by Stephanie Bickel
Tips for Managing Work and School
As we begin another school year, many parents are already feeling the stress of managing their own work and their children’s schooling demands. Parent guilt is at an all-time high. Speak by Design has been facilitating parent brainstorm sessions about what is needed to get through the unusual fall school arrangements.
Many schools are e-learning only.
Others are doing a hybrid approach.
And, the lucky few are starting out in-person with a looming risk that could change on a dime.
All of these come with juggling a new routine. There are more and more video
meetings on top of your own and varying days and times for those doing both in-person
and virtual learning. You may also be planning around drop-off and pick-up times. Does reading this give you a little PTSD from last spring?
Here are a few tips to help you and your family be successful at work and school this fall:
1. Take vacation days at the start of the school year
Every company we work with has said they are concerned that their people haven't taken their vacation in 2020. Companies are encouraging employees to take the time they have earned and the time they need. Start the school year strong by blocking off time to help settle into home routines.
Anxiety is already high because of the e-learning demands on us as parents. Stress will only increase if you do not feel like you have a handle on things from the beginning. Plan to take vacation days early. Help your children get organized and onboard to a new school year with confidence.
2. Block time to help your children have a strong start and close to the day
Lead the way! Help your children learn skills needed to tackle each day. Review the family calendar. Have everyone make their own list. Make sure each child knows when they need to be on a video call and what schoolwork needs to be completed. This time can also be used to share expectations – when you are free to help, when you need uninterrupted time, and when your workday will end.
We are seeing parents being explicit with their teams. "I told my team that I am shifting my hours to 11am-7pm to help my kids. They were very understanding, and I feel so much better."
A dual working couple divides and conquers the day. Mom handles the morning, and Dad handles the evening with the kids.
3. Block the lunch hour
If you are keeping your traditional hours, focus on lunch with the family. Give your partner/spouse a break here, too, if wanted. The lunch hour is a designated time to reconnect on how everyone’s day is going. Ask them, “What help do you need from me?”. This is also a time where you can separate from your desk to get re-energized for the afternoon. Go for a short walk. Make a nutritious meal. Play a quick game together. Do something that gives you and your family the best chance to end your day strong.
4. Invest in a white noise machine
Being able to focus is definitely more challenging when EVERYONE is home. It is easy to be distracted by another video meeting or an argument among your children. You may stop what you are doing to listen or solve their problem. Minimize and drown out these distractions with a white noise machine to keep your productivity high.
5. More explicit limits with college age kids
Some of us have the unexpected surprise of our college-aged kids returning home to finish the year remotely. They are used to setting their own schedule and living by their own rules on campus. Reestablish family house rules to maintain a sense of order. Put limits on Wi-Fi, limit noise levels, and establish curfews.
6. Set untouchable times
In many situations, family comes first. However, there are certain times where boundaries need to be set to protect your own work responsibilities. These are your untouchable times when you need silence for important meetings or independent problem solving. Be clear on which boundaries are absolutes and which ones can fluctuate.
Plan ahead, block time, and set expectations to help you and your children take on each day with confidence.
Help yourself by helping others. And….as a family, you will “Win the day”!
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