Top 5 tips for staying productive in the family unit

By David Farrant, - AdviceProductivity

Remote working is part of my regular working week at Fujitsu, so the transition to working from home throughout lockdown wasn’t too disruptive for me.

The real challenge was balancing work and the need to home school my three children, aged 3, 8, and 10.

My days have been spent organizing calls around lessons and vice versa. And with my wife Liz working as a midwife in the NHS, our days have been spent passing the baton of childcare to one another.

Needless to say, it’s not been possible to shoehorn my usual office schedule into a standard working week. And this means I’m often spending evenings and weekends trying to fit more work in.

But I understand we’re not the only family in this position. Many are struggling to condense being a parent, teacher and professional into one day.

I definitely don’t have all the answers. But I’ve discovered a few helpful practices along the way that might help you home-school while managing your workload.

1. Don’t stick to the curriculum

When the idea of home-schooling first came about, I had visions of staying up late trying to plan lessons that would fit with each child’s curriculum.

However, it’s impossible to blend a full day of home-school with a full day of work. Children also lose interest and on some days my boys haven’t been in the right mindset to learn.

It can feel like you’re a failure if you’re not providing the same level of education as a school would. But relax – it was a teacher that actually reminded me that we’re not all trained instructors. And what we’re doing isn’t home-schooling – it’s crisis-schooling.

Get inventive with your lessons, and perhaps leave the afternoon for something more creative. For example, we’ve gone on nature walks and spotted plants and animals. We’ve also spent time learning about fuse boards and plumbing as part of my attempts to teach the kids more practical skills.

The bottom-line is try your best, do what works, and don’t beat yourself up about not following every key-stage.

2. Find support online

Social media and the internet have proven to be a treasure trove of useful learning activities. Of course, there are popular resources such as Joe Wicks’ P.E lessons, but there are more unusual ones such as a virtual Harry Potter escape room – perfect for getting away from all the spreadsheets for a few minutes!

Talk to colleagues who are also home-schooling and share resources. Fujitsu’s community on Yammer has been particularly supportive, with many posts about educational resources, keeping safe, mental well-being, and even small virtual events to keep our spirits up.

3. Categorize your workload

Fitting time in to do work does require some level of planning. Many parents at Fujitsu have opted to day-drift, which essentially means working different hours as and when suits childcare responsibilities.

Luckily for me, my management have been supportive of this. But of course, there’s still times where I need to be doing work while my children aren’t preoccupied.

Taking some time the night before or at the start of your day to categorize your tasks. What can be done with distractions in the background? What requires focus and a quiet environment? This way you can better prioritize what needs to be done and when.

4. Rewards work well during conference meetings

Conference calls aren’t something you want to be interrupted in. Trying to schedule your calls at times when you know you won’t be interrupted isn’t always an option, particularly for calls such as team meetings. While you may be able to task older children with activities that will give you some time to talk, this usually won’t work long with younger children, like my three year old.

I try to give the kids some downtime when I need to make calls. TV can help, but I also find giving the children some sort of incentive helps them focus when needed, but also to give you some space when needed. I recently bought some small party-bag toys so that the kids are rewarded when they do good work, and then they play with those toys when I need some space for work.

5. Use your children as a soundboard

One unforeseen benefit of home-schooling my children is that I’m able to see just how they think and what they’re capable of. Watching them grow and seeing them tackle difficult problems is really rewarding.

Strangely, I’ve found children can also be quite helpful with dilemmas that you may need some clarity in solving. Of course, they won’t understand the technical details, but they can provide common sense, and at the very least – be a soundboard.

Ultimately, Covid-19 is a completely new experience for all of us. It’s tough and everyone is questioning if they’re home-schooling and getting the work/life balance right. But remember there’s no correct answer. Do what works best for you, and leave the productivity guilt behind. And just know this: you’re not alone.

Visit our new ways of working page to learn how we can support your new workplace needs.

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