Over the last eight months or so, our ability to strike a reasonable balance between family and work-life demands has been tested like never before.

The global pandemic has led many businesses all over the world to make the shift to remote working, without very much preparation. Very quickly, many of us had to adjust to these new ways of working, operating, delivering and connecting. At times, it’s been a real struggle for all of us, and circumstances have placed a particular strain on working parents who find themselves having to entertain, and even teach their brood, as well as working full-time from home.

For many of us, the overlap of work life and home life has been tough, with the lines now more blurred than they have ever been. Even for those who have always been used to working from home, doing it with a partner or with children around has certainly presented a brand new set of challenges. So if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed with it all, take a look at our top tips when it comes to balancing being a full-time parent, with being a full-time employee too…

1. It’s all in the planning

As tempting as it is right now to just wake up each day and hope for the best, you’ll find that life is much easier if you plan ahead. It’s important to find whatever way works best for you when it comes to how you organise your day. Whether it’s downloading a planning/productivity app on your phone, setting reminders, buying a dairy style planner to fill out, or going old school with a whiteboard to write down your priorities – find something that works best for you to list out the weekly tasks ahead.

You may find it helpful to split tasks into categories, i.e. ‘family tasks for the day’, ‘work tasks’ or ‘household chores’. It might also be useful to divide any household chores out between the rest of the family, including the kids. The important thing is that you make some sort of weekly plan of attack during this time. We promise this will help you to feel less overwhelmed by the daily challenges that working from home with the family will inevitably throw up…

2. Rise and *try to* shine

These days, our mornings are usually filled from the getgo with bright screens, bleak news updates and demanding work emails. As the lines are so blurred at the moment as to when our working day should officially ‘start’, we can find ourselves consuming a lot of information before it even gets to 9 am. With kids around, mornings can feel even more stressful, as we as parents have to think about their needs and prepare them for their day before we can even think about our own. Having a routine, particularly in the morning, can help to get your day off to a less chaotic start.

This could be as simple as setting your alarm 30 mins earlier than usual and sitting quietly with a cup of tea or going for a quick brisk walk before the kids are up. Or it could be trying to practise 10 mins of gratitude, listing the things we’re grateful for before the day begins.

Whatever you settle on, try your hardest to find a way to enjoy some brief moments of calm, solitude and focus before the busy day ahead takes over.

3. Be frank with your colleagues

While many might consider it an advantage to have the option to work from home and still get paid, don’t let your gratitude for the situation make you lose sight of how difficult it can be at times. Trying to remain at the top of your game at work while also managing a household with kids is no easy task, and can sometimes be downright impossible!

Even your older children may end up needing more attention than you had realised. Be mindful too of what has been asked of your kids. They’ve had to suddenly stop all of their normal routines, with many of them flitting in and out lockdown, depending on where you live in the country. It’s been a struggle for them as well as you, and everyone’s situation is different, so there is no ‘one size fits all’ guidance. If you feel too much is being expected of you by your boss or teammates, it’s time to speak up right now. Address areas of your job that have been seriously impacted from remote working, and confirm what tasks you can commit to and what you simply cannot. This will help you and your boss to get ahead of any potential issues. After all, you can only try your best. Don’t overpromise and just be honest.

4. Communication is key

It’s never been more important to communicate how you’re feeling than it is right now. Whether this is with your partner or spouse about the division of tasks, with your friends and family about how the pandemic is affecting you, as well as with your children on how they’re feeling and how you can both help each other out. Remote working isn’t all lie-ins and PJ’s. It can also take a major toll on your mental health, as you may be missing the element of social interaction you used to have with work colleagues and the separation that the office gave you from home life, no matter how much you love your family!

Whatever it is that you need, whether it’s from family or your colleagues – share your thoughts and concerns as early on as you can. If you let frustrations fester, this is more likely to cause tensions within the family home, or with your boss, if you feel you’re being given too much work. It’s critical that you discuss your needs, wants and expectations frequently – especially with your children too. Keeping lines of communication open during these tumultuous times has never been more important, so make sure you speak up to the right people when you have an issue before things snowball.

So there you have it, our top tips on how to stay sane as a parent working from home. As much as we hope these nuggets of advice may help you, it’s important to remember that some work from home situations may be simply too difficult to cope with. If you feel that you have been treated in an unfair, or perhaps even discriminatory way by your employer since the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might have grounds for a legal case. If this is something you feel may apply to your situation then we advise you give the business and employment solicitors at Pilkington Shaw Solicitors a call. They will be able to talk you through what your rights are as an employee and help you to establish if any of these have been violated over the course of you working from home.