6-year-old Mollie stays busy with creative tasks.

Working from home has its perks, but also presents unique challenges—especially when the rest of the family is home, too. With offices and schools closed to combat the spread of COVID-19, many working parents are facing an unprecedented situation: working full time from home, while also educating and taking care of their children.

Here at Healthcare Bluebook, we are also adjusting to our new work dynamic, along with our new home offices. We have entered uncharted territory, and most of us are just making the rules up as we go. The first step: Take a deep breath. Next, use the strategies below to make your new “normal” a little easier.

1 Be Flexible with your Schedule. It may not be possible to work your normal 8am – 5pm hours every day. If you have another adult home with you, consider a split schedule. Designate a “point” parent who will work at the dining room table, feed the kids, and suggest activities for bored children while the other parent works in a different room.

If you must work while taking care of the kids, try lightening your load by working odd hours. Getting up early or working at night will help you get in some quiet time with minimal distraction.  Whatever works best for you—just be sure to set yourself up for success. Set realistic goals and work towards accomplishing them.

Reed (9) studies over one of his mom’s assignments.

2 Be Honest with your Boss. You might need to adjust your work schedule in order to watch your children. Before you do, talk to your boss or HR. Remember that this isn’t your personal situation—it’s a community issue. Be sure to convey this point tactfully and work together to come up with a clear, reasonable plan of action. If you clearly communicate your needs, you not only help make your own life less stressful during this time, but you also open the door for your coworkers to have this conversation as well.

3 Create a Proper Workspace. Working from home with a spouse is hectic enough–throw in a kid or two and all bets are off. Make sure you have a dedicated workspace. Clear existing clutter and consider moving some furniture around to create the space that your family needs.

Lounging on the couch is nice at first but setting up a workspace helps you separate parent/work hours and increase productivity throughout the day.

4 Stick to a Routine. Ask anyone who works from home and they will tell you that maintaining a daily routine is key to maximum productivity. Not only will this keep a sense of normalcy, but it will also help everyone stay occupied and manage some of the anxiety caused by COVID-19. Go ahead and write out a schedule and pin it to the refrigerator so kids can refer to it throughout the day.

Reed may be following in his dad’s footsteps as a photojournalist.

With some schools closed for a month or more, it’s important to include school time every day. (Pro Tip: School time can equal uninterrupted work time for you.) Whether you have toddlers or teens, structure is crucial to maintaining a work/parent balance.

5 Be Patient. This isn’t the time to get annoyed because a co-worker has a yapping dog, crying baby, or sulky teenager who keeps wandering through a video conference. And if you’re that person—with the yapping dog or crazy kindergartner, be patient with yourself. This is an unprecedented situation, and you’re doing the best you can. 

If you need a smile today, take a look at this video to see how far I’ll go to to keep my kids active (and me, sane).