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Tips for working parents during Covid-19

20th May 2020
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We all have a version of the “new normal” we are adjusting to at the moment, and as the coronavirus situation changes daily, at times it’s not easy. With schools closed for the majority of students all over the world, many people are now also taking on the extra role of home-schooling their children, on top of everything else.

For those parents now working remotely, the days aren’t only filled with emails from colleagues and clients, but also from teachers with home-school assignments; coffee breaks are for playtime and PE lessons; and video calls have their fair share of kid cameos. Balancing work and being a good parent during a global pandemic isn’t easy, so here are five practical tips to keeping parenting human in this strange new reality:

1. Rebalance and prioritise

If nothing else, the Covid-19 pandemic has given us a chance to stop, reset and reflect on what really matters. Undoubtedly, our own health and that of our family and friends will be a top priority in these trying times. For parents at home trying to juggle childcare and work, don’t feel bad if you take longer than normal to reply to an email, as you have to get lunch sorted for the kids, or you need your day to be a bit more flexible so that you can help with homework.

When it comes to work and family, it’s not about giving one more priority than the other – rather, it’s about making a time and place for both. If you are struggling to fit it all in, it’s essential to do a bit of logistical planning. Whether it’s dividing responsibilities with a partner, or even the kids if they’re a bit older and more independent, organising tasks and roles will go a long way to ensuring neither work nor family gets short shrift. Of course, children – and work needs – are unpredictable, but if you can block out realistic times during the day for when you can step away from the home office, you can attend to family needs without worrying about what’s waiting for you back on the computer.

2. Talk, talk, talk

It’s also important to let your manager and colleagues know what your situation is at home. Whether via Slack, email, a phone call, or text, make sure you are overcommunicating with them so they know your availability throughout the day and when you just need to take some time away from the desk.

Parents are superheroes, but even superheroes need a break and a helping hand sometimes. Give yourself permission to skip or delay a task here and there, and don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues for support when you’re struggling. We’re all human, so don’t be embarrassed to ask for a little help now and again.

3. Don’t forget to exercise … and sleep! 

Whether going out for a run, a bike ride or a family walk in the evening, do your best to get outside, breathe fresh air, and exercise. Even if it’s pouring rain, wrap up warm and get out there with the kids in a pair of wellies. Alternatively, there are a myriad of free exercise classes online you can do inside, designed for both little ones and bigger ones. We all know the many reasons exercise is good for us, and if you have kids at home, getting them moving is a good way to keep them entertained … and wear them out!

Indeed, getting enough sleep is just as important as getting enough exercise. With our routines being disrupted and the added stress caused by worrying about the pandemic, sleep can be difficult to come by nowadays. Add in children’s sleep schedules going awry, and it’s definitely not easy. But we all need time to rest and relax, so don’t forget to give yourself some time to wind down at the end of the day, and try to develop a routine that makes it easier for you and whole family to get that much needed rest.

4. Say thanks

In these challenging times, it’s important to keep in mind the positives we see around us every day. For example, while it isn’t always plain sailing, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many parents and kids to spend a lot of time together. In many cases, families have never been so connected – checking in with parents and grandparents on video calls more frequently than they’ve ever done before.

Professionally too, colleagues are learning more about one another than they have in the past, and are having more opportunity, it seems, to share their recognition and thanks for the little things in life, like saying thanks to a colleague for helping out on a task when the childcare part of the day beckons.

5. Have fun celebrating life events

Even with life as we know it in limbo, people have still found the means and ways to keep celebrating life events with friends and family. From birthdays and graduations, to weddings and the 75th anniversary of VE Day, celebrations of every kind have been taking place across the world. For kids stuck at home, it can be tough for them not to see their friends on their birthday, but keep the ball rolling and get creative with how they can still have fun on their special day.

The same goes for work – recognise your colleague’s new puppy, their kid’s university graduation or their virtual pub quiz victory and take a moment to let your colleagues know you’re still paying attention to these memorable life moments. We’re all in this together, and we can get through it together – lean on each other, be grateful for one another, have a little fun and take a moment to smile.

Watch "Keeping Work Human," tips for working parents.

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