8 ways to master working from home during COVID-19

We asked human potential and parenting expert, Nikki Bush for her best tips on how to meet your deadlines (from home) and help your kids thrive throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

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With over 1.8 million coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and over 100 000 deaths reported worldwide, there’s no doubt this pandemic has dramatically changed the way people work and live. And with many schools closing across the globe – with no set “return” date, many parents are facing a juggling act like never before. Suddenly, moms and dads are having to cook and clean, meet work deadlines and enter the world of virtual learning with their kids – with Google classroom, learning apps and morning rings via Zoom.

While this can feel daunting at the best of times, the good news is, it’s temporary and there are ways to work smart through this crisis.

Human potential and parenting expert, Nikki Bush has been helping families navigate their way through COVID-19 with her hands-on approach and expert tips. As someone who has worked from home with children growing up at various ages and stages for the best part of 25 years, we knew Nikki would offer wise advice in terms of how to manage it all and come out the other side.

She says, “If you are a parent who is now working remotely from home, the pressure is on. Not only do you have to perform ‘at work at home’, but you have 12 hours of your child’s awake time per day to manage in between everything, whether you like it or not. Have you done the calculation? That’s 252 hours over 21 days.

The truth is, working from home and managing your children’s day takes time to get used to and master. And, it will never be perfect.” Nikki believes that once you understand this, and you begin to reframe what “time” in your day looks like, you’ll be able to find a solution and way of working that suits you and your family.

Just remember, it’s important to manage your expectations of your children in this time. From birth until around age 9-10, there’s very little children can do without adult supervision of some kind. Also, children’s attention spans are particularly short, especially from ages 2-7, explains Niki. So, you should expect that your child will be tugging at you or asking you for something every 10-15 minutes.

However, you can still meet your deadlines and ensure your children’s needs are met with Nikki’s suggestions:

First, put a routine in place

Due to the sudden changes that have come with COVID-19, it’s important to help your children feel safe and secure at home, and the best way to do this (and get things done yourself) is with a structure or routine for the days ahead. Decide beforehand what you need to accomplish for the day as this will give the whole family direction, structure and purpose while at home.

ALSO SEE: Building a routine for your kids during COVID-19

Keep mealtimes and bedtimes consistent

During this time, try to keep bedtimes and wake-up times consistent and if possible, eat dinner with your children to encourage meaningful conversation and good-quality family time. If you have older kids, Nikki’s Sweets and Sours game, available as a free download on www.nikkibush.com is a great connection activity for families around the table.

How it works:  

Children get a chance to talk about the worst things about the day and the best things about the day, and other topics. This simple listening and sharing exercise is highly effective, and will help you to understand your child better – and adjust your home work times and routines if necessary, so that everyone is happy at the end of the day.

Practise chunking

If your aim is to get uninterrupted work done, you’re going to have to work before your children wake up in the morning or after they go to bed. You will also have to look for chunks of time in the day to work, rather than expecting to work for 5-6 hours solid. This chunking concept is a way to meet your deadline one step at a time – as you work on and off throughout the day.

Be strategic about screen time

Manage your child’s screen time to work for you. If you have webinars, conference calls or Zoom meetings with clients or colleagues scheduled, you’ll need to ensure you have little disruption at that time. Keep your virtual meetings short and sweet, and strategically position them for when you allow your kids some screen time. You know that when your kids are playing games online or watching TV, they will more than likely sit still, won’t ask for you and won’t make a mess.

Another free download on Nikki’s website, called the Money or The Box Game, is a family screen management strategy which will help you keep track of your child’s screen time over a week.

How it works:

Download movie tickets for TV watching and gaming tickets for game time and distribute those tickets on a Sunday night for the week ahead. Your kids use a ticket every time they watch TV or play online games. If they have tickets left at the end of the week, you pay them out in cash for the tickets they haven’t used.

ALSO SEE: Why is screen time such a big deal?

Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night

There’s no doubt you’ll be more tired trying to manage your work as well as your child’s entertainment and schoolwork in this time, so it’s important to practise self-care – and sleep should be right up there on your list of priorities.

Play tag and do work in relays

If you have a partner or spouse, grandparent, domestic worker or someone who can help you, try to play tag – and take turns with the kids. So, one person looks after the children for an hour, while you work, and you alternate or break it into larger sessions. For example, you work for the morning while your partner watches the kids and you continue like that until your work is done.

Have a designated working area

Although many South African’s have been told to work from home overnight, and there hasn’t been much time to prep and plan, if you do manage to play tag with your partner, it’s a good idea to work somewhere quiet such as an office or bedroom, where you can shut the door and focus for the time you have. If you can’t, and you’re working in an open plan space with your children, you’ll have to be flexible and know that it might take longer to get your work done. Again, manage your expectations.

Take some time out

This might sound counterintuitive right now, but if you are going to have to keep filling your children’s “emotional cups” and making sure they’re happy, settled and stimulated, you need to try and take at least 20 minutes a day off for yourself to just breathe and re-set. Do something that isn’t work or family related, something that brings you joy and fills your “emotional cup”.

If there’s another adult in the house, this is doable, so don’t let up on it! It’s important to de-stress in this time. Some ways to do this include:

  • Praying
  • Meditating or practicing mindfulness
  • Reading
  • Listening to music
  • Lying in the bath with some candles
  • Exercising with an online class such as Pilates or yoga

Need more help to navigate your way through this crisis? Book Nikki for a one-on-one consult online, by visiting her website and click on Reframing COVID-19.

More about the expert:

Award-winning speaker and best-selling author, Nikki Bush, helps individuals and teams to win at life and work. Her passion for connection and relationships, and how to maintain them in a fast-changing world, is at the core of everything she does as a human potential thought leader. Nikki is admired and respected in business, education and parenting circles for her work in raising human potential through leadership, engagement, resilience, connection and teamwork. She helps to create mission-ready individuals and organisations for everyday and future disruption. Learn more about Nikki Bush here.  

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