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Your ability to strike a reasonable balance between family and work life demands is about to be tested like never before.

In the last few weeks, attempts to increase social distancing and address the coronavirus pandemic has led to businesses all over the world shifting to remote working. Without much preparation, many people are abruptly having to adjust to new ways of operating, leading and connecting.

Working parents have an additional burden now that universities and school systems are sending students home to conduct virtual learning and daycare providers are suspending services. You now have two environments coming together—your job and your home life—that were never meant to overlap this much.

Even if you’re a seasoned pro at working from home, doing it alongside a spouse or with children around is sure to present a whole new set of challenges. But before you get overwhelmed, here are five tips to help you communicate more effectively, manage the unavoidable stress of this situation and balance competing priorities.

1. Plan holistically

You may be tempted to hope for the best and take one day at a time; you plan to try to work from home and meet family needs as they come up. This is a mistake.

If you don’t make the time to plan for how you will address the myriad of tasks coming your way, you will inevitably find yourself failing to meet expectations at work or working around the clock because home life required more from you than you anticipated.

Before now, you may have taken for granted the luxury of working without constantly being interrupted by the people you love. Take time to play out the various scenarios that will likely come up when working around your family, and ask yourself important questions. Do you need quiet to focus and can you get it? How often will you need to multitask while working? Can you predict the best times to take calls?

For some, it may be an option to carve out exclusive work time by sending older kids off to entertain themselves or by alternating childcare with a spouse that is also working from home. For others, you may have to be the primary (or only) caretaker of young children, which leaves limited time to work.

Face these realities up front while drafting your initial plan of attack. This will help you to better communicate your needs and not underestimate the challenges ahead.

2. Get real with your boss and teammates

While it’s a privilege to have the option to work from home and continue to get paid, don’t let your gratitude for the situation make you lose sight of the practicality. Trying to remain at the top of your game at work while also taking care of young children is completely unrealistic.

Even older children may end up needing more attention than you expected. Consider what is being asked of your kids. They’ve had to suddenly stop all of their normal routines, from school interactions to sports to activities, and sit at home every day with you while you try to work. They will get restless.

It’s time to have a candid conversation with your boss and team about your unique circumstances. Explain your commitment to helping the company navigate these unprecedented times, but also make sure you voice what obstacles you will have to manage in the background.

You don’t want anyone making their own assumptions about what you can and can’t do. This is especially true for working fathers as gender bias may create the incorrect perception that you have fewer responsibilities at home.

Address any parts of your job that will be impacted from working from home and confirm what tasks you can commit to or complete. This will help you and your boss to get ahead of any potential issues. Do your best, but don’t overpromise.

3. Confirm changing priorities and deadlines

Your goal for the next few weeks is to successfully fulfill the essential requirements of your job while caring for your family physically and mentally.

While only meeting the minimum required at work has a negative connotation, in this case, that strategy may be your only shot at finding a sustainable balance to get through the next few weeks. Now is not the time to waste energy on initiatives that are no longer as important as they were previously or projects with changing deadlines.

There’s a good chance some new mitigating circumstance may have changed the priorities of your work. Be sure to follow up with your team and get explicit feedback on when things are due so you aren’t overextending yourself in order to meet a timeline that is outdated.

The same applies if you routinely ask your colleagues for support. Be thoughtful about what you actually need versus what you want and set clear deadlines. Consider things you requested previously. Are they still necessary?

Delivering for your clients will remain a high priority, but as much as you can, be sure to provide your colleagues with flexibility to manage family life.

4. Optimize your stamina

Managing your physical stamina is one of the most important things you need to do right now.

This means getting as much sleep as you can, eating high-quality food, staying hydrated and sneaking in stress management practices like meditation. These are all things that you are sure to struggle to incorporate into your schedule in the coming weeks.

Do yourself a favor and skip the late-night stress eating while binge watching the news. This will leave you grumpy and frazzled the next day and not ready to take on your workload that is even higher than usual.

If you find yourself only able to protect one self-care habit in the days to come, make it sleep. Guard your rest aggressively. It is not selfish to choose sleep over sending emails or finally watching a show with your partner.

Try to remind yourself that your entire family will benefit from being around the healthier, or at least better rested, version of you.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate

You need even more support from your partner while living in closer proximity with them but with greater physical isolation from your work team. Yet a failure to communicate effectively could bring unnecessary tension.

Don’t make any assumptions about how you will balance childcare or other home tasks. And don’t hesitate to speak up when an established relationship norm no longer works in this new setting. For example, after putting the kids to bed you may need to skip your habit of watching Netflix together because you need more alone time now that you’re both home and working around each other all day.

Whatever it is that you need, share your thoughts and concerns early. If you wait until you are truly frustrated, you’re more likely to become demanding or blame your partner for failing to help with a desire they didn’t even know you had. It’s critical that you discuss each of your needs, wants and expectations frequently.

Navigating change is hard. Go easy on yourself if you start to feel you are falling short. This lifestyle change won’t be easy, but long after you get through this tumultuous time, you will be proud of your ability to adapt and persevere.

Kourtney Whitehead is a career expert and author of Working Whole. You can learn more about her work at Simply Service.

Kourtney Whitehead

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels