Home is where the work is

Updated: Mar 18, 2020, 20:33 IST | Dalreen Ramos, Sukanya Datta | Mumbai

If you, like so many others, are working from home while keeping your kids engaged, we understand your predicament. Experts dip into their experience to tell you how to be productive despite the distractions

Malabi Das with her kids at their Andheri residence. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Malabi Das with her kids at their Andheri residence. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Flatten the curve," has become more than just another slogan this week. It's a term that determines how the spread of coronavirus can be managed via social distancing. As Work From Home (WFH) mandates continue to be implemented across the globe, it's a still a scenario many are strangers to. And with school closures, it gets more challenging if you have kids to cater to, too.

For Malabi Das, a communications specialist with a leading multi-national company, flexible-working hours have proven to be somewhat of a saving grace. "My span of control is 50 people. Our clients are based in Europe and the United States and so, we often have to work late, which makes WFH a better option. We also have the infrastructure to do so," she shares. The Andheri resident states that WFH is often dismissed as an unproductive option but that's not the case. "We track not only the number of hours an individual spends in front of the laptop but also their productivity. Thus, it is very important to be respectful," she avers.

Working it in
But WFH comes with flipsides, too. For Das these translate into back or neck aches, as there is no designated workspace at home. Plus, there is also a tendency to work more than required given that there are no specific work timings. The pandemic poses a new set of challenges for the mother of two sons, aged six and 12 respectively, who also has aging parents. As a precautionary measure, Das is minimising any kind of movement outside the house but is still taking things one day at a time. "The children's exams have been postponed for now so they are having a good time. If there's a lockdown imposed, I plan on involving them in housework and art since I upcycle old furniture. I also wish to play boardgames with both the children and parents, before moving to online games and activities."

You panic, your child panics

A majority of India's demographic hasn't lived through such a situation before with uncertainty looming over. Thus, clinical psychologist and psychology teacher Aditi Vaze suggests that accepting this uncertainty is critical. "You need to internalise that there are no protocols in place. There is no point ranting over it. And you need to be sensible, not paranoid," she shares.

At the same time, it is also important to not give into misinformation which can lead to stress. "When you panic, your child panics. Stop reading WhatsApp forwards and verify information with government sources. Explain to your kids about what's happening and talk to your doctor, too, if required. Kids pick up information from their peers and social media; tell them to verify it with you first," suggests Dr Gauri Karkhanis, clinical and social psychologist, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital. At the same time, she says, it's important to keep a tab on their hygiene. "Apart from washing hands regularly, explain to your kids that they need to be careful about where they are sitting and what they are touching, including phones and tabs that tend to be the dirtiest," she suggests.

Dr Gauri Karkhanis and Aditi Vaze
Dr Gauri Karkhanis and Aditi Vaze

On the work front, it is often difficult for family members and kids to grasp the fact that although you are at home, you need to have the same level of productivity. There may be calls you are expected to attend or your kids may run into you while you're on a work-related call. "Explain to your kids and family that you need to work. Divide your day and tell them you will need to work for two to three hours straight, during which they should not disturb you unless it's urgent. Don't work at a stretch; take breaks to be with them as it will help you too," advises Karkhanis.

Time to bond

Time to bond

"While there is reason for caution, the situation has given working parents more opportunity to spend quality time with their kids," says Dr Fazal Nabi, director, paediatrics, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre.

Dr Fazal Nabi
Dr Fazal Nabi

Karkhanis and Nabi suggest that while you are working, you can engage the kids in DIY art and craft activities, books and pending homework. Read to them, go play with them at your community park if it's safe, revisit old albums, and do things you don't normally get time for.

Food matters

Food matters

Ditching packaged foods and procuring fresh goods is the need of the hour according to nutritionist and lifestyle educator Karishma Chawla. She advises a diet high in legumes, beans, whole grains, high-fibre fruits and vegetables.

Food matters

"Remember that 70 to 80 per cent of the immune system lies in your gut," she states. Helpful herbs for the gut include turmeric, ginger, rosemary, garlic and cinnamon. Plus, make coconut oil a part of your diet — it can be added to tea, coffee, vegetable juice or whip up a concoction with one tsp coconut oil, and a pinch of haldi and black pepper.

Karishma Chawla
Karishma Chawla

Lemon water and apple cider vinegar aid in digestion and build immunity, too. But the most important ingredients along with this, she says, are, "love, humour and faith."

Home delivery

A few tips to increase productivity while working from home:

. List your tasks: The time and energy that is otherwise spent commuting every day to and from office can be saved in this situation, says Sam Wadia, a leadership resilience coach. "List all your tasks for the day the first thing in the morning, or the previous evening, so you can set time apart for your kids," he adds.

Sam Wadia
Sam Wadia

Little things matter: Your desk, your chair and your colleagues make up your work environment; the lack of it at home may make you feel like you are not working. "What's on your table helps boost your productivity. De-clutter the place you're using as a desk. Try to wear your regular office clothes for at least part of the day so that you feel you're at work and are not tempted to slack," suggests Wadia.

Time hogs: It's easier to get distracted while working from home. You may end up watching the news, scrolling away on the phone, or doing other low-impact work. Learn to say no to it, says Wadia.

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