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Working, Learning, and Living: How to Do it All From Home During the Coronavirus

By Tanya Svoboda
April 2020

You may have bought your home for the open floor plan, access to public transportation and excellent schools – but with the spread of COVID-19, your housing needs may have temporarily changed. Now, many of us are using our homes for work, schooling our children, exercising, and leisure. Oftentimes trying to coordinate all of this with our partners in the same space.

Making your home work safely and effectively for all of these needs may seem impossible, but we’re here to tell you that with some strategic planning and resourceful thinking, your home really can do it all.

Working and Learning Productively

This is a unique time. It’s not often that both parents are working from home while one or more of their children are engaged in E-Learning. There are schedules to maintain, attention to be divided, and spaces to be shared. With the right mindset and a good deal of pre-planning, you and your house can handle this.

Get Creative With Work Surfaces

Finding space for everyone to work and learn can be challenging. There are the obvious choices: the kitchen table or an office desk – but these typical work from home options might not be the best choice when your kids are at home too. The article How to Work From Home When Your Kids Are Around Too notes, “The kitchen table is a precarious place to leave your laptop, but you don’t want to set up in a basement corner where you won’t be near where your children play either. Find a place that is near your children but is not in the center of the chaos.”

If you don’t have an abundance of work surfaces in your home, bring the card table up from the basement or see what materials you can repurpose in the garage (a couple of saw horses and some plywood perhaps) to make a temporary work surface.

Divide Your Space

When deciding on how you’ll divide your home into work areas, you should consider the different types of work you (and any other adult working from home) do: computer work, video conferences, hands on projects. At the same time think about the types of learning your kids will be doing: computer lessons, worksheets, projects, quiet reading. Look for the areas that overlap and create a space within your home to fit each need. Three useful areas might be:

  • Computer station: You can enlist the kids to help you create table top dividers with common craft and office supplies to make one table top space work for many.
  • Messy work station: Try setting up a make-shift table or folding table in the garage or basement for messy or large projects.
  • Quiet area for reading and video conferencing: It makes sense to have a dedicated space for video conferencing or conference calls that is quiet, secluded, and has a strong internet connection. Dan Roche, VP of Marketing for TalkPoint, a Webcasting technology provider, suggests setting up “a personal but professional space with a bookcase or simple wall in the background. Keep windows, pets, kids, or anything else whose visuals or behavior you may not be able to control out of the background.” This area can double as a quiet reading space.

By leaving shared spaces, like kitchens and TV rooms, unused by work and learning, you won’t have to worry about someone else’s lunch break interrupting your workflow.

Once you have your work spaces set up and defined, you might want to think about some basic additions to your home office/home classroom to help make everyone’s work easier:

  • Wireless printer and plenty of paper
  • Noise cancelling headphones
  • Individual headphones
  • Whiteboard calendar
  • Folding or card tables
  • Extra desk chairs
  • Basic craft and office supplies: staplers, paper clips, pens and pencils
  • WiFi Extender
Divide The Day

No matter how proactive you are setting up work spaces throughout your house the time will come, especially with young children, where you or your partner will have to drop what you’re doing to help them with school work, meal prep, or to break up a sibling fight. Murphy’s Law tells us that these inconveniences will happen at the most inopportune times.

Dave Anderson, a clinical psychologist and the senior director of national programs and outreach at the Child Mind Institute, recommends in a Vox article “for two-parent homes with both partners at home to plan to work in shifts if possible, especially if there are small children that require more attention. Breaking it up into two- or four-hour shifts apiece can ensure that each partner has dedicated time to focus. But even then, be prepared to help out if things get tricky, especially if there are multiple children.”

To coordinate these shifts, turn your mudroom or a portion of your kitchen into a family command center with a shared calendar. It’s a great way to keep everyone on the same page. On this calendar, you can assign times for everyone to get their work done in the various work stations you’ve set up. “The sense of complete chaos is more anxiety-provoking for kids … than having a schedule,” Eli Lebowitz, a clinical psychologist at the Yale School of Medicine who treats child anxiety, said in a Live Science article.

The article also notes that you’re likely to get more buy in for school work with a clear schedule. And, by adding a few dividers or bins to your command center, you and your kids can stow your work and learning materials at the end of the day so you can get back to using your house as your home.

Don’t Forget to Breathe

Once work and school projects are put away at the end of the day take time to relax and enjoy all the features of your home that drew you to it in the first place. Open a window, rest on your private patio, or play a game in your living room. This is a unique opportunity to enjoy a valued investment: your home.

Visit our COVID-19 Page for the latest news and information from Home Ownership Matters on COVID-19 and its impact on homeowners, housing and communities across the country.

Guidelines and protocol surrounding COVID-19 are changing quickly. For the most up-to-date information we recommend visiting the CDCWHO, and your local health department websites.


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