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Working from Home with a Toddler

I am a big fan of working from home. I get so much more done because I can focus, check off items from my to-do list and I find it fuels my energy to do more. That said covid-19 definitely threw me in for a loop. With my husband and I both working from home […]

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I am a big fan of working from home. I get so much more done because I can focus, check off items from my to-do list and I find it fuels my energy to do more. That said covid-19 definitely threw me in for a loop. With my husband and I both working from home and my toddler home as her daycare is closed, it has certainly been challenging.

Good news is we are not alone and most colleagues understand and empathize with this situation. A little bit of humour and empathy goes a long way. We’ve been home for a week now and have had a chance to try a few ideas, so I am sharing in case this helps. Would love to hear what’s working for you as well.

1. Actively manage your calendar – My husband and I are taking turns where possible. We looked through our calendar of work and meetings, prioritized which ones are important and which can be deferred and tried to identify chunks of time where one of us can be with our daughter, while the other can focus.

2. Schedule around your toddler’s lunch/snacks/naps – Where possible, we tried to squeeze our meetings at times when our daughter is focused on eating or napping. I will admit, we’ve had to rely on Dora, Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol some times, but I didn’t want to have her just watch tv or screens all day. So this was a good alternative.

3. Create a work / play room space – So techniques 1 and 2 were great but not always doable. There has been times when both of us had to be in meetings at the same time. We created a dedicated play room for our daughter with all kinds of her favourite toys in a visible, and easily accessible space. We brought in a high table (one that is out of our daughter’s reach) in to the room for one of us to work. This way, if our daughter does have a meltdown in the middle of a call, we can try to engage / calm / distract her with a toy or activity.

4. Explain to your toddler in simple terms – Just before we head in to a meeting, we let our daughter know we have to work, what we would like her to do during this time and what exciting/fun activity we will do after the meeting. This gave her context, something to focus on and something to look forward to. This one’s a tricky one – it hasn’t always worked but it’s a work in progress 🙂

5. Incorporate variety and flexibility into your day – Break your day into chunks of time where you can focus on key priorities/meetings. Identify work that needs to be done by a certain window of time and work that you can get done more flexibly. Not every work or meeting is the same or needs the same type of focus. I had to attend a virtual company town-hall yesterday afternoon. This was a meeting where all I needed to do was watch my screen and listen. So I set up my laptop in front of me and had my daughter with me while she decorated a cookie! For the next meeting we changed rooms and tried to introduce different activities in between chunks of time and work. I also purchased a variety of fairly simple and inexpensive crafts to help me keep her engaged. I stashed them in a bag in my closet and when I sense a melt down coming, I bring one ‘new’ activity out to get her engaged.

6. Take care of yourself. I feel so fortunate to work for a company where colleagues are coming up with creative ways to do this. Our company fitness trainer hosted a virtual workout session at lunch yesterday and a meditation session today. We participated as a whole family and it turned out to be a neat way to connect with colleagues, have fun and move around. You could organize something with your friends and family virtually as well. We also make a point to go outside once a day to get some fresh air.

I hope these tips are helpful. Please do share what strategies and tips are working for you in the comment below. Be well and have a great day!

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