Families come in all shapes and sizes and if there is one thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that many of us are spending more time with our families.

This experience has included working from with children young and old, and adapting to remote learning. It can be a juggling act at the best of times.

For UNSW Canberra academic Fiona Buick, a researcher on organisational culture, it has been a mixed experience, and it took a lot to get used to.

“I work from home a fair bit and this is a situation I have never found myself in before. We tried a couple of different strategies initially but didn’t feel like we were getting much done.

“Whilst we made a decision to pull our son out of school early, our daughter remained in family day care. The opportunity arose for our son to also be involved in the same care arrangement for four days a week and we chose to take that opportunity. Both kids are now home every Friday, so we are lucky that we only have one out of five days to juggle,” she said.

Even with this reduced time juggling work and children, Dr Buick shares what strategies she and her family have put in place to try and make the most of the days.

“We have learnt that we need to divide and conquer, manage our expectations, communicate clearly with one another and ensure we are extremely organised.

“We divide and conquer through my partner taking our kids out for a walk / ride in the morning. That enables me to complete what I need to do. I use this time to focus intently on my work and focus on the highest priorities. 

“I find that is important that both kids go out as they are very mummy focused and like to “help” me work when we are at home. We switch at lunchtime and I look after the kids in the afternoon, replying to emails when I can. Then anything that doesn’t get done, I do in the evening or on the weekend.

“We manage our expectations through understanding that we won’t get everything on our to do list done - so we focus on the priorities and ensure that they do get done. Anything else is a bonus. We keep reminding ourselves that this is unprecedented times and working is a marathon, not a sprint, so we need to remain focused on what is most important and cut ourselves some slack with the rest if it doesn’t get done right now.

“We communicate what we have on clearly with one another. On Sunday we’ll discuss what we have to do in the week ahead and every night we check in to see what we have to do the next day (including priority work and meetings - time of meetings etc.). This enables us to structure our day and make adjustments if they are needed.

“We are organised through keeping to-do lists and identifying the key priorities. We also pack the kids’ food for the upcoming days - so morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea are ready to go. We also have routines and systems in place to try and ensure my partner and our kids can get out the door as seamlessly as possible in the morning.”

As for advice to other parents who are going through the same or similar situations?

“Just to try and be organised and be realistic about your expectations. These are unprecedented times,” Dr Buick said.