One week of quarantine down—you made it through! But do you want to do more than just make it through? Do you want to excel? If so, continue reading.
What are your circumstances?
- Are you a working parent placed on leave and at home with your children?
- Are you a parent newly working remotely with school-age children who are also home?
- Are you a stay-at-home parent with school-age children at home?
- Are you a teacher working from home?
- Are you a teacher working from home with school age children who are also home?
There are so many variables at play during this pandemic, but there are five key elements that will make this time successful no matter your situation: Work Schedule Management, Work Space Management, Home and Family Management, Self-Care Management, and Communication with Work.
I consider myself an expert in this arena. I have been formally working since the age of 15, after 7 years of helping my parents with our family bait shop. Prior to becoming a teacher, my work experience ran the gamut from retail to hospitality, office work to health and human services, and everything in between. I’m truly a Jill of All Trades, and have never worked fewer than two jobs at a time—even while studying for my teaching degree. After earning my M.Ed., I worked in a public school for several years before transitioning to teaching at and later serving at the Director of a tutoring center, all while running my own property management business. Oh, and did I forget to mention I am a mother of two amazing young woman who are now finishing up their medical and physical therapy professional schooling? Are you stressed out on my behalf? Don’t be—it was all worth it.
At present, I am the Director of Online Development for a nonprofit organization based in Massachusetts, and although I was a Massachusetts resident when I took this position I now live in Florida and work from home. No, I didn’t leave MA because of the snow (I actually love and miss it!). And no, I’m not a psychic who knew Tom Brady would end up here in FL eventually. Four years ago my oldest daughter was entering medical school. She got accepted to her university of choice in Florida, and we’re just not an opposite ends of the country kind of family. My employer was amazing, and rather than insisting I resign they gave me the option to work from my new home.
I was so grateful, and felt that working remotely would actually be an ideal structure for me given my ADHD and OCD tendencies. Sitting in an office is just not how I am most productive. I have difficulty focusing and staying in a chair all day long. But despite my optimistic outlook on this new adventure the learning curve was steep—working from home came with its own set of obstacles.
My work day in the office looked something like this:
7-9:30am: Work from my designated office on tasks that required the most focus before everyone else arrived
9:30am: Walk break
9:35am: Work at the table in the conference room
12:25pm: Walk break
12:30pm: Work at the picnic table outside, weather-permitting (Fresh air! Sun!)
2:30pm: Return to my designated office to finish my tasks for the day and plan for tomorrow
3:30pm: Quitting time!
Work Hours: 7am to 3:30pm
Time on Task: 8 hours, not including interruptions from colleagues (yes, maybe some of them were encouraged interruptions…)
My initial working from home schedule mimicked this to a certain degree, with a few distinct differences:
5am: Review and respond to emails
5:45am: Prepare my family’s breakfast and lunch
6:15am: Take the dogs for a walk
6:30am: Begin working at my home office desk
7:40am: Work at my office desk
8:40am: Phone check-in with Dad
8:45am: Work at my office desk
10am: Take the dogs for a walk
10:15am: Work on the patio
11:15am: Throw in a load of laundry
11:25am: Work on the patio
1:20pm: Work on the patio
1:30pm: Take the dogs for a walk
1:40pm: Work at the dining room table
4:55pm: Cooking, dinner, family time
8pm: Back to work to finish up for the day
9pm: Quitting time!
Work Hours: 5am to 9pm
Time on Task: 11.5 hours, but my home life was affected
After the learning curve, this is my current working from home schedule:
7-9:30am: Work at my desk on the patio on the tasks which require the most focus during the peaceful, quiet morning
9:30am: Take the dogs for a walk (refocusing my attention and quieting them down)
9:45am: Work at the living room table (to have a different view)
1:00pm: Take the dogs for a walk
1:15pm: Work at the table by the pool (Florida! Fresh air! Sun! #SorryNotSorry)
2:45pm: Finish out the work day at my desk in my home office and plan for tomorrow
4pm: Quitting time!
Work Hours: 7am to 4pm
Time on Task: 8.25 hours of balanced work and home life
While you are working from home these next weeks, learn from my mistakes and focus on these key elements to set yourself up for success:
Work Schedule Management
- Write out your typical schedule at your place of employment. Include arrival and departure times, details regarding the types of tasks you complete at particular times of day, and accommodate for breaks if and when you take them.
- Replicate this schedule at home as much as possible considering the needs of your home life.
- Stick to the schedule!
- Reevaluate how productive the week was and make minor adjustments, such as moving certain types of tasks to different times of the day.
- If you have children, schedule in time for family needs.
Work Space Management
- Figure out what spaces in your home are most conducive for work.
- Set up similar spaces to your normal work area.
- Supply your work area with all necessary tools for a day at the office.
- Maintain these areas for work throughout the week so you do not need to spend time with setup each day.
Home and Family Management
It is important to keep all members of your family on a consistent schedule during this time.
- Keep the family schedule within 30 minutes of the typical schedule you all follow. For example, if you normally wake your children up at 7am to dress, eat, gather up their school needs, and walk out the door, wake them up no later than 7:30am and do all the above—even walking out the door. Go outside, gather in a breath of fresh air, give your family (and yourself) a pep talk for the day, and discuss the schedule.
- Create learning experiences for your children using online resources and materials you have at home. If their school sent home classwork or has an online learning platform, make sure your children know what is expected of them and help them as necessary. Try your best to do this at specific times of the day, so you are able to complete your own work as well.
- Set up individual spaces for your children to learn with all the necessary supplies.
- Together with your children, prepare snacks and lunches in advance so no time is wasted during the work/learning day.
- Expect everyone to be responsible for the maintenance of their own area.
The cliché benefit of working from home is working in your pajamas. Well bad news, PJ aficionados: research states that our mindset is not as productive in our sleepwear. The Golden Apple: Redefining Work-Life Balance for a Diverse Workforce, by Mason Donovan says, “Working in your ‘normal work clothes’ when working at home is more productive.”
So for all you teachers:
- Wake up at your regular time and do your regular morning routine.
- Dress in your “school clothes”.
- Think about your schedule for the day; make a to do list.
- Prepare yourself and your family for the day.
- Put your phone away in a drawer, on silent.
- Put on your teaching hat.
- Plan your bathroom breaks (You know how you rarely have time to go while you are teaching at school? Don’t let your super bladder get out of shape—you’re going to need it again someday!
- Leave your work space—your home—for at least one hour before transitioning back into home life. Go out for a walk, read a book in the back yard, or talk on the phone with family and friends.
Communication with Work
- Working from home as a teacher can be daunting, because it is new for most of you.
- Make sure you are well aware of what your administrator’s expectations are.
- Set up regular opportunities to communicate with your team members and help each other optimize this time.
- Put aside time to check your email and communicate with colleagues, administrators, students, and parents.
We are all in this global crisis together. If your professional development training was cancelled, visit https://cloiedu.com to explore CLOI’s online learning opportunities. We’re here to help, and we’re going to come out the other side of this mess stronger than ever!