Working Through the Crisis: Advice for Parents

Parents of children affected by school closures may find the adjustment particularly difficult.

Published: Mar 20, 2020

For working parents, having the kids out of school for any extended period of time can be hard. This is typically the case during summer break; according to a survey conducted last year by Korn Ferry, 68% of working moms and dads said managing their kids during the summer is harder than managing their employees, and 30% said they’ve taken unexpected time off due to childcare issues.

But the coronavirus outbreak has left many parents facing an infinitely more difficult situation: having their kids home every day, while working from home themselves, during a crisis that officials have warned could rage on for months.

Aim for peaceful, not perfect.

“I’m not a parent, but I can empathize,” says Sean Carney, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to try to do your work and entertain and provide for your children at a time like this.”

Here’s some advice for working while the kids are at home.

Try the Pomodoro Technique.
Let’s face it: trying to get an uninterrupted block of two or three hours to get your work done may be near impossible if your children are around, particularly if they’re under 12. Instead, experiment with different time-management strategies. One that may work particularly well is the Pomodoro Technique, which involves breaking your workday into 25-minute chunks followed by five-minute breaks; then taking a longer break after four 25-minute chunks. This can not only keep you more mentally focused, but allow you to check in with the kids several times an hour. “The idea is frequent, short bursts of work,” Carney says. “It’s good for where we’re at mentally right now, but it’s also really good if you’re juggling multiple priorities.”

Ask for more flexibility.
It may be that you’ve always been online 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. But under these new circumstances, it may make sense for you to adjust your schedule. Perhaps you get rolling two hours earlier, take some time to hang out with your children during the day, and pick up the rest of your work later in the evening. The key is to communicate; in these difficult times, it’s likely that your managers and colleagues will understand.

Aim for peaceful, not perfect.
You can only do so much. Your normal rules about how much screen time your kids get, or how many sugary snacks they eat, could end up falling by the wayside during these stressful times. That’s OK; this won’t be forever. And if your kids end up throwing a tantrum because they want to do something they can’t, try not to let it get to you. “It’s easy to fall into that mommy/daddy guilt, but it’s allowable for kids not to be happy every day,” says Nancy Von Horn, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. “I can say this in retrospect: they really will be OK.”

Keep up contact with the outside world.
It can be a lot to be in the house all day with kids running around. Be sure to connect with friends and family; research shows that rates of loneliness are high amongst workers who work remotely, so increasing your contact can help. Plus, chatting with others—particularly those who have kids—can give you some ideas about activities that could work for your household. “We all have a role to play where we can reach out to others,” says Fayruz Kirtzman, a senior principal at Korn Ferry. “That helps make sure people are not alone.”  

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