Tips For Working At Home: Setting Expectations

Setting Expectations

“You work from home, so you can do what you want” is a false statement I hear frequently. And the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic only adds to the stress of your job. Your kids are sudden in your office asking about homework and fighting. Your parents with underlying health conditions refuse to social distance. The cat is constantly interrupting your Zoom meetings. And your furloughed spouse is anxious from watching cable news 24/7. Stress!

Let’s start by acknowledging everyone’s situation is different. There are single mom’s, parents with many multiples of children, people living in small apartments with roommates, etc. We have to be patient and flexible with others and ourselves during these uncertain times. And here are some suggestions I have from my 6+ years working from home.

1) Your Old Routine: I could wake up 1 1/2 hours later. I could wear my pajamas all day. Maybe take longer lunches. Do some chores in the afternoon. Close up shop earlier. Instead, when I started to work from home, I kept my schedule from the office. Our brains love routine because it tells us “everything is okay.” When routine changes, that tells our brains “something’s wrong.”

So, if you’ve abandoned your routine and it’s not working; bring it back. If you’re unable to bring back that routine, then try to make a new one. Here’s some advice: Making a Routine.

2) Work Space: You need a space to work. It’s more necessary if you’re partner telecommutes to work, the kids have online classes, and anyone else in your home is trying to do the same thing. This may be difficult if you live in a small apartment or there’s no spare bedrooms.

But, find a place that you can work. It can be a room, a corner, the patio, a garage, basement, etc. It’s even better if it has a door for privacy. Having a specific place to work puts you in a productive mindset. It’s also a signal to others that you’re not to be interrupted. Here’s some advice: Your Work Space.

3) Sorry, I’m Busy: For my wife and I, when the door to my studio and her office/family room is closed: DO NOT INTERRUPT. If we know an important meeting or call is going to happen, we coordinate our schedules accordingly.

Young children may need a little extra reminder. If they aren’t of reading age yet, it should be visual. Make it a fun activity. Ask them to make you a sign that means “please wait until I’m finished.”

Also, kids need a routine to let their brains know “everything’s okay.” Everyone needs to work together to create the household routine. Remember to be flexible and patient. Change what doesn’t work and expand what does. Here’s a sample schedule:

Family Schedule

7am — 10am
Adult 1: Work
Adult 2: Watch children
Kid 1: Breakfast and school work
Kid 2: Breakfast and school work

10am — 11am
Adult 1: Watch children
Adult 2: Check work messages
Kid 1: Online class
Kid 2: Zoom with friends

11am — Noon
Adult 1: Check work messages
Adult 2: Help children with homework
Kid 1: homework
Kid 2: homework

Noon — 1pm
Lunch for everyone. Extra time to play outside or walk around neighborhood

1pm — 1:30pm
Adult 1: Help children with homework
Adult 2: Check work messages
Kid 1: homework
Kid 2: homework

1:30pm — 4pm
Adult 1 and 2: Work
Kid 1 and 2: Free time

4pm — 5pm
Adult 1: Chores and errands
Adult 2: Work
Kid 1 and 2: Chores

5pm — 7pm
Dinner. Extra time for own activities.

7pm — 10pm
Adult 1: Spend time with kids
Adult 2: Work
Kid 1 and 2: Theme night activities (Movie Night, Game Night, etc). Free time. Bed.

Post schedule in a prominent public space

4) Ask For Help: Everyday, all members of your household should talk about your needs to be successful. What tasks need to be completed. The best actions to reach your goals.

Ask for help outside your household. Are the kids having difficulty with school? Maybe the parents of the class could organize a Zoom tutoring session. Elderly parents are bored? Ask them to call your kids and tell them stories before bedtime. With about 50 million families sharing this experience, find another one to share successes, laugh at failures, and find ways to help each other.

Help others too. Doing something good relieves anxiety because it makes you feel good too. It boosts good karma.

5) Take a Deep Breathe: Things will not go as planned. That’s okay. Be patient and understanding with others and yourself. Learn from the mistakes and try something new tomorrow.

Setting boundaries is all about expectations and results. The alarm goes off and I wake up. At 10am, the kids are taking an online class while you work. Before dinner, your spouse works while you and the kids do chores. This is a time for bonding with loved ones. Use this time and stress to make those roots grow stronger. The grapes that struggle the most make the best wine.

More Having Fun During Coronavirus

Mike Kraus was born on the industrial shoreline of Muskegon, Michigan. After earning his Fine Arts Degree from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he attended Grand Valley State University for his graduate degree. From there, he gained varied experiences from the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Art Institute of Chicago, Hauenstein Center For Presidential Studies, Lollypop Farm Humane Society, and the Children’s Memorial Foundation. And every place he worked, he had his sketchbook with him and found ways to be actively creative. In 2014, Kraus became a full-time artist by establishing Mike Kraus Art. Since then, he has sold hundreds of paintings that are displayed in nearly every state and dozens of countries. Currently, Kraus lives in Rochester, New York with his beautiful wife and goofy dog.

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