As concerns surrounding the coronavirus grow, businesses and school districts across the country are considering how to best prevent it from spreading. In Seattle, school officials have warned that students could be out of class for up to two weeks, while universities have closed their on-campus classrooms in favor of online learning. This has prompted grade school officials in several states that have yet to see impacts to likewise consider shifting instruction to online learning.
Many companies, including Amazon and Microsoft, have enacted work-from-home policies for their employees wherever possible, and countless more are making preparations to do the same if needed. Though these measures aim to keep communities healthy, they may also present a new set of challenges. How can children learn effectively at home for long periods of time? How can adults keep their business projects moving forward with added layers of isolation?
Here are five tips to help you and your family stay happy and productive if you find yourselves stuck at home:
Create Work Stations Throughout Your Home
For adults: If your workplace shifts to remote operations, working in isolation can contribute to less physical activity and social interaction, contributing to a decrease in productivity. To counteract it, designate different areas of your home for different projects. For instance, do your hardest work in a room with a lot of natural light, and save easier tasks like catching up on emails for other areas that you won’t need to stay in for too long.
For children: To keep up as much of a normal routine as possible — and also help them cope with the stress that might come from such a drastic change — have your kids turn your home into “school” by building makeshift classrooms with blanket forts, pillows, and whatever else they can find. Designate a reading corner by spreading a rug or blanket and a few pillows on the floor. Just like for adults, the key is to create or utilize different spaces for different subjects so no one gets antsy being in one place for too long.
Schedule “Brain Breaks” and Active Time
For adults: We get it… working remotely doesn’t mean deadlines stop. But adjusting to the limitations of working outside the office can be a stressful one. Protect your mental health with frequent brain breaks, like short walks around the house or a five-minute stretch session.
For children: Taking frequent breaks during study time can help the brain stay focused. “Brain breaks give young children a needed release of pent-up energy they have from sitting for long periods of time,” says Virginia elementary school teacher Jillian Woycik. “When I incorporate them, I see an increased focus from my students.” Keep in mind, however, that this strategy may not work as well for older children. “I teach eighth grade, and I don’t find frequent breaks helpful,” says Virginia teacher Emily Seals. “If anything, it decreases their desire to work. Instead of breaks, I try to switch things up every 20 minutes or so, and allow them to switch places in the room if they need to.”
A typical rule of thumb is to take a short break every 15-30 minutes to stretch, draw, or walk around. “GoNoodle is a great resource to help get out the wiggles when kids are stuck at home,” Woycik says.
Maintain Your Physical and Mental Health
Both children and adults benefit from regular exercise. Among its health benefits, pumping oxygen through the body boosts brain cognition and helps diminish depression, which is why the CDC recommends an hour of activity each day. Consider breaking up the workday with a family run around the neighborhood, or streaming a workout video in your living room.
Make sure you have enough prescription medications to last at least two weeks, and do the same for groceries, incorporating more dry goods and easy-to-prepare meals in case a future store run isn’t a viable option. Finally, be intentional with regular bedtimes — and we don’t just mean for the kids! Protecting healthy sleep habits will keep your brain and body healthy and help mitigate stress.
Maintain Your Productivity
For adults: It’s not always feasible to work from home, especially if you’re a parent. “In the perfect scenario, my husband and I would send our son to my parents’ house while we worked during the day,” says Homes.com employee Liz Yochimowitz. “But, If he had to stay with us, we’d take shifts throughout the day to work and watch over him.” Parenthood or not, If working remotely places limitations on what you can accomplish, communicate those concerns to your team or clients early. To maintain workflow and accountability, schedule regular phone calls or video chats with project members
For children: Children get accustomed to seeing their friends every day at school, but learning from home can obviously make that more difficult. While social isolation can lead to a depressed mood for anyone, children may have a harder time coping. Keep spirits high by getting the phone numbers of your child’s friends’ parents and scheduling video or phone chats throughout the day. In fact, a friendly chat could make for the perfect brain break activity!
Try to Keep the Home Tidy
For adults: We know, we know….It’s hard enough to keep everything tidy when normal activity pulls everyone outside the home. But if you find yourself working remotely, a clean home can mean reduced visual stress and distractions. If tidying the entire home isn’t feasible, that’s ok! “When I work from home, I focus on cleaning the area I’ve set up to work in,” says New York City accountant, Kaitlyn Galvin. “Having a cleaner workspace means I can function at home just as I would in my office, without distracting thoughts of what needs to get done later.”
For children: Children can be just as affected by clutter. But, say the word “cleanup,” and kids tend to run as fast as their legs can carry them. Help them get excited by turning it into a game or competition. If you don’t have time to put everything in its proper place, that’s ok! Simply use a bin as temporary storage and put it out of the way until you can. You’ll feel a lot better tackling your work without other things constantly clamoring for your attention!
There is still much to learn about coronavirus, so we recommend monitoring information from the World Health Organization and your local news stations for updates pertinent to your area. In the meantime, if you find yourself having to work or learn from home, we hope these tips help make it just a bit more bearable. Stay safe and healthy, everyone!