Working From Home – With Children! Daisy’s Top TipsTuesday 24 March 2020
Last week, CMI kicked off a new webinar series, Better Managers Briefings, with chief executive Ann Francke OBE and Daisy Hooper, head of policy at CMI; they spoke about effective flexible working techniques and the realities of working from home as a parent.
They went through some of the positives of their new colleagues. "I love that I'm able to spend more time with my children, and have enjoyed the challenge of finding interesting things for them to do and be entertained by," Daisy says. "We've also been getting more exercise in the garden - a necessity to keep the kids busy!"
Last week marked the last day of school for many parents across the UK, excluding key and frontline workers. For Daisy, this means that she and her partner are now working remotely while also looking after her two young children, who are three and five years old. As her role involves a lot of research, writing, and face-to-face stakeholder liaison, how will she adapt to this new situation?
“The main challenge for me, aside from childcare generally, is balancing being proactive and reactive in my role,” Daisy says. “Being reactive often means being available at short notice -- but with the kids around, I won’t always be available at short notice to deal with issues as they crop up. As we're now in lockdown, another speed bump is switching between my 'home' and 'work' brains."
Make a Plan
Clearly, time management is both a problem and a solution in this scenario; it will be a challenge to balance your time effectively, but there are helpful ways you can block out your days with designated hours for specific tasks. Daisy, for instance, created a schedule for herself and her kids to follow over the week, with space allocated for playtime, learning, and Daisy’s availability for working for CMI.
“I found it helpful to plan so we don’t get cabin fever,” she says, “and it helps me plan when I can or cannot be available for work so my colleagues know about that.”
Spend some time making a rough outline of how you want your day or week to look, and add this into your work calendar so your team and colleagues can clearly see when you’re contactable. Transparency and communication is key.
Daisy shared the timetable she follows after researching ways of structuring a child's day during Covid-19, below.
Daisy’s Top Tips
Don’t be too harsh on yourself. “I saw something on social media which said if you just keep them alive for the next few months, you’re doing well,” she laughs, “so just take each day as it comes, don’t worry too much if things go awry, and hope your colleagues will be sensitive to the fact [you have children to care for].”
Keep the kids entertained while you’re trying to work. BBC Bitesize is producing daily content while schools are closed, Josh Gad is reading bedtime stories to children via twitter, and Joe Wicks is streaming p.e. lessons into your home via YouTube.
Be empathetic and understanding. As we’re now working in the same four walls with family members, siblings, and children, we must all accept that work will play out differently to normal in the coming weeks and months, and empathy will become increasingly important.
Look on the bright side. “One of the things I’ve noticed is that I’m sleeping a bit better because I’m not worried about the rush in the morning to get the kids to school before I'm off to work,” says Daisy.
Don’t make parents the odd ones out. “For parents this is a very specific challenge, and it’s nice if companies can enable all of their staff to work flexibly and take chunks out of their day to volunteer or go to the shops so it doesn’t become ‘parents against non-parents’,” says Daisy.
Finally, it’s important to remember that alongside the people working with their kids, many will also be looking after their parents or relatives, or even in their family home with their siblings. Flexible working will enable these colleagues to be productive at a time that works around their home environments - for example, if they need to share a computer with someone at home, have medical appointments they need to attend with their relatives, or even need to help them with a food shop.
You can also sign up to this Friday's Better Managers Briefing here - it starts at 1.15pm (UK time).
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