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Our advice on working from home (possibly with kids) during self-isolation

  • As the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has recently advised those who can work from home to do so, many people are panicking about how they will cope balancing their work and family lives.

    Self-isolating combined with the burden of work and home schooling is also becoming a closer daunting reality for parents in Northern Ireland.

    Many schools have closed of their own accord, with a lot of parents choosing to keep their children at home from schools that have not been locked down yet.

    RELATED: Customer service firm to create 300 NI jobs for employees working from home

    We have developed some coping strategies to help you adjust to this potentially new working lifestyle.

    1. Start work at the same time as usual
      Routine is important for good sleep and mental health and getting up early will ensure you have a full day for productivity. This is important if you also have children who are staying at home. School starts at a set time, so make sure you are ready and stick to the timetable.

    2. Get dressed
      Staying in your pyjamas all day can seem comfortable and appealing, but psychologically it’s important to change into clothes you would normally wear to work. This will subconsciously focus your brain from ‘sleep mode’ to ‘work mode’ and is again important to establish with your kids as well to differentiate the day for them.

    3. Create spaces for different activities
      Ensure you have a quiet place for doing your own work for maximum concentration. Preferably a room with a desk as working from bed again may not be most suitable for programming your brain into ‘work mode’.
      You might also want to set up a teaching room and play area for your kids, such as in the kitchen or living room.

    4. Structure your day like a school day (where possible)
      If you have kids, ensure to break up their day as normal; teaching time, activity time, play time and lunch time – just like their normal school routine. Also try and set plans with your kids at the start of the day. Ask them what they want to do (within reason) so they feel involved.

    5. Set aside breaks for phone calls, TV, exercise etc. 
      Productivity is usually best when we are away from our phones, especially social media. This is regardless of whether we’re working from home or not. Try to keep your phone turned off with set times for work calls and recreational breaks. Self-isolation can be lonely when you’re not used to seeing your regular colleagues or friends every day also, so check in with them via text or phone call during these times also.

    6. Exercise
      In relation to the previous point – try and exercise as much as you can. Home workouts can be easily done if you have enough space in your living room and access to YouTube fitness tutorials. But it’s even better to get outside for a walk or run as fresh air helps clear head space and will break up the day easier as well.

    7. Finish work at a set time – go to bed at a set time
      Working from home can make it hard to know when to actually stop working. A little bit of overtime never hurt anyone but don’t overdo it. In the same way that you should start your work at your normal time every morning, you should finish at your normal time too. By getting a routine drilled in early on, you can also try and get the kids (if applicable) to sleep at a sensible time.

    8. Don’t be tempted to hit the wine!
      If you do have children - particularly young ones - we understand that in the evening once they go to bed might be the only time you can realistically get enough work done. If that is the case – no matter how tempting it may be during these isolating times – try to refrain from alcohol. It hinders your concentration and sleep in the long run. Although a glass of wine every so often is completely understandable!

    Overall make sure you are communicating efficiently with your colleagues, employer and/or clients while working remotely.

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    Don’t try and achieve too much as it will only lead to more stress and simplify your day into as much of an organised set routine as you can.

    It may sound easier than it seems, but try and make the best out of these scary times. Appreciate the spare moments you can with your family at home as eventually, coronavirus and self-isolating will pass.

    Remember that there has been a huge spike in the number of businesses offering flexible hours and remote working in recent years. The coronavirus has just brought this straight to the forefront.  

    According to the UK government’s “battle plan” for the virus, one in five UK employees could be absent during COVID-19’s “peak weeks”.

    Yves Hiernaux is the CEO of a time tracking tool called BeeBole Timesheet. He said: "Employers should trust their employees are working, whether they're in the office or not” and advised companies to implement cloud-based time-tracking systems.

    RELATED: Increase in virtual internships: working from home

    He added: "Presenteeism [being present at work but under-performing] and absenteeism are very much alive and well in today's work culture, so remote or not, the real key is being able to measure productivity in other ways. Remote working is not the enemy."

    The Office for National Statistics estimated that 141.4 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in the UK in 2018; the equivalent to 4.4 days per worker.

    Medical insurance company Vitality Health claimed that this is costing UK companies around £77.5bn each year.

    Therefore, many people – including Hiernaux – are suggesting that working from home could prove to be beneficial to businesses generally for their workers' wellbeing - coronavirus or not.

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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