The term “telecommuting” dates back to 1973 when it was coined by NASA engineer Jack Nilles during the oil crisis. “Tele-schooling,” better known as “distance learning,” was a necessary change that emerged in the midst of the pandemic, providing somehow continuity for the 2019-2020 academic year—largely thanks to technology. In other words, both remote working and distance learning were born as a result of a crisis.
This common denominator has led to the reflection I’ve had, which I offer below. How to combine these three very complex variables in our daily lives to better manage family life: remote work, distance learning, and the pandemic crisis.
Telecommuting and distance learning today
Since March 2020, the coronavirus has accelerated the expansion of remote working and virtual schooling globally, although we still have a long way to go before reaching the levels in the Netherlands – a leading country in these areas, especially for smartworking.
In both scenarios of remote work and distance learning, a person must use a computer or a device with an Internet connection. This method has begun to be used in extreme situations, such as the historic "Filomena" snowfall that occurred in Madrid January 6-11, 2021, where both students and workers used these devices to keep up with classes and professional life.
It all comes down to good organization
For starters, it's clear that the key word for finding balance is undoubtedly “organization.” But before we start organizing, children need to have an explanation for what is going on. We don't need to dramatize anything, but we do need to squash any uncertainties that might make them nervous and upset.
The next step is to gather information, beginning, for example, with the children's class schedules or virtual work meeting dates. Once all relevant, important information has been gathered, transfer all of these dates into one shared calendar.
It is just as important to know how many devices we have at our disposal. The more we have the better, without a doubt. If resources are limited, we need to make good use of them.
In short, assess your family’s situation: how many of you there are, how many devices you have, how important each task is, etc. There are as many unique situations as there are people in the world.
Since school and work now take place at home, household chores should also be considered. These tasks, which in some households are delegated to another person, will fall on our shoulders since we are not allowed to leave our own houses. The whole family, then, should get involved and help.
These criteria, along with some basic rules of living together and scheduling, will be enough to start our first day of smart-working and distance learning.
With this organization we'll avoid common inconveniences we run into when double-booking tasks that at first glance seem incompatible, by way of multitasking (several tasks at once) and minimizing distractions.
Common sense is the first rule: some useful advice
Here are some useful tips – which should be common sense – that I’d like to offer you. First of all, have a place in the house where each person can do his or her work in peace—even better if it is always the same spot. It is also important to consider whether or not to make the “home office” accessible to our children or other family members.
Another very useful trick I like to use is setting several alarms on my cell phone to alert me 15 minutes before the start of my kids’ classes, which should be more than enough time to get them ready for lessons.
It would also be wise to inform your boss if you’d be able to do virtual meetings regularly instead of in-person meetings. If he or she is a savvy boss, he or she will open up a conversation about this idea to find a solution for everyone.
For work to be truly productive, in some cases, it may be worth considering working before other family members wake up or while the younger members of the household are napping. Another good idea is a weekly menu that allows parents to organize meals and not spend more time than necessary on cooking.
Finding the right pace at the very start of the day
At the start of our workday and virtual lessons, we recommend doing the same routine tasks that we do on any normal day: eat breakfast, tidy up, and get cleaned up.
Finding time for a quick morning meeting with family members would give us the chance to explain to one everyone how the day will unfold. It’s always helpful for children to know what comes after each activity. A few minutes before we connect with family members, it's a good idea to calmly look over work platforms, making sure that everything under control. The beginning of our day is crucial to finding the right pace for the rest of the day! In short, "telecommuting" at the same time as children's virtual lessons is not an impossibility.
The secret? If we work together in our family as a team, everything will be easier and we will find the balance – a balance that is never definitive but always open to change. What is definitive is only the certainty of the cemetery that awaits us at the end of our lives, since life is always...life.