For many parents, being forced to work from home - often while also home-schooling (aarrgh!) has been both a blessing and a curse.
While it has been great to avoid the traffic laden commute and have more flexibility there is the inevitable blurring of the working day into the evening. Now this is not all bad - we need to be productive and the economy needs all the burners lit underneath it if we are to ever reduce the national debt for our children's children. But what impact could this 'always on - always connected' approach be having on our little ones?
The transition between work and home - time in the car or public transport and the very change in environment has for many been an important aspect of the switching off process allowing them to be 'present' when at home and interacting with children. I have been guilty as a business owner of not being mentally present at times when there is so much going on outside the home. I think it might be more difficult for many parents now that working from home is so ubiquitous and the pandemic took away many of the great things in life that compete for our attention for so long.
Recent news articles have discussed this problem reporting the stated desire in some politicians to give workers the 'right to switch off' and the dangers of a 24/7 working culture developing from the change in peoples' working practices. It is a difficult balance but I do believe the wellbeing of both parents and children could be negatively impacted over time if parents feel unable to unglue themselves and switch off.
Our children are mirrors reflecting the behaviours we show them, family habits good and bad embed themselves and can be hard to change.
So what can be done? Naturally it starts with an honest look at how things have changed in your family if you are working from home more now. Do your kids have to compete for your attention? Are you present? I wanted to share a few tips that have worked for me over the years, let us know in the comments your ideas and what your concerns are...
Entry and exit strategies. Build transition activities than enable you to switch into a focussed work mode and then back out of it at the end of the day. An outside walk is the obvious one here but I think writing a plan for the following day followed by a workspace tidy and tech shutdown is really useful. Some swear by a simple change of clothes!
Let the games begin. Even a quick game of Hungry Hippos will help! I know you might need to cook dinner, there are sports clubs and gazillions of other competing parental tasks but finding fun outside of tech each day is the thing here.
The tech pot. How about getting everyone to put their devices in a bowl or drawer for one evening a week? Or perhaps an hour or two at the end of each day? As adults we check our phones once every 12 minutes on average, kids even more. You can even buy tech safes with time delayed locks on them that secure devices for a pre-determined amount of time if temptation is too much!
Reward success. Change is difficult and remember all the apps on your phone are designed to compel you to engage with them as often as possible and reward you for doing so with likes and progress. What could your real-world rewards be?
We have an opportunity in many cases to be more productive AND have more quality time with our children before they grow up. The average pre-pandemic commute in the UK was between 59 minutes and 1h38 depending on which set of statistics you read at a cost of more than £160 per month. I realise not everyone is able to work from home but for those lucky ones...all that time and money has so much value - what are you gonna do with it?
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