It’s undeniable that COVID-19 has changed the way many of us work, especially those of us with office jobs. And working parents have yet another layer of complexity being added to their plates, being tasked with home-schooling in between conference calls—all the while dealing with a constant anxiety about what is happening in the world and on their kids’ devices. I admit it’s hard to be productive right now, and while some people may argue that this pandemic is temporary and it’s OK to not be productive, I think that we should be prepared for the long haul.  I suspect many other people feel the same way, but it’s been tough to know where to begin to find balance and ultimately joy in these difficult times.

There is no doubt that the new challenges we are facing are monumental, and may permanently change how we interact in the workplace for years to come. As the number of positive cases continues to increase, and schools remain closed, it is unclear how long social-distancing and stay-at-home orders will remain in place. I’m taking it as an opportunity to learn new strategies to be productive while working from home and balancing family time. That after all, may be the new normal going forward.

Adding routine back, during nonroutine times

I admit finding “self”-discipline isn’t as easy as it used to be. I was the most disciplined when my calendar was packed with in-person meetings, work trips, family events and date nights. With less on the calendar to “do”, I have less mandatory things to shape my day. Walk the dog at 8am or 10am? Shower before? Help the kids with their homework at 11am or 2pm? The lack of structure was causing friction, and it was something my wife and I recognized we did have control of. While we still have meetings and video conferences with team members and employees, the need for a real schedule became clear with the kids doing digital learning. Managing my day and co-managing the kids day with my wife has led to numerous discussions and compromises, ultimately leading to a need for a set detailed weekly schedule. 

Along with a set schedule for work time, school time, and family time, we’ve added extended family chats on the weekends using group videos and virtual sleepovers for our kids when it’s not a school night.   

Routines made easy with technology

Having a schedule has really made a big difference in how we adapt to this new normal, but we all tend to lose track when we are in front of a screen. Checking on a Facebook update can, a few hours later, lead to watching a video about how a COVID19 cough spreads. My wife and I have been using WiFi and internet parental controls to not only keep our kids safe on the internet, also use scheduling features to set internet usages limits for ourselves as well. For us, it’s a great tool to provide a guide for our shelter-at-home routine, and at least help me continue to be productive and for my family – bringing a sense of normality to a situation that is in no way normal.  

Unexpected changes can have a huge impact on our daily lives, relationship, and work.  By taking a “pause” to reassess how we do things in our daily life, we can come out from the end of the tunnel stronger, smarter, and better prepared to face life’s daily challenges.