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Start with forgiving yourself. It’s not going to be perfect, and that’s okay. Enjoy the kids and the freedom a little. There are pros and cons to working at home. You can afford to take pleasure in the advantages and a little bit of guilt-free chaos.

But at some point, you will probably have to design your routine for productivity. If you’re not a work-at-home veteran, and the framework for your day is normally provided by external forces like bosses, co-workers and customers, there might be a bit of a learning curve to becoming your own boss. You’ll probably glean some insights about yourself that you hadn’t considered before.

Insofar as you’ll save time that might normally be used for a daily commute, you’ll probably lose that time to the temptations of freedom. Just don’t let the latter get out of hand, and you’ll be fine. Find the balance.

Create a routine: Your self-imposed rules and routine don’t have to be rigidly enforced, but do make some rules, and try not to break them too often. Like anything else you’ll get better as you go along, and you should be able to end up feeling both a sense of achievement and the happy contentment of working at home. The tips below are a composite of suggestions from Forbes, CTV News, and PCMag.

Communication: Updates, expectations, clarifying with people inside and outside of your home is always important, perhaps even more during a pandemic, when the physical nature of our interactions must change.

Employ all the available tools: email for large amounts of information, texts for back and forth, phone calls when conveying your attitude in a nuanced way, or when the back and forth is going to be too robust for texting. Similarly, use virtual meeting tools for group sessions (see the section below).

Family meeting (if applicable): As we know, children need structures and routines and you’re just a big kid who needs a new routine now that you’re at home. Take the opportunity to let your children help plan the schedule in a family meeting. Ask for their input and listen. They get to build in some fun activities. You get to build in some learning activities. You both get to build in some together time. It’s a great chance for children to hear that you need an uninterrupted work period. Make a schedule in writing, and post it somewhere so everyone can refer to it. But remember, don’t be obsessed with the rules and boundaries. This is going to be messy.

Time Management Principles: Determine when you are most productive (for many people it’s morning) and negotiate for that as your quiet time. Create a parallel activity for the children that makes it easy for them to be occupied elsewhere. Many work-at-home people list several reasons to save your phone calls for the afternoon. Similarly, make rules for yourself about how much time you spend with email, social media etc. Make a list of things to do, and keep adding to it, but cross items off as you complete them. Give yourself mini-rewards when earned, eg. tea and cake. Try to keep your To Do List roughly in priority order. Know the difference between urgent and important. Break big daunting tasks into smaller manageable chunks, with sub-goals and interim self-rewards.

Physical Health: You may be at home but unless you have recently travelled, you are likely allowed to go outside. Obviously, stay away from other people, but get some exercise, some air, and some sunlight. Take a walk. Take a walk with the kids and keep each other safe. Even before it’s time to take a walk outside it will be time to take breaks and walk-around inside your home. Even if you’re alone, it’s okay to pace around when thinking, or talk to yourself (the trouble starts when you answer in a different voice).

Mental health: You may be physically more separated from people, but maintain your usual level, or an increased level of engagement with work peers, friends, and family. Most experts say don’t work in bed, some say don’t work in pajamas. Most say make sure your work area is comfortable, but more or less designated as the work zone in your mind, and perhaps in the minds of the family.

Getting started: If you’ve never done much working at home, experts suggest getting started by trying to stick to your usual routine, ie. Get up and dress for work, begin and finish at the usual times. You may not eventually continue in this way, but it might help ease the transition.

Company security and support: Incredibly, the creeps seem to multiply during difficult times, so listen to your IT department and follow the rules on cyber-security. VPNs and other tools can help keep company data secure. Expect the IT team to be stressed. Remote workers have gone from 5% - 10% to 80% - 90%. Be careful with passwords, downloads and providing personal information to strangers. Also don’t be afraid to ask for what you need at home such as monitors, printers, and software. You’re a professional.

Meeting software: There are numerous products for simulated in-person team meetings. Make sure you participate. Many business leaders are having a daily meeting now, to ensure good communication, teamwork and to adjust to the quickly changing pandemic landscape. Meeting tools include Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime, Zoho, Webex, and others. Be patient with these services. Their volume has exploded, so they may have trouble coping. Also, fix your hair and don’t wear pajamas to these meetings, for the same reason that you don’t put drunk photos on your LinkedIn profile.

Be sensitive with interactions: While video conferencing is the closest thing to an actual meeting, it’s not the same. In fact, this is a good time to consider that although each of us tends to have a favourite communication method like texting, email, or voice calls, everyone is different. And the strengths and weaknesses of each of these tools are different too. In addition, these are not ordinary times. We need to be aware that people are facing challenges and may be feeling anxious. They are working in new ways. They may be more isolated. Their loved-ones may be sick or unable to get the usual supports they need. It’s a good time to do a self-check on your own ability to demonstrate empathy and compassion.

Children: Rigid homeschooling with a blackboard might not be the only answer. Experts say doing things with your children and having discussions with them is the best way for them to learn. In some families it might be possible for parents to switch back and forth -one parent works, while the other hangs with the kids, the next day you swop, and so on. It might be a great time for grandparents and kids to hook up online and spend some time reading, writing, and arithmetic. Everyone will learn something.

Resources for children: Teachers say there is now an amazing portfolio of free and fun learning resources online, including Scholastic courses, Khan Academy, Raz-Kids, Mad Science, Live readings courtesy of Olaf (Actor Josh Gad), Skinnamarink live readings, Kidsactivitiesblog.com, Prodigy math game, CoolMath4Kids, National Geographic for Kids, Busy Toddler, Lunch doodles with Mo Willems, free art lessons at Wild Free & Crafty,

and virtual museum tours from The National Gallery of Canada, the Canada Science and Technology Museum, and the Royal Ontario Museum.

Enjoy: It’s normal to be worried about elderly relatives, getting sick yourself, losing income, and lost school time for children. But this is also an opportunity. Some people will have extra time on their hands. Use it to pause and reflect on life, spend more time talking with the people you care about, take some online training, attend a webinar, start that personal project you’ve been putting off, do your taxes, write a budget, plan for the future a little better, listen to music, or watch a favourite Netflix show. They say a change is as good as a rest. You might be getting both. Enjoy!