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Managing virtual school in addition to being a working parent feels overwhelming on the best days and insurmountable on the worst days. But what if merging the two can strengthen your family and provide other benefits, too?

Many parents find themselves in a position they didn’t actually apply for and never anticipated. Now they are struggling to figure out how they’ll handle all the job requirements. It’s a new position morphing parenting, teaching and employee all into one. Talk about a varied job description that for sure includes all other duties as assigned!

Believe it or not, you can not only make this work, but you also have the opportunity to strengthen your family in the process. And, part of what will help you is putting your work skills to good use at home. 

Ditching the guilt and giving family members permission to make mistakes can be empowering to everyone.

As you begin this process, it will be important to let go of any guilt you may feel as you navigate all you have to do. It’s not your friend and won’t help you accomplish anything at all. These are uncharted waters. You’re giving it your best shot. It’s highly likely you’ll need to make adjustments as you get further down the road. This will decrease your anxiety and stress level, which will likely help you have more patience and strengthen your relationship with each other. 

Putting together a schedule decreases chaos, increases communication and fosters cooperation among family members.

Families do better when they have a general idea of what’s coming next. In this age of total uncertainty outside our homes, you can create some certainty in your home by setting a schedule based on your work requirements, your spouse’s work requirements (if you’re married) and your child’s school schedule. Knowing what is coming next and what to expect can help reduce drama and tension in your family. It doesn’t have to be the exact same schedule every day, but there does need to be some consistency because children thrive on that. Write your weekly schedule on poster board and put it where everybody can see it. Take time at the beginning of each week to go over the schedule. It might also help to review it each day over breakfast so everybody remembers the plan for the day and can speak into changes that need to take place. 

If your children are younger, color code the schedule and talk about what the colors mean. Maybe Red means don’t interrupt mom/dad unless it’s an emergency. Orange could mean exercise for everybody. Green may mean you will be with them to help with whatever. You may want to give older kids a notepad to write down questions that come up when you aren’t available. This will help them remember what they needed help with and allow them to keep going or work on something else until you are free.

By doing this, you’re helping your child build confidence, learn self-discipline, and figure out how to work independently. You’re also providing security by making sure they have what they need, setting boundaries and being available.

Controlling your mindset when things aren’t going the way you expect them to teaches your children resilience and that together, families can do hard things.

Your children will follow your lead. If you’re looking at these days as an adventure and an opportunity to work together as a family to figure it out, just the process of working together and being positive about it will help strengthen your family bond. It isn’t that you don’t have concerns or don’t grasp the significance of all that’s happening, it’s that you manage the concerns together and don’t let them take up residence in your head.

Putting your support system to work teaches children it is okay to ask for help.

Even in the midst of COVID-19, it’s possible and quite frankly necessary to deploy your support system. This is one of the most powerful ways you can strengthen your family in the midst of virtual school and work. Knowing that family members and friends are there for each other and that others are willing to help share the load gives you time to catch your breath, sit in silence or do whatever you need to do to refresh and replenish your energy. When our kids see us taking care of ourselves, they experience us being less irritable and tense. We’re also better able to handle whatever comes our way. Families function better when they don’t feel like they have to walk around on egg shells for fear someone might explode. There is a peace and calm that brings security to the relationship. 

If you don’t currently have a support system, work to put one together. Some parents are dividing up responsibilities at home and working with other families who are in the same situation to make things work. If that’s completely out of the question, try to include times in your new schedule where everybody does a chore or goes to their room/favorite nook in your house for quiet time to read, nap or play quietly.

Celebrating the little things acknowledges what you can do when you work together as a team.

In the midst of all we are dealing with, getting through a single day is reason to celebrate. Turn on your favorite music and dance or create a family cheer that you do to signal the end of your work and school day and transition into the evening. In addition to celebrating as a family, find ways to celebrate as a couple and individually. You might be surprised at how energizing it is to acknowledge what is going right versus focusing on failures and missed opportunities.

If you’ve ever been through anything hard before, individually or as a couple, you know in the midst of it, it feels daunting and exhausting. You work together to come up with a plan. You continue to put one foot in front of the other while holding on tightly to ensure nobody gets left behind. Before you realize it, months will have gone by and you won’t be hanging on for dear life, but there will be a certain resolve and strength about you. The very thing you believed might do you in made you stronger and brought out the best in you.

With all of the negatives associated with COVID-19, there are some potential positives, too. One for sure could be that virtual school and working from home made your family stronger.

In a time of remote work, remote school, and social distancing, how you communicate with your co-workers is extremely important. Hard conversations with co-workers can cause a certain level of uneasiness. It can often be difficult to know how and when to approach a certain topic or situation. Thanks to COVID-19, stress levels for many working remotely (I’m in that boat), parents uncertain about school (Hey, that’s my boat, too!), and those who have continued to report to work amid a pandemic (that’s my wife’s boat) have been elevated. Some of these “boats” often seem like “sinking ships,” and a lack of or unclear communication can be the iceberg that takes the ship down. 

So how do we approach these tough conversations when we are not all present in the same place? 

First and foremost, we need to identify the issues that we are having

  • Do you feel like someone has unrealistic expectations of you? 
  • Do you have unrealistic expectations of or resentment toward co-workers? 
  • Are you overworked or under-worked? 
  • Do you feel that your co-workers are not sensitive to your particular situation? 
  • Do you feel like others are not carrying the same workload as you? 

All of these can lead to unnecessary stress, and the solution for many of them is communication and clarity.

  1. Pick the right timeHow and when we communicate can be just as important as what we communicate. We want to be cognizant of the setting of these hard conversations with co-workers. We may not have the ability to be face-to-face so we need to take extra precautions to ensure we are able to talk whether over the phone or via video. Choose a time that is convenient for all involved parties and sensitive to everyone’s schedules. Make sure you are not stressed, tired, or hungry. ☆ Also, remove distractions as much as possible. (Silence your phone and set it aside. Turn off notifications on your computer or tablet.)
  2. Ask questions and listen. There could be a simple misunderstanding or lack of feeling heard. Listen to your co-workers and ask questions. Be sure you are expressing your perspective clearly and without assumptions. Lack of clarity can lead to many misunderstandings within the workplace, and this time of working remotely can greatly affect clarity. In the words of Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
  3. Be intentional with your conversation. Identify what the issue is and stay on topic. It’s easy to get sidetracked, but the focus must be on addressing the root of the conflict and resolving it.
  4. Don’t assume. As stated earlier, ask clarifying questions. (I am not a mind reader, and I am sure you are not either.)
  5. Choose your words wisely. Express what you are feeling, but avoid doing so harshly. Think through what you want to say. (Something I had to learn was to pause, breathe, and think before I respond or say something that could be harsh.)
  6. Don’t forget the positive. Even difficult conversations have room to share the positive. Praising the work or contribution of team members may be more important now than ever.
  7. Seek a resolution. Work together to resolve the root of the problem or conflict. Come up with a solution collectively. Compromise may be needed, but you will be stronger as a team if you can resolve the issue, learn from the situation, and move forward together.

I have heard it said that we are not all in the same boat but we are all in the same ocean. We each have different circumstances and stresses that affect our relationships. Don’t let your relationships suffer because of misunderstandings, unspoken expectations, and unresolved issues. You have the ability to navigate difficult conversations with co-workers and come out stronger. Difficult times often produce immense growth.

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I’m with you on this, but approaching your boss about continuing to work from home can be a tricky conversation to navigate! Let’s put our heads together and see if we can come up with a way to pitch our idea to the boss!

Many people are probably excited about the prospect of getting back to the office. Maybe they have little ones at home that make it hard to get work done during the quarantine. Maybe being put into the teacher-parent-employee role has been a struggle. Some people just like the office and the camaraderie or the hard distinction between work and home. COVID-19 and quarantine have been extra hard for them.

Then there are people like us. We’ve got our routines down. Our “maximum productivity zones” don’t necessarily match up with a 9-5 schedule. We’ve seen the benefits of integrating work life and family life, being able to take a walk around the block to think through a work assignment, and still be around the house and available to connect with family, too. We’re comfortable working with the team and having meetings via Zoom or the phone. And let’s be real—we are probably working more than eight hours a day and/or definitely getting more than eight hours of work done. Continuing to work from home seems like a Win/Win for everybody!

How To Have This Conversation With Your Boss

  • Remember that your boss is the boss. Have a humble demeanor. See my blog post here.
  • After seeing working remotely in action, your boss might be more open to you working from home, but there are times the boss might want the team to be in the same room. Acknowledge that and show that you are flexible.
  • Emphasize the specific ways that working from home has helped you be more productive, focused and creative, BUT…
  • Don’t be afraid to express how this has also benefited your family and your overall health and happiness. (Your boss knows that family problems and things like stress, anxiety and depression affect your work performance.)
  • Try suggesting a “trial period” so your boss can gauge how it is working out.
  • Understand and be prepared for the possibility that the answer might be, “No.”

How To Prepare For The Transition Back To The Office

  • Don’t wait to start mentally preparing and thinking through the practical things that will be affected by this transition. It was a significant shift to working from home and it will be a significant shift back to the office. 
  • If you were doing a lot of your work late at night or early in the morning, consider shifting your work routine now. Get your mind and body ready for 9 to 5.
  • Think through how this transition will affect your family. Have a family meeting to talk through how family schedules and routines will change. Your kids have also adapted to you being home during the day. They will need time and help to adjust. 
  • Be creative and intentional to find new ways to keep the things going that have helped your family grow stronger and be more connected. 9 to 5 doesn’t have to make your family less connected.

Best of luck to you, fellow worker who prefers to work from home!

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Feel like you’re on the verge of going crazy? Have you eaten all your COVID-19 snacks? Do you stare out the window longingly looking at the cars driving by? If so, you might be working from home by yourself!

A little backstory here… My husband and I have only been married one year, but I’ve already gotten used to having him around, like, all the time. Last week, however, he had to go into work while I worked from home. And let me tell you… It was rough. I had SUCH a hard time finding the motivation to get things done and stay focused.

If you’re like me and are working from home all by your lonesome (whether you’re married, have roommates, or live by yourself), here are some tips you can use to keep from going absolutely nuts!

Where You’re Working Matters.

Whatever you do, DO NOT work from your bed or your couch, no matter how tempting it is! If you have a desk, use it. If not, work from your kitchen table! Sitting up in a chair and using a tabletop will help you stay focused and prevent you from sneaking that Netflix tab open. (PRO TIP: Try to find a spot that has natural light and isn’t in your main living area. This will keep your body’s natural rhythms in check while also keeping the temptation of the laundry, dishes, or other distractions at bay.)

Stick to your norm.

Obviously, this can’t be done in every way. But, with what you can control, do your best to stick with what you normally would! Do you shower every morning? Do that before you start working! Pack your lunch the night before? Make that a priority (and see more on that in the next tip!). Go on a walk during your lunch break? Keep that up, even if the location has changed!

Give Your Body Nutrition (But Don’t Overload).

Okay, I have to be honest here. Last week, it was a struggle when it came to snacking and meals. Since I had easy access to the yogurt, chips & dip, and cinnamon rolls my husband made, it was nearly impossible for me not to snack on it all constantly. Every time my mind wandered, it landed on snacks. And by the end of day three, I was feeling the consequences of it. By the end of the week, I learned some tricks:

  • Pack your lunch the night before. I usually pack my lunch every day for work, so why not do it when working from home? This way, it’s easier to limit my snacking only to what’s in the bag for the day.
  • Stick to your normal routine. If you usually have breakfast at 7, a snack at 10, lunch at 1, and a snack at 3, (or is it just me?) stick to that! Your body will react if you change schedules, so sticking to your norm will help your mind stay focused.
  • Give yourself smaller portions more often. This is something I live by most of the time, but it is especially helpful when working from home! When you’re able to have more (but smaller) snacks throughout the day, it easily provides variety to your day.

Get. Moving… A lot.

Whether you’re a regular gym-goer or not, your body needs to get some movement in! I won’t lie, I did not follow this tip at all in the first couple of days. (Was anyone else in a total daze the first few days of last week??) But the more I prioritized getting moving, the more I realized its impact! The key here is finding what works best for you.  Are you a morning person? Look up some at home no-equipment workouts to do before the sun’s up! Hate working out in general? Go for walks around your neighborhood!  Some people work best on a timer (30 minutes of work = 5-minute break/movement session), but I just can’t get into it. I don’t like leaving anything unfinished, so instead I work by task. Once I’ve crossed something off, I do one round of a quick HIIT workout by my favorite trainers. Find what works best for you and stick with it! 

Make a schedule.

The above two tips play into this, but creating a schedule for yourself is the biggest key to staying motivated. Motivation comes from completing tasks, so the more things you cross off your list, the more motivated you’ll be to finish it! And when you create a step-by-step outline of your day, you can build in those 5-minute workouts or 10-minute breaks. Not only will this help you stay focused and motivated, but it is actually proven that you’ll get more done!

Get human interaction where you can.

While I am lucky enough to have another person who lives in my house (thank you, husband), I know that not everyone reading this is married or has roommates. If you live by yourself, this tip might be more difficult to put into practice, but it’s not impossible! Rally up a few friends to have a daily lunch video call together. Talk about your days. Take turns asking silly questions. Enjoy the interactions! If you do live with other people that are still going to work during the day, use your time in the mornings and evenings to stockpile your personal interactions! It’s so important now more than ever to put the phones down, turn the TV off, and just enjoy the friendships around you. Virtually, of course.

Although working from home has its perks, working alone can be really challenging. But don’t give up! There are so many great things you can do to keep your focus. Finding what works best for YOU is the most important one. Have patience in the process. Working through change always takes time, but we’ll all come out stronger in the end if we keep trying. I’ll be wishing you all the greatest music, the best snacks, and the most human interaction possible from my quiet, quiet home!

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