How to Work from Home - with the Family!
How to Work from Home - with the Family!

Posted on 27 April 2020


Previously, you lamented how you had too few hours with the spouse and kids, felt guilty that you couldn’t chat with grandma, and sighed when overtime was necessary and you only got back when everyone else was asleep.

Now, the situation is drastically different. Everyone is at home all the time, thanks to the circuit breaker measures aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19. And unfortunately, it isn’t anything like your idealised family outings and date-nights with the spouse – the kids never seem to stop whining, there’s loads more housework to do, and they’re never enough laptops, charging cables, or handphones to go around.

Before you start screaming in frustration, here’s some tips for a healthier, less stressful home life where you can actually do some work. If that sounds good to you, read on:

Tip 1: Set a routine

Routine and structure will help to provide you and your family a sense of security and hence reduce stress, so set up a timetable for the circuit breaker period. It’s recommended that this be in physical form of some sort (such as a Google spreadsheet or a plan taped to the fridge) to ensure that people not only see it, but keep to it.

For young children, it’s especially important that mealtimes and nap times remain sacrosanct, so that they have “bookends” in their day. Dr Koh Hwan Cui, the principal child development psychologist at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, recommended dividing the day into half-hour or hour-long slots and planning activities with the kids to give them a sense of control.

Tip 2: Use tech tools

Make use of the hundreds of free resources available during this current period of lockdown, from audiobooks to movies to meditation. And just because Aunty or Uncle can’t be physically with you, doesn’t mean they can’t babysit your kids on Zoom or Skype. (We recently learnt that you can go ‘visit’ a relative’s island on Animal Crossing, which is essentially the same as “leaving the kids with Grandma for a day”.)

Because of this, you may find yourself splurging on some new hardware and software. You’re not alone – sales of laptops and their peripherals doubled in March as everyone outfitted their home offices for a long stay. However, these can be pretty good investments in the long run, as they help make learning and family bonding easier.

Tip 3: Find tips and tricks

One-pot meals and laundry life-hacks are a godsend in these times. Unlike the disciplined domestic worker, you don’t have the bandwidth to sweep the floor twice a day or dust the bookshelves. So, plan your meals a day before and do the prep at night (while the kiddos are asleep) to ensure a fuss-free preparation in the morning.

Other tips include getting yourself a dedicated work corner, so that you’re not constantly looking at your dirty laundry and a hundred other tasks that need doing, and scheduling activities for the kids that keep them occupied and (hopefully) out of your hair. We particularly like faux laser mazes and edible slime, but you can find some inspiration here.  

Tip 4: Speak to your boss

While you might not like mixing work and private life, keeping your employer updated if anything happens is key. Perhaps you need a few hours off to supervise your child’s learning, or can only work on a project after 8pm when no one else is using the monitor. Let your boss know so that you both can negotiate a working arrangement that suits everyone.

One key advantage of working from home is flexibility – make the most of it and make work, work!

Tip 5: Turn it all off

The same way you’ve set a schedule and kept to it, you need to keep to the end of schedule as well. This will also signal to family members when you’re available for them and when you’re not, and they’ll be able to accommodate your work with their own.

With the work laptop open near you, it’s tempting to send off “that last email” or update that task for the last time. Don’t. When work and relaxation are happening in the same space, it’s even more important to separate the two and make sure they don’t “bleed” into each other. Follow a workout video, cook dinner, take a bath or whatever works for your family to leave work “at” work and focus on each other.


People photo created by tirachardz -

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