When you have children or other caring responsibilities, juggling your existing day-to-day work and personal commitments presents an even greater set of challenges and that can make managing your work more complex than usual. Here are some advice and tips on how to best manage your work and your caring responsibilities during this difficult time.
Get into the groove
Take time to find your groove and establish a routine, making sure you include breaks in your day!
If you can, keep the regular routines you previously had: get up, have breakfast and get dressed at the same time, and get your kids to do the same as if they were going to day-care or school.
Schedule any key phone calls to make the most of nap time, your children’s lunch hour or time you’ve set aside for them to be on technology.
Make time for breaks. For every hour of focused work you complete, take a 10-minute break to share a healthy snack or do a quick yoga stretch session together with your children, or just have a chat. Incorporate some time outdoors if you can.
Give yourself time to establish and feel comfortable with the new rhythm, and experiment with new routines until you find one that fits you and your family.
It’s important to set realistic expectations. This includes realising that you may need to adjust them!
With work, be open with your team about juggling your caring responsibilities. For example, if you’re on a call, let them know that your children are there and that they may be heard in the background.
On the home front, be prepared to relax the rules, and maybe sometimes break them! For example, you may need to allow more “screen time”. Explain to your children that this is a special time and it won’t go on forever, even if they would like it to.
While ‘work’ and ‘home’ might now be in the same physical location, set boundaries between the two where you can. This can help your kids understand when you’re working, and when you’re wholly focused on them. This can involve demarcating a separate space for work, even if it something as simple as having a particular chair in your dining room for work, or creating specific “no devices” times to give yourself a break.
Get clear about the serious stuff
There will be times when you need to get down to serious business and helping your children understand when you’re on “do not disturb” can go a long way.
Create a symbol or signal with your children so they know when you absolutely have to focus on work and nothing else. For example, STOP and GO signs or a traffic light will help them understand when you’re available to them, and making them together is also an educational activity.
Have a conversation with children with your children, even if they’re very young. Explain that just like they sometimes need quiet time to work or do activities at school or childcare, grownups need quiet time too. In simple terms, explain what you’re trying to achieve in your quiet time, so they know it’s for a purpose.
Think creatively about how you can change up your work day. For example, can you do a couple of hours of work earlier in the morning before your children wake up, or put in a couple of hours after they go to bed? This might be a good time to schedule your focused work, to free up time during the day for your children. If you have another adult also working from home, maybe you can organise alternating shifts so that you can each have uninterrupted work time.
Be kind to yourself
This is a challenging and often difficult time, so every now and then it’s important to reset your mind and attitude.
All children and families are different: different ages, stages, backgrounds and abilities each have their own needs. Be comfortable and confident that your needs are unique to you and your family. By all means take the time to listen to how others are managing their time and support them if you can, but also remember that in your home it’s important to “do you”.
Cut yourself some slack. You may find that once you accept that your house will never be as tidy as in your imagination, you’ll feel less stressed! Remind yourself that this is only temporary, and this period will pass.
If you find yourself getting agitated or tense during the day, make sure your kids are safe and take five minutes to retreat to a quiet spot in your home – even if it’s the bathroom – and take some deep breaths. Or simply take five minutes to phone a friend, listen to a favourite song, check out your favourite website or simply look out the window.
Some fun things to keep your kids entertained at home
- Take a virtual tour of a museum or gallery, anywhere around the globe.
- Check out all the animals at the zoos from around the world with their animal live webcams.
- Explore the surface of Mars on the Curiosity Rover.
- Have fun learning about science and geography.
- Listen to audio books.
- Take online history classes – suitable for pre-teens through to adults!
- Get kids to research other countries and cultures, including looking up interesting historical photographs and documents, and share their findings with you.
- Let them try their hand at making their own animated videos.
- Keep them active with some P.E. time every day.
- Set them up with daily drawing lessons.
- Why not start them thinking and learning about future careers in design?
- Finally, there are a lot of great resources to help you talk to your children about the coronavirus, particularly if they’re curious, or feeling anxious or worried.
Live better at home with Medibank
At Medibank, we know that caring for yourself helps you to care for those around you. That’s why we’ve created Live Better at Home. We’re encouraging all Australians to join our Eat, Move and Feel activities that will help us all stay active, stay healthy and Live Better at Home. New activities will be released regularly to help you live better at home – so make sure to visit our hub or follow us on Facebook or Instagram for the latest activities.