With most schools across the UK on a full or partial shut down for the foreseeable future we’re left with the majority of parents facing home schooling. Transforming your home into your workplace is difficult enough, but now with the added distraction of having the kids home too this presents a big challenge.
So in this blog we’ll cover a few WFH productivity tips as well as a few to keep the kids on-track.
Tips For Working From Home
So let’s start with you – you may have some experience of working from home already, or this may be completely new to you. Either way full time working from home is a big change, and many find their productivity dips, distractions increase and communication between colleagues is difficult to maintain. All of this can lead to a dip in your performance, and that’s something to try to avoid at a time like this.
So firstly and most importantly…
Find Your Workspace
Sure the sofa seems like a reasonable place to set yourself up with a laptop, but in the long term it isn’t the best spot for you..
If possible, set up a work space in a spare bedroom, you’re probably not going to be having guests stay for a while anyway. If you don’t have a spare bedroom or another multi purpose room that can be converted then maybe a dining table.
Set A Schedule
Get dressed! You might not need to be suited and booted, but definitely avoid the old freelancer myth/cliche of staying in your PJs all day – getting dressed and ready as usual helps set you up mentally for a proper day at work.
So your 45 minute commute is gone – that’s an extra 45 minutes in bed, right? Not so fast, it’s easy to get out of routine and start to feel sluggish as a result. Try to keep your wake/sleep schedule steady, it’ll help your workday feel less like a weekend. Use the extra time in the morning to take a nice walk (unless self isolating!) as the weather gets warmer, or take a little time to do some kid management (more on this later!).
Try to stick to your usual work hours, it’s so easy to either knock off at 4:30 or to work into the night when you’re at home and aren’t constrained by the usual office opening and closing times. But speak to your manager and be honest if you’re going to need to work more flexible hours because you have young children at home. It’s better for your mental health if you can manage your time and your expectations well – this includes a proper lunch break by the way!
And on the topic of breaks, to help keep your focus in a new location try the Pomodoro Technique, which sees you work in blocks of 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break. In your break go grab a coffee, have a stretch, check in on the kids, etc… Try to avoid doing housework in your breaks, keep those for outside working hours to help keep your mind on the workday.
So maybe your usual go-to exercise isn’t available, whether that’s your local lads football group or the pilates class down the road. There’s still plenty you can do. It’s perfectly safe (unless you’re in the minority who need to self isolate) to go out and take a short walk or a run during your day. Exercise will actually help keep your body fit and healthy – better able to handle a viral infection! There are also a huge selection of all manner of exercise videos on YouTube which are completely free and can be done from the average living room.
If you have a partner or family member, or even a grown child at home with you, ask for help. Take it in turns to supervise younger children but have a set plan to follow between you.
Home Schooling Teenagers
The good news is you have teenagers, younger kids need more supervision but teenagers should be more capable of occupying themselves with school work – plus they know how to get themselves some juice and a snack all on their own! The bad news is their questions will be harder – who was Henry VIII’s fourth wife anyway??? So how can you help them stay focussed and help yourself stay productive too?
Ask The School
A lot of schools are busy preparing a contingency for their classes, find out what your child’s school is doing at this time. Some may have virtual classroom lessons, some will have a schedule for your child to follow and expected times that work should be emailed to their teacher for marking, others might still be working out their plan.
Keep A Schedule
We hear you, getting teenagers out of bed in the morning is hard enough – now that missing the school bus isn’t going to light a fire under them your job just got harder. So speak to your teens, explain what is expected of them during this time – this is not a holiday and their education is important. You might also consider setting up a reward system for sticking to schedules.
Make sure they put their school uniform on and look smartly dressed between the hours of 8:30 and 4:30 as usual – this might help them distinguish home school time from free time.
A lot of children will actually complete school work faster without the distractions of a classroom, if your kid is managing to complete work extra fast then try to enrich the rest of the school day with educational activities they are passionate about. Don’t just let them turn to the xbox after lunch time every day, this will often encourage rushed school work. Instead fill this surplus time with a subject they enjoy but don’t necessarily have the opportunity to study at school. A few examples are: a musical instrument, a foreign language, arts and crafts.
And once school hours are over, it’s back to free time for the kids.
Don’t Forget To Add In Social Time
Socialising over the coming months could be very different, but remember it’s essential for mental wellbeing that kids have the chance to socialise with their school friends from afar. So during break times, before and after school, encourage your kids to call their friends, explore new ways to interact like group gaming apps on smartphones, and encourage exercise as a family unit. You still need to keep 2m apart from others, and asking teens to do this is a big ask – so you may need to go out for family walks or bike rides together to ensure rules are followed but fun is had.
Hopefully this structure will allow you to be an effective employee from home while the teens are working on their own schedule.
Ask Around For Help
Many teachers are suddenly out of the classroom, but they’re still teachers. Your kids will likely have ways to contact their teachers for help via email, facetime or phone – take advantage of this option.
In addition, many teachers are posting offering free help in local social media groups. Keep your eye out and see if a neighbour can offer assistance – this may be advice on how to get the kids to sit down and focus or it may be specific help with a subject. Take the offer of help wherever you can find it.
Home Schooling Young Children
This is a bit tricker – they require more supervision than teens, their curriculum is less strict and they tend to need more one-on-one time. You may have to say goodbye to that office with a closed door and all work together around the dining table.
The bad news for parents of little ones is that you may well have to put in some evening hours to get your work finished, or tag-team with your partner if you have one. The good news here is that primary aged children don’t really have important exams or assessments they’ll need to complete. So home schooling them is more about getting them well practiced in the basics of reading, writing, mathematics and arts.
Here are some steps you can take to make life a little easier.
Ask The School
Hopefully your little one will be returning home with lots of work books and reading books which are at the appropriate level which should keep them fairly busy. They may also have virtual classroom resources in the process of setting up or a guide to be issued to parents to help you along the way.
Keep A Schedule
This is also important for the little ones, but remember to add in more enriching play time – sadly this might pull you away from your email inbox but it will help them manage their energy and attention levels better to have frequent breaks. Make sure they also put their school uniform on and look smartly dressed between the hours of 9:00 and 3:30 – or as usual – this might help them distinguish home school time from free time.
Kids this age spend all day playing together, and your child may quickly miss that environment, so I’m afraid you may have to take on more than your fair share of teddy tea parties or board games.
There are plenty of great online resources available which suit younger children, these online learning games can give you a nice 30 min break to get your head down but of course it will mean they have more screen time than usual.
- Education.com https://www.education.com/games/
- National Geographic Kids https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/category/play-and-win/games/
- Games.co.uk https://www.games.co.uk/games/educational
- Our Planet educational resources https://www.ourplanet.com/en/video/biome-tour-of-our-forests/
- Free educational resources from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Education-Free-Apps-Games/s?rh=n%3A1710357031%2Cp_36%3A1714299031
- Blutick – free AI maths tuition during the crisis https://blutick.com/
Ask Around For Help
This goes for the parents of younger children too. Find out what local support is on offer, find out what support may be ongoing at your child’s school, and ask for help and advice if your child isn’t adjusting well to their new and very different lifestyle.
NB: please feel free to comment below with helpful resources you may have found that could help other home working parents.