work. The clothes you wear might also affect how you think, so dress in a way that is comfortable but energizing. At the very least, dress presentably so that you’re ready for any surprise online meetings.
The same applies for kids. While it’s tempting to treat this time as a long vacation, children will benefit from following a routine. The simplest is assigning activities by time blocks: morning, afternoon, and bedtime.
3. Set up a workstation
When you have a specific place in your home where you do your work, it could have the same effect as dressing up: it puts you in the mood to work. It also gives a signal to your kids and other members of the household that when you’re sitting there with your computer on, you are working and should not be disturbed except in emergencies.
Choose an area where you could set up your computer for extended periods at eye level when you’re sitting on the chair. Use a laptop stand and supplement it with a second monitor, a wireless keyboard, and a mouse. All these would reduce the strain of working for extended hours.
Once you’ve set up your work station, assign a play or activity station for your child as well. Make sure they have age-appropriate toys, art materials, school supplies, or a laptop for online classes.
4. Keep regular hours
If you work from home, there are two stumbling blocks you should watch out for. First, you can underwork. Let’s face it, your house can be pretty distracting, with chores, the bed, the TV, etc. Add kids to that, and your productivity can take a hit.
On the other extreme, you can overwork. One of the subtle traps of working from home is that the line that separate professional from personal time gets blurred. This could lead to you eating your lunch in front of your computer as you try to squeeze in more minutes into your workday.
Instead of resting, there’s a voice in your head saying, “You should be working.” Keep in mind that you definitely need to rest to avoid burning out.
The best way to deal with this is to keep regular work hours. Follow whatever schedule works for you, but do it consistently and regularly. That way, your mind will not be anxious because you work when it’s time to work and rest when it’s time to rest.
What about the kids? Ask their school if they have activities that can be done from home, or explore academic resources online. For older kids, assigning projects or chores around the house is also a great idea. For a visual reminder, have a white board or colorful print-out that shows the day’s activities.
5. Stay active
Inertia is real. When you work from home, it is tempting to stay in your work area every day, every week. This is not good for your physical health nor your mental well-being. So, schedule times when you would go out to take a walk and get some sunlight. The change of environment will do you good, and the exercise will improve your immunity and metabolism.
Instead of exercise, give children plenty of opportunities for active play. Social distancing does not mean you can’t go outside anymore. Your children can still play outdoors, provided they don’t come into close contact with other people. Don’t forget that they need the activity and sunlight exposure to stay healthy.
It is possible to work from home, take care of your child, and stay sane. All it takes is a bit of planning, discipline, and creativity.
Keep your family safe during this period by boosting your body’s natural defences.