How I hope to manage both during the coronavirus outbreak
Like many (most?) people I know, I am now working from home. For me this is no great change as it is something I have been doing for over a year now. I am well versed in the benefits and pit-falls of it. What I am not used to is having a house full of people also at home, 24×7. This includes an active 7-year old who we now need to home-school as well as a day-shy 18-year old. This will make home-working a challenge, one which I have tried to plan ahead for. This is how I intend to cope with the coming weeks and months and remain mildly productive, keeping my youngest entertained and educated and all whilst retaining my sanity.
Obviously the challenges ahead are relative to myself. I am not working in the NHS. That said, many of you may be faced with a similar set of circumstances, maybe even with the addition of having to work at home for the first time. Here are my thoughts on how to cope.
We have been given a weighty pack of home-teaching information and lessons. Within 5 minutes my son had enthusiastically been through it and re-shuffled it all into a meaningless order. I thus knew one of my first tasks was to keep it organised and I had the perfect solution. A very nice folder from Papelote has been sat in my cupboard unused, waiting for the right occasion. It has dividers to organise the paperwork, it has a pack of paper to work on, and it even has one of their pen straps around the cover so that we have a ready supply of pens and pencils. Tip #1 – if you have to have paperwork then make sure it is organised.
Click here to see the Papelote folder (they do offer UK shipping but it isn’t cheap)
You can get some nice (and affordable) home filing at Muji – click here to see more
Paperwork and the virtual office
On the subject of paperwork, we set out to be a virtual business. So no paperwork. It is amazing and so liberating. Things are not so easy when home-schooling so I am having to adapt to this paper-based world again, as above. But there is so much you can do to move work online and it all helps. A few weeks ago it meant I could work in a café and still have everything to hand. Those days have gone for a while, but one day they will return and a virtual office is a flexible one. Tip #2 – to keep everything online where possible.
One of the great things about school is that it is a highly structured system of what happens when. If I am honest I have not hit the same organisational heights with my home working. Working at home can be a bit chaotic – there is no line to draw between work and home. Suddenly the daily commute has a role to play when you don’t get one. So when the highly organised world of school meets my slightly rambling home working practices, something has to change.
I have already drawn up a timetable – I hope it will help maintain something of the structure for my son, and will allow me some time to get work done. So we will do spelling tests on a Tuesday morning, have PE on a Wednesday and so on. Who knows, maybe I will be more productive as a result. And fitter! Tip #3 – to rigidly structure home working and home schooling with a timetable for all.
Click here for my template – it’s hardly rocket science but it saves you making your own
Talking of exercise…it is well documented that with us all facing increasing periods of isolation and lockdown in our homes we will need to do more to address the lack of exercise. This has always been an issue for home workers, and will be even more so now. Follow all obvious guidelines, not just what has been banned, and avoid all social or busy situations. But for now that shouldn’t mean avoiding brief walks to keep you active, maybe even a walk around the block before switching to a home-lesson to make the switch clear. We’ve also included PE in our home schooling timetable. Tip #5 – making sure we keep physically active. Somehow.
A crucial part of working from home is having somewhere you feel comfortable you can work in. I have learnt this the hard way over the past year, and have perfected the art of a compact office that can be easily packed away. With a young (and messy) child that will need home schooling this is even more of an issue. My plan is to find somewhere we can work that can be converted to a makeshift classroom for a short lesson, and converted back. Somewhere without distraction. A place you go to, maybe in another room. In another life I might have suggested going out somewhere to work like a library or café, but not now! So get creative with using your home space as best you can. Tip #4 – make the most of your available space to create an office and classroom.
This might be the greatest issue of all! For some reason when working at home the kitchen just becomes your best friend. I might still eat the main meals of the day, but in between I find it way too easy to graze. Throw in several other people all facing increasing amounts of boredom and frustration and this could be an expensive and waist-expanding time. Is there a solution? Short of having no food in the house (which may yet happen if the supermarket shelves are anything to go by) it will just require a lot of self-control. Fruit not biscuits. Nuts not Nutella. I don’t have the answers but I will try. Tip #6 – control the grazing. Somehow.
Does anyone have any ideas they would like to share? Tips for managing to balance work and school at home? Please do share any comments you have below.