While many of us enjoy working outside the office, our productivity and focus can slip when our kids are home with us, too. This is the reality which many of us face with the current Covid-19 pandemic, where our kids are attending virtual school or perhaps no school at all. As a result, we have become teachers, coaches, and principals even as we work our 9-to-5 jobs. 

This situation can be a recipe for stress, sleeplessness, and exhaustion, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve put together four tips to consider when working remotely with your kids at home. 

Set expectations with your manager. You’re definitely not the only parent working from home right now, but it’s still important to set appropriate expectations with your manager. Explain the particulars of your situation and how they might impact your productivity or ability to hit certain deadlines. Then lay out, as best you can, a proposed strategy to ensure you’re getting the work done on a schedule and timetable that you feel is realistic. Having an upfront, candid, and honest conversation with your manager is much easier than a panicked Zoom call mid-project.

Find the “sweet spot” for your productivity. Maybe you do your best work at home before your kids are awake or after they go to bed. Maybe you have a mid-afternoon window for “deep work” while your kids are busy. Or perhaps the evening is your time to catch up on work assignments. Whatever your productivity “sweet spot,” make sure you utilize these time blocks effectively, keeping them blocked off for work on your calendar and informing your manager this time is sacred.

Carve out your own space. One of the most effective strategies that full-time remote workers use is to designate a portion of their home as their office or work area. Then, at the end of each work day, they can close the door or turn off the desk lamp and “end” their work day. While this might be tricky in a house with working parents and kids, finding a physical work environment that is just for you can be a huge psychological boost. This also helps separate your work life from your home life in a tangible way, especially important in these uncertain times. 

Take breaks that work for you. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to working remotely, especially when your kids are at home, too. If you need to work in 20 or 30-minute increments and take breaks to check on your kids, do so. But make sure you’re also taking time for yourself. Schedule a few mental health breaks throughout the day for activities that are grounding and sustaining. These can include a quick exercise break, a stroll around the neighborhood, or some time outside on a deck or patio or in a garden. 

As we enter an uncertain fall, it’s important that we do all that we can to balance our work and family responsibilities with our responsibilities to ourselves. In times of great stress and challenge, we must prioritize our mental health, even if that means taking a few hours to ourselves when we can. We will get to the end of this pandemic, but we must get there in one piece.