Working from home with kids presents all kinds of challenges--time management, interpersonal conflicts, frequent distractions, and boundary issues, to name a few. But the situations you contend with and overcome at home create opportunities to learn and develop management skills that can be applied at work, too.
Having started my business 20 years ago while raising two daughters, I understand that it's a true balancing act to work from home with kids--I don't know anyone who has completely mastered it. However, I've learned quite a few lessons along the way, and I want to share a few of them here.
Reward Small Goals
Incentive, motivation, bribery--call it what you will, but to get results from kids, you often have to dangle a carrot in front of them. As adults and professionals, we're not all that different. Rewarding yourself for accomplishing small goals is effective, especially as our expectations for immediate gratification grow with time. Goal-setting theory is based on the premise that conscious goals affect action.
The theory states that when there are specific and challenging goals, matched with appropriate feedback (a.k.a rewards), the better the results will be. The essential component of this goal and reward matching is to be sure the reward is in line with the work being accomplished. The key is that the reward shouldn't undermine the accomplishment. For instance, achieving a fitness goal shouldn't be rewarded by eating an entire apple pie.
Set and Stick to a Schedule
Upon learning their school-age children would be home as a result of shelter-in-place orders during the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the first things many parents did was create daily schedules to help everyone stick to a routine. In many cases, I'm sure this was done as much for parents as it was for children, if not more so.
As creatures of habit, following a schedule gives us guidelines that keep us on track. Use is at a blueprint that reminds you to focus on the right things so you can best utilize your time. Prepare a checklist so you know what you must achieve each day. Then, prioritize those tasks, estimate as closely as you can the amount of time each task will take, and add them into your calendar, accordingly. Alarm clocks, timers, and other notifications can go a long way in helping you stay on task.
Depending on what kind of motivation you respond to, you might consider writing a list of all the consequences that could surface if you procrastinate. Just like writing out a to-do list helps you visualize what you need to accomplish, seeing a list of nightmarish scenarios might give you the reality check you need to get moving.
Show Employees Empathy
Being cooped up in the house all day can drive everyone a little crazy, but for kids, navigating the feelings that come with these restrictions can be challenging, to say the least. Hopefully, your employees are well-equipped to manage their emotions, but everyone needs a little slack sometimes. Just as kids might need some time to run around or explore something new, employees balancing the demands of work and life might need some time or support to address their own needs. A little compassion can go a long way.
One of the byproducts of telecommunication has been over-communication. This has been especially true for people with children, who've often had to offer heightened transparency into scheduling and environmental challenges. The result of this has been a more empathetic workforce, and that's something worth holding onto as society transitions to the new normal. Communicating often and openly keeps everyone in the loop, which helps set and manage expectations.
Make Time for Yourself
As a parent and as a manager, much of your time is dedicated to the people and things that surround you. This can lead to feelings of frustration, stress, and even resentment. Figure out what helps you wind down or reset--reading, yoga, watching a show, going for a run--and build it into your schedule the way you would any other task. Setting a specific time for this can help create an expectation for yourself and those around you, which will encourage consistency. Carving out this time for yourself will allow you to come back to the table fulfilled, rejuvenated and ready to hit the ground running.
Working from home with kids certainly has its ups and downs, but you can uncover learning opportunities in seemingly routine interactions. Many of these opportunities translate to management skills, so extract those nuggets of wisdom, and as a leader, you'll be better for it.