Now that we most of us have been working from home for a few weeks, we are starting to see the impact it has to our daily routine. Not only to ours, but to those around us, like your children that are now trying to do all their schoolwork from home or your spouse trying to find normality in all of this. Even those that are close to you like your extended family or close friends are impacted by this change. Why is that? For some, it has been a large change, but for others, like me, working from home is a normal workday. So, I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences so far and have an open discussion on how to handle these disturbances.
For those that do not know much about me, I have been working from home full time (other than when I have work events) for over a year now. In the time that I have been working from home I have been able to remodel a house, buy a new house, move, and sell a house (the one I remodeled). Oh, and I have 5 kids. Yeah….5. Their ages are 9, 6, 4, and twin 2-year-olds, so needless to say, each day is an adventure in my house. My amazing wife is a full-time mom but also taking classes at Penn State University for Cyber Security!
So now that you know a bit more about me and how crazy my life is normally, let’s talk about all the changes that have affected everyone over the last few months. In case you missed it, I am talking about the shelter in place order that we were all given in order to slow down COVID-19. I won’t go into the politics of it nor the other impacts this epidemic is having on the rest of the world, let’s just focus on our work and home life. I am fortunate enough to work for an amazing company and poised for success while working through this difficult time. I wrote a blog previously about how to be successful while working from home so go check that out. However, it takes more than a dedicated space and some leveraging technology to be successful. You need to understand that the situation affects everyone around you and how you can adjust to that is just as important.
For many, just working from home on a regular basis has been a big change. Not going to an office or traveling to clients is something we all must figure out on how to adapt to our new work life. This means thinking about how to manage your time better or creating a routine to stay on top of work and not slip into hours of surfing YouTube videos! But what about being comfortable not having that social interaction? What about not having those 5-minute breaks to go and chat with a co-worker? These are important aspects of our routine that is difficult to replace when we are being told to not leave our house!
Another large change has been having kids home. All. The. Time! Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, and think the world of each one of them, but there is a reason I am not a 4th grade teacher! My wife and I do our best to help both of our kids that are in school with their work and making sure they are doing it. This alone is not difficult and not very time consuming but coupled with the typical day-to-day that is required with work, it becomes a bit stressful. You must juggle their work, keeping them on track and engaged, as well as your own work.
Also, I have 3 kids that are not in school yet, so we must make sure they are being entertained and engaged with as well. While my youngest ones would love nothing more than to watch Daniel Tiger all day, they need a bit more. This means coming up with activities for them to do while the other kids are doing their schoolwork. Before all of this, spending time with them was easy and happened naturally, but now we must actively make time for all of them whenever possible.
As I mentioned at the beginning, for me, I did not see this shelter in place order as much of a change for me as I already stay home. The one area I overlooked was how it affected those around me. My wife, for example, has her own routine while I do my work each day. Typical day is cleaning, meal prep, diaper changes, more cleaning, laundry…you get the point, it is a lot of stuff, but she had a routine. When the order was given in our state and the kids were no longer going to school, my wife had to add on to her already packed schedule, 4th grade and kindergarten home-schooling.
This caused a lot of stress for my wife and ultimately myself as we had to figure out how to manage all of it. Again, any one single part of this is easily manageable, but when you combine everything, shelter in place, kids now needing home schooled, it becomes the perfect storm.
Dealing With it All
It was not until the stress got so bad between my wife and I that I had to make a change and made me realize that we had a unique opportunity in front of us. The kids were home all the time and I was not traveling for work. This meant that I could spend much more time with my kids and help them with their schoolwork, play trains or superheroes with my younger kids, or just sit down and read a book. For my wife, this meant that I was available for more projects! However, I overlooked at for the first week or so because for me, it was business as usual, just working from home.
Since then, we put together a plan and it has been working out well so far. I now have a standing meeting with my oldest son every morning at 9am. This allows for him to show me everything that needs to be completed (see image) that day and ask for clarification if he is confused on any of it. I then transition into work calls and emails but force myself to take more breaks with my kids throughout the day. This helps my wife so she can get a break from dealing with kids all day but also myself to keep in mind that there are 6 other people in the house! I dedicate time in my day to do lunches with everyone so that I can get that human (even if it is with a 2-year-old) interaction. My wife does all the order pick-ups so that we are all not exposed to anything and I am OK with that. Being a gamer and working from home means I could stay indoors probably longer than most 🙂
I know this blog was not my usual content, but I wanted to share out my experiences thus far as it is important to keep things in perspective during these trying times. We are all a bit stressed out with all the changes and it helps to know that we are not the only ones going through it. For me, it is with my wife and kids, but for others it may be obnoxious roommates or even pets that are not handling this well. Whatever your situation is, just try to keep in mind what is important and take care of that. The rest of it is unknown at this stage.