TIPS FOR WORKING FAMILIES – A COVID 19 RESPONSE
There is no denying that this is a challenging time for working families as the two most significant areas of our lives – work and family, are once again in complete overlap both in the time and energy they demand, as well as in the physical space they occupy. We all continue to learn as we go along and our family situations will all be unique. The age of our children, who is living in our house and who we have caring responsibilities for can all impact what we need to do to make it work for us.
Here are 5 questions to ask yourself and your family which can help you to identify the practical things you need to do to manage during this time;
1. Am I clear on what is really important to me & my family during this time?
When normal routines are not in place, and when we have areas of our life that could potentially be in direct conflict, it can be easy to lose sight of what is really important to look after or to focus too long term on things outside of our control. Decide on a period of time (it could be the next week, fortnight or month) and work out what is a priority during this phase for each family member. It can help to make it specific and practical e.g. attending the 8:30 call each morning, spending 3 hours on home school each day. If it is ‘looking after our wellbeing’, what would that actually look like for each of you? As you complete this, it might all feel important but when it comes down to it, what do you really have to look after?
You can do this for each member of the family. Make sure the priorities are written down so you all understand them, you can go back to review them and adapt them if you need to.
2. Are we, as a family, making choices and do we have the resources that look after these priorities?
Making decisions that do not look after these priorities can leave us feeling compromised, guilty and even more stressed. Get conscious about the daily choices you are all making to support your priorities. Treat home priorities with the same importance as you would a client. Project plan for the week, taking practical steps such as blocking time in your work diary for getting family matters done and vice versa. These times require flex on all fronts and we may need to challenge our normal ways of working. Work may have to be your focus in the morning, however, could you home school for 2 hours in the afternoon?
Alongside making choices that look after what is important, thinking about what resources are available to you to make it work in reality is vital. Who is going to do what at home? How do we divide what is important between us (including everyone in your house where possible)? What support can our organisations offer? Although we can’t physically be in contact, what support can I get from other family members and friends (e.g. grandparents helping with homeschooling)?
3. Have we communicated clearly enough at home and at work about what we need?
Sorting all of this out takes negotiation and difficult choices, which can impact on communication.
Some tips which can help positive communication.
- Initiate conversations, don’t avoid them. This is a time for asking for what you need and for support. We can assume something can’t happen when actually it can.
- Check your mindset before you go into the conversation, are you going in to ‘win’ or reach common ground that works for all.
- Acknowledge what is working already. It can be easy to forget this.
- Start with what is possible, ‘can-do’ before ‘can’t do’. Often in our worry about what isn’t possible (working full time all week), we forget to talk about all that is doable.
4. Are we checking in with each other on how well we are doing?
Some of what we plan will work and being realistic, some will not. Some days will be easier than others. By checking in at regular points, as a family or as a team at work, you can identify what works or what needs to change. It can be helpful to use scaling to do this, from 1 to 10 how easy (10) or hard (1) has today been? At home, for younger children, thumbs up, sideways or thumbs down can work. This can bring a useful perspective to this time, an opportunity to reprioritise and support each other when needed.
5. Are the expectations we are setting ourselves as a family realistic during this time?
It is sometimes easy to say ‘be kind to yourself’ yet hard to do in reality! Being a full-time worker plus full-time parent, teacher, carer is not realistic. One perspective to take is to treat yourself as you would treat your best friend. We can be kind to other people but be the worst critic to ourselves. This isn’t working from home; once again, it is being at home in a crisis trying to work.