The world is looking a lot different than it was last summer. Vaccines have arrived and countries are beginning to open back up. Despite the progress, many of us will be carrying on working at home. All summer. With young kids off school.
At Greenlit Marketing, we were working from home before it was cool (i.e. a public health necessity). We started as an entirely remote agency over two years ago, and are pros at managing the remote work life. Summers off with the kids are crazy enough when things are normal, so as parents and remote work experts, we wanted to share some tips and tricks to help you stay sane while balancing work and kids during another summer of working from home.
Set up your Space
As best as you can, try to make your office your office. It is a lot easier to work if your office is not also your bedroom, or your living room, or your kitchen table. If you have a spare room, a den, or a basement where you can set up and be out of the way of the family, it will be easier for them to stay out of your way. You will be more productive and it is a great way to separate work and home life: it’s easier to get out of office mode when you’re not working where you sleep, eat, or relax.
However, setting up a dedicated office can be tricky if you don’t have an underused room or basement in which to set up shop. If space in your home is at a premium, another option is to look for summer office space. Short-term rentals, “flex spaces,” and co-working offices are becoming increasingly popular. Although it is an extra expense, renting space can be done on a budget. Depending on what kind of office or desk arrangement you need, prices can range from $50-800 a month. If you have a partner also working from home, you could consider sharing an office space, each taking certain days out of the house.
Make a Schedule
It is easy to get distracted when you’re not in the office and there’s no set time for you to arrive and begin work. Add in the chaos of kids on summer vacation, and you might not get a lick of work done for two months. That’s why it is important to make and stick to a schedule during your work-from-home stint. Perhaps you’re able to take advantage of no commute and start your day before the rest of the family. The first hours of the day can be the most productive, so consider starting early, and making hay before the sun shines. If the kids are young, working in the evenings might be a better option for you to get in a few hours of quality, uninterrupted work after they are in bed.
It is equally important for the kids to have a schedule as well. If you have things that you can plan to have the kids out doing regularly, you can arrange your workdays around this. Without an agenda for the kids, you might as well throw your work schedule out the window.
Finding activities for them will be easier this summer as day camps and programs begin to open up again. For a budget-conscious option, check out community centers and churches in your area, as many of them will likely run kid’s programs for a few hours a day throughout the summer.
The Myth of Multitasking
Multitasking is not very effective, and there is a growing body of research to back that up. It turns out we are not as good at juggling multiple duties as we think we are. But as a parent, it can be hard not to be multitasking, so working out strategies to give you the time to focus only on work is key to your success, and your sanity.
Think about blocking off times in your days and your weeks to singularly focus on tasks. Even if you can only dive in for an hour, or even half an hour at a time, it’s amazing what you can get done. Try out a strategy like the Pomodoro technique: 25 minutes of uninterrupted work, followed by five or 10-minute breaks.
Set expectations with your children around work time as well. Kids respond to incentives better than anyone, so use the promise of summer treats to your advantage, and reward them when they cooperate, allowing you to get your work done. Is there really any motivator more effective than ice cream?
Reimagine Summer Vacations
Managing work and your kids full time this summer will already be stressful enough. Rather than a big, multi-week summer trip that will stress you out with logistics, packing, and expenses, 2021 might be a great time to rethink your summer vacations. Prioritize time away that recharges rather than exhausts you. With travel options still limited around the world, it is a great chance to prioritize shorter, but more frequent, vacations closer to home. Taking regular extra long weekends will help break up the summer, and you’ll still get quality family time without the headaches of planning a bigger trip away.
It is also possible to not even go anywhere at all on your vacations. If it’s an option, you and your partner can each take a few days off for day trips with the kids, giving the other some time for uninterrupted work throughout the summer.
It Won’t Be Perfect
It is important to remember that even if you plan your schedule, start work at dawn, and have a supportive partner, working from home and taking care of kids is going to be tough and frustrating. It’s not going to be perfect, and that’s okay. The pandemic has been an overwhelming experience for everyone, so remember you’re not alone in your frustrations. Your colleagues and friends probably feel the same way even if for different reasons. Look for ways to support each other, take it easy on yourself, and find ways to enjoy this summer with the kids.