Click here for COVID-19 Resources

Balancing Work and Family: Working from Home in the COVID-19 Era

As our society adjusts to changes due to COVID-19, you may find yourself and/or your partner, having to work from home. Even during this time of gradual re-opening, many people are still working from home and many of the childcare options previously used are still inaccessible. As a result, many families are experiencing the struggle of balancing working from home and caring for their family members, however a good balance is essential for the mental health and productivity of families across the United States. 

While the societal structure seems to become more and more obsolete, there is still a need for routine and schedules both for yourself and your children. It is recommended that parents continue to set regular bedtimes and wake-up times, establish daily schedules, maintain exercise and social contact, and set aside time for leisure [1]. However, it is important to remember that these routines and structures do not have to entirely model the schedule of a typical day before COVID-19. According to Dr. Roberta Lenger Kang, the director of the Center for the Professional Development of Teachers at Teachers College of Columbia University, “such a rigorous schedule may just set families up for failure” [2]. While structure is important for children, there is no need to strive for strict regulations; rather, it is more important to consider what works best for your family and allow flexibility with this as your needs may change over time.

It is also important to adapt these practices into your own daily life. While you will most likely be working on different tasks than your children, similar principles will apply to your ability to be productive and preserve your mental wellbeing. Some tips for working from home include the minimization of distractions, establishing goals and boundaries for yourself and family, prioritizing good communication, and maintaining social connection with loved ones who are outside of your home [3]. Again, the way these tips are put into practice will look different for everyone. Much like the development of schedules for your children, it will be necessary and beneficial to figure out what works best for you and your partner in the schedules you develop for yourselves.

When working from home with a family to care for, consistent communication is an important factor for maintaining a healthy balance. Communication plans will need to be implemented between partners and children. Partners can communicate how to divide housework and childcare responsibilities, and children will need to know at what times it is appropriate to interact with their parents throughout the day [2]. In addition, it is important to consistently communicate with your children about the significant changes that have occurred due to the pandemic and how the changes will be handled as a family [3]. Lastly, be sure to monitor your own and your children’s mental health.

Contributing: Arden Leichner, UT Undergraduate Student

References

1. School’s Out: A Parents’ Guide for Meeting the Challenge During the COVID-19 Pandemic. (2020). NYU Langone Health. 

2. Petersen, A. (2020, March 25). The Kids Are Home. You Need to Work. What Do You Do? The Wall Street Journal.

3. Greenbaum, Z. (2020, March 20). Psychologist’s advice for newly remote workers. American Psychological Association.