Working With Distractions

This article is third in a series of five. In our first article, Sarah Dobek shared how to lead well in this season of uncertainty. Katie Renelt explored the do’s and don’ts when making the switch from office building to home-office. Now, we’ll address how to mitigate the chaos of working with distractions.

Working with Distractions

While the federal government is providing extensive support to workers whose children are home due to coronavirus closures, there are some cases where distracted working is necessary. As a remote working mom to 3 kids (and a very needy dog), I understand what it is like working with distractions. Here are my tips for getting through this season without sacrificing quality at work or making everyone cry.


Adopt a Schedule

In my house, we stick to the school-day routine. If my kids are tired enough to go to bed at 7:30 pm, I can get some much-needed downtime at the end of the day. Also, when everything goes back to normal, the hope is to get the kids back to their regularly scheduled programming as smoothly as possible. {Daylight savings time was stressful enough.} However, there is a lot to be said for flexing the regular schedule to accommodate the best version of your kids. Maybe your 14-year-old is infinitely more human when she is allowed to sleep in until 11:00 am. Heck, maybe you are more human when you can sleep in until 7:00 am. The point is to find a schedule that works and stick with it. Routine is critical to keeping the peace at work and home. When you’ve landed on the right schedule, be sure to update your shared calendar. I love this example from a fellow work-at-home pro.


Be Transparent

Unless you have help at home, you may need to participate in conference calls while straining to pierce the freakishly strong hide of a juice pouch (you know the struggle). Interruptions are going to happen, despite your best efforts. As a courtesy to your coworkers and clients, be up-front about your situation. The more you say, “Just a heads up, I’m working from home with kids present,” the more you’ll hear, “Me too.”  I know it’s difficult and anxiety-inducing, but you can do this. We are all in the same boat.


Create Visual Cues

This might be the biggest lifesaver for a work-from-home parent. I’ve been known to tape the following warning on my office door, “ON A CALL – DO NOT DISTURB (UNLESS SOMETHING IS ON FIRE OR SOMEONE IS CHOKING) UNTIL 3:00 PM. YES, YOU CAN HAVE A SNACK. NO, YOU CANNOT PLAY OUTSIDE. YES, YOU CAN WATCH PBS. NO, YOU CANNOT WATCH YOUTUBE.” Not my finest production. Ask for ideas, however, and the internet provides.

Visual cues are great ways to communicate boundaries with your kids.


Family Meetings

My husband and I are both working from home right now. But this is not our first rodeo. I have been working from home for 5 years, and my husband worked from home 3 days a week for 2 years. One summer, I decided to forgo day camp for my kids (don’t ask, history records it as temporary insanity). During this time, I learned the power of “family meetings.” To help the kids anticipate accessibility, my husband and I like to share a high-level version of our work calendars with the kids. During these meetings, it’s also an excellent opportunity to plan activities around pre-scheduled meetings. Inviting your kids to the table gives them a little sense of control. Let’s face it; your kids are probably just as frustrated as you are. Family meetings aren’t a silver bullet, but they do help.


In Conclusion

If you type working from home with kids into Google, this is what happens.


Sanity is on the line, people! It is not easy, and this post is in no way trying to minimize the challenge of working from home with children. There are plenty of circumstances that prevent parents from working from home. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides paid sick leave to parents of children whose school or place of care has been closed, or the childcare provider of such child is unavailable, due to coronavirus. This Act lowers the employment requirement of FMLA to include employees that have been employed for 30 consecutive days. The point is, if you are at a serious disadvantage, help is on the way. If you can be a dining room table warrior, be a dining room table warrior. I hope the tips above help (a little) while you make the transition to working from home.


If you have any questions on how to communicate with your staff or clients during this season, we would love to assist you. Our team is laser-focused on how to maintain growth amid disruption. In the meantime, I invite you to learn about our FFCRA+ Toolkit, visit our list of COVID-19 Resources, or browse our communication checklist. (And yes, I’ve been busy assembling these resources under the supervision of my new, totally juvenile “co-workers.”)




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