Jun 07, 2020

Staying Productive While Working From Home With a Family

Most of us have seen the infamous video. The year was 2017, and Professor Robert Kelly was in the middle of a live interview with BBC World News. As he discussed complex politics from his home in South Korea, Kelly’s 2 children suddenly burst into the room.

Kelly struggled to retain order as the jovial children ambled about the room. Then his wife, Jung-a Kim, dove into the fray to extract the kids. Her noble efforts helped make the video a viral sensation, reaching nearly 40 million views.

What can we learn from Kelly’s hilarious interview? First and foremost, working from home with your family introduces a unique set of challenges that don’t exist in most offices.

The Balance Is Never Perfect

Millions of Americans moved their daily operations from their workplaces to their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. While many workers did so with a smile on their faces, others were less enthused about the idea.

Working from home would be enough of an upheaval on its own, but when you throw in school and summer camp closures across the nation, you get a recipe for chaos for many parents. Perhaps your job is flexible enough that you can manage homeschooling your kids, preparing meals, and all the other tasks that come with a family, but most families are stretched to the limit. Work duties falter at times, meetings are missed, and jubilant kids might barge into your office unannounced at any moment.

“During this pandemic, employers are seeing that workers can’t function well without accommodation for their family responsibilities,” explains a working-from-home analysis from the Harvard Business Review. “Will that lesson last after the crisis is over? American families want greater choices in determining how their work and their families fit together. Post-pandemic, can we create a system that fits real workers, not just idealized ones? If so, we have the opportunity to emerge from this crisis with both healthier employees and better performing organizations.”

We all strive for balance in our work and personal lives. Sometimes we succeed masterfully. Other times, we end up simultaneously disappointing both our coworkers and our family members. What matters is that we’re constantly striving for improvement.

Getting the Most From Working From Home

There have always been distractions associated with work. In offices and other work facilities, they come in the form of noisy coworkers, loud equipment, unnecessary meetings, company events, and other annoyances.

Working in a home setting brings its own share of derailers. While different from those listed above, they share some common DNA. The biggest difference: most of us have acclimated to our workplace settings and know how to manage the distractions. At home, however, the distractions are closely tied to our everyday lives. They’re more immediate and intimate.

“Weeks into the new reality of stay-at-home orders, remote work, and being constantly bombarded by news of how bad things can get, we’re all getting used to new ways of getting business done,” says productivity expert Maura Thomas. “For many of us, one detrimental result is that we’re struggling more than ever to find the focus we need to be productive. This means the practice of attention management is more important than ever, not just for our productivity, but for our peace of mind.”

Here are some tips for improving the work-from-home experience for you, your business, and your family: 

  1. Get organized: Whether you opted to work from home or were forced by circumstances outside of your control, you need to implement structure in your days. Let your family know the hours you’ll be working and stick to your schedule.
  2. Find your office: It’s OK to occasionally work from the living room couch, but you’ll be at your best in a private, quiet room. Whether it’s a basement bedroom or a broom closet, stake out your new office and make it work for you.
  3. Manage your housework: One problem with working from home: you can’t compartmentalize your obligations as easily as if you were working off-site. There will still be messes and obligations around the house that need your attention. Try to take care of them during your regular breaks so they don’t distract you throughout the day.
  4. Get involved: Just because you’ve established a work schedule with your family doesn’t mean you can’t be accessible. Make time throughout the day to spend with loved ones. It fills your reserves and gives you the ability to work harder the rest of the time.
  5. Get rewarded: You deserve to treat yourself every day. Watch a fun show, read your favorite magazine, or just lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling. Make sure to include some “you” time in your schedule.

Learning how to manage your work-from-home experience is crucial because the trend isn’t going anywhere. If anything, it will become more of the norm in our post-coronavirus world. Take the time to figure out what helps you to bring your best self to work every day.

About the author

Grant Olsen
Grant Olsen
Grant Olsen is a writer specializing in small business loans, leadership skills, and growth strategies. He is a contributing writer for KSL 5 TV, where his articles have generated more than 6 million page views, and has been featured on FitSmallBusiness.com and ModernHealthcare.com. Grant is also the author of the book "Rhino Trouble." He has a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University.

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