As I write this blog, I sit in my home office. We are celebrating my daughter’s first birthday today. Just me, my wife, and baby. No family visiting, no party to plan… just us, with extra cuddles and kisses in the morning and incoming grandparent FaceTime calls coming in left and right. Close friends just drove by with happy birthday signs and a balloon. I keep stepping away to check on work email and what I need to accomplish for the day while in shorts, a T shirt, messy hair and sandals. As my wife goes into a conference call, I take over daddy duties. No daycare for baby, not for a few more weeks — so we make the best of it. This mix has slowly melted together into this weird feeling of not being able to commit fully to my family or to work at any given time; it’s become harder to balance work and life.
Help balance work and life with some tips from those who’ve been there
For example, I find myself checking my emails in the evening — or even typing up notes and touching up spreadsheets — when I should be focusing on family time. I admire those people that have experience working from home and are very effective at it. So I have asked some of my friends, some of which who have been WFH for some time themselves, for some ideas. Here are some of those ideas — which I plan on taking into practice to help balance work and life and that I hope can help you as well.
Set up your daily architecture
With just about EVERYONE staying home, it’s important to figure out what times and/or hours of the day you will be “in the office.” Check with your employer to see what your agreement is for “logging in” hours. Many employers may understand the need for non-traditional schedules with this pandemic. Keep in mind that everyone is improvising all over the place, and that’s where we can both shine and stumble. Setting up a home office you’ve never had before — and getting dressed in your business clothes just to stay at home for a Zoom call — can take a bit of getting used to. Try to keep regular communications open with a work associate or friend. Try to have regular times to touch base with your team or colleagues to keep you stay connected in the new virtual workplace.
Take advantage of Naptime
As new parents we use this tip the most, by far — at 9:30 AM and 1:30 PM! Once baby goes down for a nap, my wife and I both head to our corners of the house. We check emails, make phone calls and focus on anything that requires our complete attention. If the baby isn’t going to nap, it’s still quiet time. We place her in her crib with a couple of stuffed animals and books, bringing the baby monitor to our desk(s). Leveraging this “quiet time” has been essential for managing the new stay-at-home office.
Keep a written to do list
Something about keeping a handwritten list on a notepad and crossing each thing off as you go about your day is just so satisfying. It’s my belief that a digital document on your laptop, phone, or table isn’t quite the same in this case. Keeping a handwritten list of work tasks can help you balance work and life; You know what you need to do — it’s written right there — and once its crossed off you can scratch it out and move on to the next. Or, it makes it easier to separate yourself from work when you need to, and go back to spending time with your family.
Get help when you need it
Sometimes you just can’t. You know? We’ve had days were we are both looking at each other like: “what are we going to do??” and boom — Grandma to the rescue. Everyone will need some help for a couple hours or on a particular day to help you focus. This can be especially true for us parents who have to worry about our kids in the background! Simply put, close family can be a life saver in this new normal. If you have close family or friends that also work from home and have kids, offer to watch them for a couple hours if they need it. That could grow into something, and you may just have a new arrangement for helping each other through.
I hope these tips help you balance work and life in this crazy time. Stay safe, stay healthy and stay home!