Project 'Lockdown with Kids' as a Working Parent
Last week I shared three top tips for homeworking, having spent over 20 years doing the very same with my colleagues at ML&C. If you’re a manager working from home, as well as managing yourself and your team you now need to add the responsibility for home-schooling your kids, welcoming your boomerang university student fledglings back and installing technology-based communication strategies for staying in touch with isolated and shielded family members… and there you have the perfect recipe for multi-generational meltdown!
By treating this lockdown period as a project, you are able to apply some techniques you might recognise from your work life. There are three fundamental questions that need to be answered at the start of any project:
Once we have established the purpose or reason why we are embarking on this ‘project’, and the outcome we would like to see coming out of it or the problem it is meant to solve, we can move forwards. The overarching problem to be solved in this case is clear to any adult who has seen a world news bulletin in the past couple of months; to stay healthy, avoid infection and ultimately even to stay alive. Something else a peek at the outside world tells us is it’s not only about how we do this as individuals, we must navigate this situation as a collective and look after those around us. For some of us, that includes continuing to manage our teams and support our work colleagues while balancing new requirements from our families. So these imperatives of staying healthy and looking after each other remain the purpose or guiding principle for any decision we make throughout the life of the project.
What do we need to do in order to have the greatest chance of success for the stated purpose?
Working towards acceptance that you’re in a new situation will help: how you run your personal life and your work life will need to change around your new family situation. Trying to pretend otherwise and stick to previous routines will add extra stress, which we all know is not good for staying healthy. Amidst this change, look out for new sub-purposes or outcomes that could result from the imposed intense family time: new skill acquisition online, new recipes invented to incorporate whatever we are able to buy in over-shopped supermarkets or an impromptu garden makeover, for example.
What else could be possible? Is this the perfect opportunity to volunteer and help others (whilst staying safe, of course), or write that book that was your retirement project (record it on your phone if the family laptop is tied up in home-schooling)?
This is probably the most important and hardest question to answer in a situation that is not of our choosing. Here are some tips for managing your new home-life, as a parent and a professional, that might help give you some welcome extra headspace:
Set a routine for the household and ensure it is agreed and upheld by all (screen time, use of certain resources that must be shared, rota for chores, menu for the week to eke out sparse food stocks, etc.) Agree who has the casting vote in case of disagreement
Ensure the important things are slotted into the routine first – exercise for mental and physical health, work/home-school commitments, Skype calls with shielded relatives, etc.
Go back to basics – agree how successes will be celebrated (from star chart to a victory dance around the kitchen) violations dealt with and disagreements settled
Be open with your team about how you’re managing the challenges of continuing to work in the current situation and encourage them to share their own experiences. You’ll probably swap some useful tips!
Most importantly… inject some fun and enjoy the process!
Thinking about your Project ‘Lockdown with kids’ as an opportunity for growth, here are two questions:
What outcomes would you like each family member to take from this strange time and remember in a year from now?
What outcomes would you like each member of your team to take from this strange time and remember in a year from now?