As a parent, working from home is the best, except for the many times when it’s a goddamn nightmare. These competing situations exist in equal measure; the price of making your own pace, work environment, and slipper decisions is how you’re automatically on the hook whenever there’s a snow day. Or when someone wakes up at 4:30 a.m. chorking all over his Last Jedi bedspreads, hypothetically. It may not be equitable but it’s logical: Person in the house gets the short straw on sick days.
Now, with the threat of the coronavirus, many parents will find themselves working remotely. The good news is it’s certainly possible to work from home with the kids around, if you don’t mind smooshing your work and home life together like some mashed-up PBJ sandwich. If you think it sounds easy, it’s harder than you think. If you think it sounds hard, it’s also harder than you think. But it’s certainly possible. Here, then, are a few humble tips to help you work from home without losing your mind.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Stay-At-Home Parenting
Build a Wi-Fi-equipped subterranean shipping-container cavern in your backyard.
Holy shit, that sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
But Seriously: Try to Set Boundaries
The work-from-home people whom I know (and am) deploy all manner of strategies to get through their days, but those strategies all share a common thread: dedicated space. Designate place for work, then guard it jealously. If you can spin a spare room into an office with a lockable door, do it. If you can carve out a desk in the kitchen, do it. If you have to hide in a half-sized cubby in a back corner of the garage, it’s a little weird, and you should keep ant-killer on hand, but do it.
The key is to establish functional, dedicated real estate that your brain equates with “work time,” so you can lock into a work mindset. Otherwise, you’ll be pulled by not only the children in the other rooms, but the unfinished projects as well, and that will blur the work/home more than you already are.
Get Dressed. In Proper Clothes.
Fight the urge to stay in your pajamas. Getting dressed (head to toe) allows your mind to transition from sleepy relaxation mode to get-shit-done mode. If you stay in your PJs you may just be fighting a drowsy fog all day long.
Try to Make Your Workspace a Kid-Free Zone
This is to say, make sure your kids don’t have any claims on the space. A mighty order, naturally, but also easier than you might think. In keeping with the concept of a dedicated workspace, do your best to make sure the kids don’t claim your workspace for any variation of playing, that they know that this space is Dad’s “office”. This sounds more dickish than it is, especially in a house teeming with small children, but you’re doing it already: You already don’t let kids play in the garage, or near the oven, or in the fireplace. Set a rule early that your space is a Lego-free zone, and enjoy fewer boundary-related discussions later.
Break Up Time If You Have To
While you can easily buy yourself 90 minutes with The Emoji Movie, that’s 90 minutes you have to deal with the low, sick sensation in your stomach. The solution here is an only slightly impractical one: Break up the time into little pieces. Of course you’d be more productive if you worked in one shot, but this simply might not be possible. If that’s the case, have your ids watch a show for 30 minutes, then break for a game, then watch a show for 30 minutes, then break for lunch. Micromanaging your day in this manner will be frenetic, even obnoxious, but it’ll also feel better than flicking on four solid hours of Netflix. Which, hey, might be the only
Eat Lunch On Time
Working from home can sometimes cause hyper-focus. When you’re removed from the rhythms of the office you might forget you need to get up and eat. Set an alarm. Have lunch away from your laptop while looking out the window or something.
Make a Detailed To-Do List
And make it hyper specific. This helps you focus and keeps you from drifting between tabs on his browser. Stick to it.
Respond to Messages at a Set Time
There are a lot of ways to communicate with team members when working remotely. Email. Slack. Text. Set times to respond. If you respond to every Slack notification that appears, it’s like starting a conversation with every person that pauses at your desk. Check your messages once an hour or so. Popping over to the Slack window every time it pings can be a concentration killer.
Set Hard Log on and Log Off Parameters
When you work from home you don’t have a commute to buffer you from your work life. Because of that, it’s super easy for work to creep into the evening hours. Set temporal boundaries that work for you and shut your computer when your workday is done. Otherwise, your brain will melt like sweet, sweet ice cream.
Realize This One Horrible Fact: You’ve Been Mixing Up Work and Home Already
In addition to all the other things its ruined (politics, movie endings, the ability to form meaningful connections with your family), your phone has already done a bang-up job of murdering the former line between your work and home life. No one with WiFi clocks out at 5 p.m. So, think of it this way: in working from home, you’ve just leveled-up a little bit.
Give Yourself Breaks
On this work-from-home day, and many others, you will neither accomplish as much as you like, nor be the parent you wish. Much like rip currents, Chinese finger traps, and genetic hair loss, fighting this will only make it desperately worse, and the sprint will only wear you down and make you act like a dick at dinner. So, then, take some time off. A half hour to clear your head might seem like a lot but it’s saving you far more than that in space-out time. Besides, you’re not going to get all your stuff done today, and it’s not going to work as well as you want it to. But like other parenting compromises that briefly postpone something great, it still leaves room for pretty good.