The Kids Are Alright

Working from home kidsBy Vanessa Solesbee, CAPP

With many of us home full-time now with kids, dogs, spouses, and other loved ones all trying coexist in under one roof, I am seeing a lot of articles focused on getting our kids into routines/schedules/anything to keep them moving forward. But what we are doing for ourselves?

I worked from home for many years while consulting, and during that time, I moved three times, got married, and had two kiddos. I learned a lot during my time working from home and I hope that some of these lessons are helpful in easing the transition for you:

  1. Get ready for the day like you are leaving the house. This will be different for everyone; it could mean taking a shower, doing your hair, putting on makeup, or making your bed. This simple act of keeping your morning routine is a surprisingly easy and quick way to transition from weekend to workweek.
  2. Put on pants that are not stretchy at least twice a week. You may laugh but wearing sweats, yoga pants, or gym clothes every day eventually does something to one’s psyche. The act of getting dressed (in pants that button) also helps to keep those hourly trips to the fridge in check and makes you feel like you are in work/productivity mode.
  3. Go outside and move your body. Yes, I often hit “dismiss” on my watch when it tells me I’ve been sitting in place for too long but trust me, this one is so important. You don’t have to run every day or do a full Crossfit workout in your garage but do move your body and breathe some fresh air. Put this time on your calendar like everything else and start with one or two times a week.
  4. Communicate your schedule and set times for calls/video chats. Designate specific days of the week or times of day (e.g., mornings or afternoons) where you will be available for meetings. This technique can increase your ability to focus and is will be a good strategy to bring back to the office with you. If you have the ability to do so, communicate your availability weekly–including when you will be “in the office” and available to your supervisor, direct reports, and colleagues.
  5. Find an accountability partner. I have a secret to share—not everyone has to be good at working from home and there is not some magic bullet that will suddenly make you motivated to sit at your desk rather than watch Netflix all day. It is 100 percent okay to think that working from home is really hard and to not like it! However, there are some things you can do to make it less painful and finding an accountability partner is one of those things. You can use the same techniques that you use for other goals: write down what you need to do and what you’ve accomplished each day; check in with a colleague (or your spouse) every morning and chat quickly about what you want to accomplish that day and what you accomplished the day before; and set reasonable weekly goals for yourself.
  6. Make your own mental health a priority. Lastly and most importantly, your kids, spouse, pets, parents, friends, colleagues take their cues from you. We are all in an unprecedented situation and it is okay if you feel anxious, stressed, sad, scared, and/or angry. We are being asked to do something that is totally against our innate nature–isolate ourselves from each other and for those of us who live alone and/or in a (new) situation where our basic needs are in jeopardy because of job loss or financial insecurity, the isolation is compounding almost daily.

Give yourself a break and know that despite what it looks like on social media, most of us have raised our voices at our spouse in the last few weeks, our kids have eaten too much mac and cheese and spent too much time on their screens, perhaps virtual happy hour every night is probably not a good long-term strategy for regaining connection, and trust me, we have not all had the drive to Marie Kondo every junk drawer. So, if you find yourself constantly asking “are the kids going to be alright!?” make sure you are also asking yourself, “How are you doing, too?”

Vanessa Solesbee, CAPP, is president of The Solesbee Group.