Those of us who commute for work in this lovely metropolis have wished our commutes away more times than we can count. We dread the morning and the evening gridlocks. We groan at the slow-moving lines of cars separating us from our destinations. In our less-moody moments, we try to make the best of it with our podcasts and audiobooks. Still, if given the chance to cut our commutes, most of us would jump at it.
But we didn’t want to win a reprieve from the 405 or 110 or 101 only to be quarantined at home due to a virus that can be deadly. Our cars and SUVs sit in our driveways now, glistening from the recent rains, looking forlorn.
City and state officials shut down everything but essential places of business – grocery stores, banks, hospitals and the like – admonishing millions of us to stay home with our kids and try working from home (if we still have jobs) while the kids try (or not) to do school at home. With the coronavirus spreading so quickly, our lives were turned upside down in a matter of days. No one had time to prepare, though I’m sure you’ve seen dozens of articles and social media posts offering successful work-from-home tips in the days since we were ordered to shelter in place.
One of the most common tips is to carve out a designated work space where you will work every day. If you do not have a home office, that could be a corner of the kitchen table or another living space that you claim as your own for the time being. Tips and advice work well for some; not so much for others. When I can work from home while my son is at school, I shift from room to room for a change of scenery. Now that he is at home with me all day, I have been sequestered away in my writing room, where by Friday of the first week of quarantine, I was certifiably stir crazy. That afternoon, I fled my room and sat on the sofa with my laptop. The sunshine streaming through the larger windows was just the change I needed – except that my son, seeing me sitting there, thought all bets for quiet work time for Mommy were off.
After he interrupted me the third time, I yelled. He yelled back: “Well, it’s confusing! You’re sitting on the sofa and that’s not a place for working. It’s a place for talking!”
And so, here are some of those work-from-home tips to (hopefully) cut down on at least a little confusion in your household:
Get up early, before the kids. When you get up early, you can get some of your work done before the little ones (or bigger ones) get up and start demanding breakfast and coming up with excuses not to get started on their distance learning.
Beautify. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you should stay in your pajamas all day. Work-from-home veterans say to treat the day as you would a regular work day: shower, get dressed, put on earrings and lip gloss (if you’d like).
Draw up a schedule. Do this as a family so everyone knows which hours are work hours and which are for family time, advises Brittany Carlson, a parenting expert with infant and apparel brand Sleeping Baby. Other tips from Carlson include:
- Make a designated work space. (It just might work for you!) A designated work space is helpful for parents who want to transition from their tasks at home to doing work.
- Maximize productivity. At home, it’s hard (or even impossible) to have eight hours a day to devote to work. There is a need to maximize productivity in short periods of time, especially during kids’ natural breaks.
- Get creative. Keeping kids busy helps extend work hours during the day. Putting on a movie for kids can give parents extra time to work.
- Take breaks. Take regular breaks from the computer for mental and physical health, to include exercise, stress management and rest.
To this list, I’ll add one more: Be gentle with yourself. The coronavirus pandemic is affecting our lives and the larger world in ways our wildest imaginations could not have imagined. Make sure to have a stop time in your days of working from home, especially since, when you’re working from home, the lines between work and home can be so blurry. One thing’s for sure: the work will still be there when you return. No commute required.
Cassandra Lane is Managing Editor of L.A. Parent.