COVID-19 Strategies: Working from Home with High School and College-Aged Kids
I’m confident that by now those of you working virtually have read many tips on how to successfully work from home. There is one area that deserves further discussion, which is how to share your workday with your kids (and vice versa). This is the first time that many people will work from home, not to mention work from home with kids in the house. It is important to recognize that this situation is highly unusual for them as well.
Therefore, for this discussion, I went right to the source: my high school and college-aged kids who are now being asked to learn under the same roof as their working parents. None of us know at this point how long this situation will last or what are the long-term implications. As a result, we must take it day by day and make the best of a highly unusual situation. Hopefully, these tips will make the adjustment easier for you as well.
1.) Show Empathy
This situation requires a new openness to others around us. Whether at home or if they are still in school, our kids are experiencing an extreme state of uncertainty as well. In the last couple of weeks, they’ve gone from a routine they’ve known their whole lives to unexpectedly not going to a physical class, not seeing their friends, not playing sports, and not knowing how they will be taught going forward (if at all). College kids who previously had their freedom and were enjoying the college experience unexpectedly find themselves back at home learning from a screen.
This demands some extreme understanding and communication. Have an open dialogue and allow them to communicate their feelings. Let them know you are in this too and are there for them. Don’t try to make a perfect situation. Let them know that it is ok if they make some noise and if people hear them on a call. Similarly, let them know that this is new for you as well, and you need to work through the situation together.
2.) Pick a Space
This has been said many, many times, but dedicate space for yourselves and your kids to work. They need to be able to set up their study area and tailor it to their own needs. Give them the support they need to be successful but respect their personal space. However, if they choose to work in a common area such as a dining room or kitchen, reinforce that this space belongs to the whole family and as such, they may face interruptions or distractions.
3.) Dedicate Work Time
This originally was articulated as “quiet time” but upon further reflection was softened a bit. The point is the same. Set some expectations for when people need to focus, and when people are free for other activities, and make sure everyone sticks to a schedule. If you or your kids need to deviate from that schedule (which you will from time to time), resist the urge to micromanage and emphasize the need to demonstrate responsibility by making up that time.
4.) Acknowledge the Situation and be Flexible
Again, this is not a perfect environment. No matter how hard you try to prevent it, the dog will bark, your family will walk into the background of your video call, and your kids will interrupt your discussion. And, likely, you will do the same to them! Of course, take reasonable steps to limit this, but when it does happen, roll with it. This situation will become a lot less stressful if you do.
5.) Post a Schedule
Communicating important events via a schedule – exams, client phone calls, and virtual presentations – will help to set expectations with all family members on important times not to be disturbed. Similarly, use tools such as a “Do Not Disturb” sign to alert others that you are in the middle of an important exercise. Getting into the habit of knocking quietly or texting can also be an effective method for ensuring important times are respected.
6.) Get Outside and Have Fun!
Speaking of exercise, it is critical to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors in a socially responsible way. Go for a run, walk the dog, shoot some hoops – anything to burn off some steam, which in turn will keep you mentally and physically fit. Exercise is more important than it may seem. In fact, exercising in the morning can get the day off to a great start.
7.) Take Time to Regroup!
Whether it is a family dinner or another time, plan some downtime away from screens to discuss the events of the day. Talk about how things went in the online environment; what went well and what didn’t. Also, discuss the current events in this battle with the COVID-19 virus. A cautionary note here, however, is that too much family time can cause irritation. Read the situation and don’t force it.
Hopefully, these tips coming straight from my own sequestered kids will help your family to not only survive but thrive in this environment – and possibly have a little fun along the way!
Bill is a Principal Consultant leading Aspirant's Mergers & Acquisitions practice. He is an energetic leader and seasoned executive with a demonstrated track record of delivering results in technical, commercial, financial, and general management roles. Most recently, he was the President and Chief Operating Officer of a 160-employee medical device company and led the private equity carveout of this organization from a fortune 100 healthcare company into a standalone independent entity. Bill has worked on commercial strategy, global marketing, and M&A initiatives with Fortune 100 companies to startups in a range of industries.