It's fair to assume that 2020 was a year of unpredictability and stress because of COVID-19. Back to school plans do not look any more exciting. Working from home has become a new standard for many, and it can be difficult for someone to adapt to this lifestyle. Put toddlers or school-aged children into a mix, and the ability to remain concentrated and complete administrative tasks can feel difficult.
If you're talking about sending your child back to school like a lot of Canadians, one thing to remember is how to make remote work more feasible while you have a child at home. While routine is a natural part of our daily lives, there are other concerns as you prepare your home for the school plan.
#1. Attempt to create a schedule
While it is often helpful to be flexible with your daily schedule, it can be counter-productive when it comes to working from home. For Elyssa Kirkham, creator of Brave Saver's finance blog, and her husband, the difference was a staggered schedule. She and her husband move between working and being the primary caregiver for their two children (4 and 7).
Kirkham says that this scheduling style gave each partner a significant amount of focused work time, with a few "flex" hours in the middle of the day during lunch breaks or more parenting-friendly work – such as answering emails or sending invoices. At the top of their staggered regular schedule, each partner will have a dedicated day to use the home office, lock the door and work on tasks as required.
If your boss isn't as flexible with your hours of work, it's always a good idea to brainstorm a few other choices. It could mean that you need to reduce your hours or split your staggered schedule to allow for mid-day meetings. In any case, aim to keep any request as collaborative as possible. It is more likely that your boss would understand if you are informed and have well-considered resolutions to review.
#2. Create expectations and boundaries
Unlike traditional school plans, working from home with a partner and children can completely change the direction of any original limitations you've had — especially if you don't have a dedicated office room. Now is a perfect time to have a family meeting to discuss the new schedule and the aspirations of each family member.
For example, how are you going to build a quiet environment during a meeting or business call? It's better to over-communicate your job schedule in advance, if possible. Otherwise, have a contingency plan in place for last-minute video calls that could pop up midday.
These same standards and boundaries must also be defined with the employer and employees. In an interview with CPA Canada, Rhonda Scharf, President of Ottawa-based On the Right Track, said, "People need to be flexible about what blurred boundaries look like because we have [other] things to do," Scharf said. "I suggest people say, 'Here's what I can do, and is that all right?
In the same interview, Scharf also advises that people note that these changes are temporary. "You don't give permission to abuse the limits later. But [you realise] right now, it's the right thing to do, not only for your boss but for your business and all the employees [there].
#3. Dedicate a day or night to get ready for the week ahead
Much as you prepare for school plans by planning meals and events for the coming week, remote work involves the same organisational skills. It's all right to have lunch the night before and do all the homework and assignments you need. Remember to stick to what's working for your family.
It's a regular discussion for Kirkham and her husband that helps set the tone for 24 hours. The couple frequently spends time reviewing the next week before it starts. "That conversation gives us a chance to catch up on any schedule or workload conflict," says Kirkham. From there, they can find out a way to manage their schedule in a way that works for everybody.
#4. Give yourself a break and ask for help
When you concentrate on work and your children, it's not easy to find time for ourselves and the separation between the two. Often you can feel like you have to work late at night or early in the morning to make up for the missed time between handling this new back to the school schedule.
It's important to have a break and time to recharge. Whether it's time alone with your partner or time spent doing work, diary, or reading, it's important to find a balance between your new work-life. "In times of stress, I tend to fall into the mode of perfectionism and try to fix everything at once," Kirkham says. "But what has helped us to be more willing to accept how messy our reality is right now and to know when to let go."
Being a parent who works from home and now coping with the addition of a number of Canadians to the 2020 school plan can be daunting. But the best thing you can do to keep up-to-date is to stick to a routine that works for you, to overcommunicate with your family and boss, and to be open to anyone who offers support. If you have the support of an extended family or anyone in your cohort, you should not feel bad for embracing the aid.