We’ve been speaking to PR parents who are balancing home life with work from home life. In this second part, you can pick up advice and reassurance from peers managing focus, sharing and ‘remote babysitting’. This is part two – read part one here.
7) Changing up your workspace
‘I’m juggling responsibilities to my clients with looking after Joe, my 17-month-old son. My partner Robbie is on furlough and is doing a great job keeping our son entertained but it hasn’t stopped him being disruptive. Joe’s run naked into my ‘home office’ (a squeezed corner of the sitting room) during Zoom calls with clients, has climbed onto my desk shutting down my MacBook, and is generally causing havoc every single day. When Joe naps late morning it’s great and I can be productive for up to two hours. But I have resorted to sitting in the car to do quiet work when things have gotten too much…’
Grainne Byrne, account director at Represent Comms
8) Giving more consideration to the split of parental responsibilities
‘I thought working from home would make it easy for me and my partner to balance parenting roles and responsibilities and give me more opportunity to be there for the special moments I always missed when I was at work. But in fact, it has illuminated a startling disparity between workloads and pressures.
‘While I try and do as much as possible, and share in our baby’s formative months and experiences, balancing my job and home ‘work’ is proving difficult. It’s swings and roundabouts though; at least I’m not commuting for three hours a day and that’s time I can now spend with my daughter – and I’m always home for her bedtime routine!’
Dan Plume, head of content at Branch Road
‘My wife and I decided to equally split caring for our son and working. In the mornings, I get up with my son, prepare breakfast and get ready for the day. Often, we go for walks or do grocery shopping. Once he naps after lunch, I start my working day. It’s working well for us.
‘As I work as part of an international team, the time difference partly makes up for the first hours of the day where I’m unable to work. I have communicated my working hours to both our clients and my colleagues and everyone fully understands the situation.’
Jan Christoph Bohnerth, strategic director at Life Size
9) Being upfront with your team (and yourself) about what you can accomplish
‘I’ll be honest, I went into full on panic mode as soon as I heard we were in lockdown. Luckily, after a few phone calls to my always-supportive MD and CEO, I had a bit of a breakthrough. They managed to reassure me that they understood if my work output wasn’t up to scratch during the lockdown period, and that I’d be able to rely on members of the wider PR team should I need any additional help in picking up some of my everyday tasks. Despite the stresses that have accompanied the past month, we’ve been really lucky.’
10) Remote babysitting
‘With a separate office in the house and pre-school age children, I’m lucky I’m not perching a laptop on the kitchen table or trying to educate kids too – it’s much, much harder for those who are.
‘While it’s unusual having my husband and both kids permanently here too, the ability to work shifts and share care means we’re managing well. Screen time rules have gone out of the window, but we’re thankful for the baby’s decent naps and my parents and in-laws ‘babysitting’ via Zoom for an hour a day with the eldest.’
Claire Foss, owner of Waterfall PR
11) Staying focused on what really matters
‘After a couple of days of feeling overwhelmed and bad at this parenting lark, we’ve decided to pick and choose what we focus on, both for the kids’ sakes and for ours, so that they can keep learning but also enjoy the fresh air and sunshine we so fortuitously have right now.
‘Do we feel guilty that they are not learning? Do we feel failures that they are more interested in teen-orientated American “comedy” shows and their tablet computers? Do we get exasperated at the latest meltdown for all our neighbours to hear when they’re in the garden? Yes, to all the above. But as my wife said, we’re keeping them safe, and right now, that’s all that really matters.’
David Alexander, managing director at Calacus
‘The hardest part has been shifting my mindset; understanding that some days I’ll need to be Mum more than PR lead, and others the opposite. And that’s okay. So many of us are in the same boat. And if you’re communicating openly with your teams and your clients, setting expectations, and continuing to do a great job, that’s what matters.’
Rebecca Mulgrave, head of PR at Branch Road
‘Balancing being a parent and WFH does come with its challenges, but I think looking at the experience as a positive is the key to it not becoming overwhelming.
‘I break probably once an hour, even for just five minutes, to play with my son – it can be the ultimate tool for reducing any stress or frustrations because when you do go back to sitting at your laptop, you’re doing it with a smile on your face! It’s really hard at times, but this is time at home watching our kids grow up – enjoy it.’
Mark McMeekin, digital PR consultant at AGY47
12) Go easy on yourself
‘I think that one thing is not to think that you have to be a home-schooling guru as that will only add pressure to what is already a testing time. Our school is now using Google Classroom and we have a full day of on and offline work for the children to do – what I would say is to remember that you can be seen and heard by those on a school call so get dressed!
‘It’s important that you do not go on social media and get caught up in the whole home-schooling competition. Yes, someone might be creating amazing art and teaching their kids Japanese as an extra, but don’t believe the hype! The main thing is that you are all happy and healthy and as long as they are doing their best, reading each day, not living on their screens and getting some fresh air and exercise, then that is great!’
Natalie Trice, PR consultant, coach, and trainer
Want more resources for working during the COVID-19 outbreak? Download Navigating uncertainty – the Vuelio toolkit for communicators.