Women are working from home and juggling homeschooling, work responsibilities and trying to keep the children thriving for another day. Our own showers are definitely low priority, workouts are a vague memory and self-care now means putting on a fresh shirt for the next Zoom call.
It’s an incredibly challenging time, but working moms also have more flexibility than ever to find a schedule that works for their families. Only 9% of women surveyed by WerkLabs say they want to work a traditional 9-5 schedule. Instead, moms prefer to work the hours required to get the job done and to do those hours when it’s convenient for them.
As the shift to remote work continues to become more permanent it’s a good time to assess where you’re at and what needs to change. There are certain things you can’t control, like your workload and childcare duties, but you can reset the way you schedule your day to help beat burnout, juggle tasks more effectively and make your WFH schedule work for you.
Signs it’s time for a change
Juggling caregiving and working from home is a lot. It takes practice to find the right groove. If you’re noticing any of these feelings, it might be a good time to adjust some things in your schedule:
It’s getting harder to manage both work and life responsibilities
You’ve noticed a change in your mental or physical health that could be due to work stress
You find yourself feeling like nothing in your life is getting the attention it deserves
It’s becoming difficult to complete work tasks during the day
Your responsibilities at work have changed and don’t align as well with your current schedule
How to hit reset
If you’ve been working remotely for awhile, you should have a sense of what’s working, what you need to devote more time to, and where things can give a little.
What brings joy?
Did you join the Marie Kondo craze when the minimalist maven hit Netflix? Her method for simplifying your space involves considering each item and determining if it brings you joy or not. It’s time to Marie Kondo your WFH schedule by removing everything and then adding back in only the most essential things and those things that truly bring you joy in this season.
Consider the tasks you perform each day throughout the week, both as a caregiver and employee. Which tasks are essential, and which could be reallocated, rescheduled or reduced altogether?
Is there a certain activity that adds stress to your schedule, like leading a daily team stand-up just as your kids are sitting down to begin online schooling? Push it back by 30 minutes or determine if one longer but less frequent meeting could take its place.
Embrace the benefits of working from home
One side effect of WFH life is the ability to be at home. If you’re having trouble keeping up with home tasks, start by simplifying. Remove the tasks that can wait until later and aren’t essential. Assign other tasks to older children or divide and conquer with your partner.
Focus on small moments that bring you joy throughout the day, like the opportunity to enjoy lunch with your kids each day. Take advantage of the flexibility you have in your schedule to create space for both the essential tasks and those that bring you joy. For example, If fitness is a priority and you’re having trouble fitting it in, take a walk while you’re on your next conference call.
Look for ways to rebalance your responsibilities with your partner or children. Start the laundry before the kids are up then move it over during lunch, or delegate it 100% to older children. Divide and conquer meals and schooling for the kids with your partner.
▶️ Watch: Unity Hour - Fair Play Your Way to Work-Life Integration with Eve Rodsky, author of New York Times bestselling book FAIR PLAY, for more insights on how couples can work together to achieve an equitable balance of domestic work.
Working from home means you’re not spending time commuting. This means you might have as much as two or more “extra” hours in your day. Consider dedicating your commute time to yourself and your family (remember, you typically weren’t working during this time anyway so it shouldn’t impact productivity). Having this time in your day can make it easier to get everything done.
Move things around
Take advantage of the quiet hours before the kids are awake and after they’re in bed. Move solitary work activities like running through emails or tasks that don’t require team input to these hours. This frees additional time in the day for the kid-related responsibilities you face while homeschooling or for you to fit in a bit of fitness.
It can be easier to shift things around in your schedule if you think of your day in segments: before the kids are awake, kids are awake and not yet schooling, kids are schooling, lunch, after school, evening and after the kids are in bed.
Take a look at your daily schedule and consider the items that can’t move: meals for kids, assisting with online schooling, team meetings or other appointments. Next, identify the more flexible things like fitness, catching up on email or solo projects for work that don’t require the real time input from others. These are the things that can move to non-traditional work hours, such as before the kids are awake or later at night.
Creating a work-life integration can be a process, and it’s not always a smooth transition. Be patient with yourself during this time and accept that you’ll make a few mistakes along the way. Think about what works for you and makes you the most happy and fulfilled. While you may be inclined to put yourself last in trying to care for everyone around you, remember that in order to give to others, you need to be energized and refreshed.
Settle into the routine that works
Embrace this time of flexibility and experiment with a few different schedules to see what works best for you. Need some inspiration? Check out some examples of how moms at The Mom Project are managing their schedules during COVID-19:
Sample schedules: How team members from The Mom Project embrace work-life integration in their schedules during COVID-19
Product Data Analyst
5:00 - 6:15 AM
6:15 - 7:00 AM
Wake up the kids, make breakfast, get ready for remote school
7:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Alternate between working and helping the kids with school issues
12:00 PM - 12:30 PM
Make lunch for the kids
12:30 - 5:00 PM
Alternate between working and taking care of the kids
5:00 - 8:30 PM
Make dinner, do chores, get kids ready for bed
8:30 - 10 PM
“I fit in showers sporadically and exercise a couple of times a week by going on bike rides with the kids around the neighborhood during random times. Basically, the kids’ school schedules and basic needs are immovable, so my partner and I work around their school and meal times, with one of us always in charge of the kids while the other one focuses on work. Then we make up the lost focused work time in the early mornings and later nights.”
6:00 AM - 12:00 PM
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Lunch break, go for a run
1:30 - 2:30 PM
Pick up son from school
3:00 PM - on
Take care of stuff at home
“My partner and I both work from home in tech and we have two kiddos. Unfortunately, we have to keep my daughter (10 months) home with us, because my son's (3 years old) class size is 15 kids, we don't feel comfortable having her in daycare which would increase our germ pod to an insane number considering the current outbreak situation. My co-workers will often see my daughter on screen during our meetings, and I've spent countless meetings with my video off just so I can nurse her. It's a weird time we're living in.”
Talent Success Manager
8:00 - 9:00 AM
E-learning with my son
9:00 - 11:00 AM
Continue e-learning, work in-between assignments
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
5:00 - 8:00 PM
Continue working in between my son’s activities and therapy
“My days are trial and error with my 6-year-old. In between his assignments I check my email and set up my day. During work, there’s some eating, some snack requests, etc. My husband works full time onsite downtown Chicago. So I am the teacher, the talent manager, the mom, and the wife all in one. And to be completely honest, if it wasn’t for The Mom Project being 100% virtual, there is no way I would be able to stay employed… I would have to leave the workforce like a majority of women did when COVID hit.”
In the end, you may also decide that working from home isn’t something you enjoy. In that case, keep your resume polished and be ready to hit the job market as things open back up if your company continues to work remotely.
Remember that we’re all in this together. Take things one day, and sometimes one hour, at a time. Step away from the tasks that don’t bring immediate value to your family or your job, and focus on being the best you can be in that moment.
Kristin Bustamante is a senior marketing executive, brand storyteller and content creator with a serious love for side hustles and the ultimate punny headline.
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