Making home working work as the schools close 

The Culture Builders team is supporting a growing number of organisations on creating and sustaining effective remote working cultures as millions of us are adjusting to what it means when all colleagues, stakeholders and clients are working away from the workplace. 

Our support includes webinars, practical toolkits, strategy sessions, manager development, coaching and more – covering modules including keeping teams connected, communicating in a virtual world, managing distractions, habits for successful remote working and managing emotions and uncertainty in a remote landscape.

With all UK employers now asking people who can to work from home and all schools and nurseries now closed for the majority of children – life is about to get tricky for working parents.  

As we go into next week many of us will be making plans around how to best organise our days to allow us to look after our children, potentially supervise home schooling, whilst also working ourselves. 

Even for those who don’t have children, it’s another significant shift because they’re going to be working with people who do, so having the right level of empathy and working out a pattern that’s going to work for everyone is going to be critical.  

Here’s some top tips that might help as we carve out a plan of attack for the new normal next week.  

Talk early and talk openly  

If you’ve got children begin open, honest conversations with colleagues now on what this is going to mean for you. If you don’t have children but work with people who do, talk with those individuals soon. We’ve all got to work together on making the new reality work. 

Virtual connection points

Involve everyone in the team to talk about the possible times of day when everyone could be available e.g. to have a team call. This  might only be for half an hour or you might have to run an A and B shift to stay connected.

Work in shifts

If you have a partner and they are working from home also, taking shifts is a no-brainer. Becoming an early riser is also an option if your kids sleep well, as is bringing in an evening shift if they wake with the lark. 

Chunk it down 

Don’t try and do everything – if you’re able to, have parts of your day where you’re absolutely focused on work, parts where perhaps you’re semi focused whilst supervising home schooling and parts where you totally disconnect and just be with the children. 

Create boundaries 

If you’re able to because there’s two of you on the job at home, create boundaries to help you focus when working. If there’s just one of you and your kids are older, talk openly and agree on those boundaries. Try noise-blocking headphones and a ‘do not disturb sign’.

Don’t plan too far ahead 

Make individual and team plans by the day or week (at most). COVID-19 and children are both highly unpredictable so plan too far ahead and you’ll set yourself up for failure. 

Be fully present in your current activity 

That means that if you’re having a stint with the family, do that 100 per cent. When you’re working, give that your total focus (using boundaries above). You’ll feel much better for it (and get more done).

Power work for productivity 

According to a study of 185 million workers, the average person is productive for two hours and 48 minutes each day****. Schedule your day well and you can actually increase your output while you’re home with the kids by carving out two sets of time for deep work.

A flexible to do list 

Sit down and look at what needs to get done each week, rather than each day. Break them down into quick tasks that don’t involve a lot of brainpower and longer ones that demand deeper thinking. It shortcuts deciding what’s possible to achieve depending on the window you have.

Work with your body

If you work best in the morning, try and work then, accepting that in the afternoon you may not get to work as much but you’ve made hay at your most productive time. 

Be kind to yourself (and your children!)

Working with children in the house is not going to be perfect (or even close). They’ll be interruptions, spillages (and worse) and hours will get away from you. Be kind to yourself and celebrate the small wins (and stuff you got done) each day.

Embrace a different lens

The current COVID-19 situation will mean that we’re looking through a new window into each other’s homes, families and wider lives. Embrace that and use it as an opportunity to connect on a more human level – if your kids burst into a video call, let them say hi!

Be realistic and honest 

We’re all in this crisis together so there’s no need to hide your practical limitations and challenges – leaders being open and honest about their own working patterns (and limitations) can really set the tone for this. 

Be human  

‘Words create worlds’ and at times like this how we make people feel is everything. Remember the human beings behind the laptops, the challenges they might be facing and help each other out as much as you can. 

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