Remember “Take Your Child to Work Day”? For many of us, that’s become every day. The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down offices, leaving professionals to carve out workspaces in their homes while keeping children occupied or helping them with schoolwork at the kitchen table. We’ve compiled the following advice to help CPAs remain productive, including tips from members of the AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee:
Protect your space. With so many firms going remote without much notice, not everyone was set up to work from home. If you have an office or spare bedroom, consider designating that a no-interruption zone for when you have important meetings or projects. If your environment doesn’t allow for that, try using a signal to your kids — like an upside-down cup on the counter — that you need uninterrupted time.
If you have a spouse or partner who is also working from home, compare work schedules each evening to make sure you can each attend any important meetings the next day. Then set specific work hours and use a timer to signal when you’re finished with that time block.
Be age appropriate. Most solutions will depend on how old your child is:
Babies and toddlers. Parents of very young children already know how to work around their children’s sleep schedules but fitting in a day’s worth of work makes it tough.
Maximize your work time by getting more mobility — use your phone or tablet for emails, conference calls or to review documents. If a child can’t get to sleep, a baby carrier lets you work and soothe them at the same time.
School-aged children. With three boys — aged 7, 17 and 19 — and both parents working from home, Lindsay Stevenson, CPA, CGMA, VP-finance at 1st Financial Bank USA, and her husband take turns overseeing their activities. For their youngest they break schoolwork into 30-minutes segments to maintain mental energy.
During times when you don’t have to be as focused, consider letting them work alongside you to make the time special. Give your little one a task like drawing a picture or decorating messages to send to loved ones. Another option is to set them up with a fun movie or educational game just before you join a meeting or start on a project.
If your child no longer naps, implement a “quiet time” for reading or resting.
Teenagers. For older kids, it’s a good idea to create schedules for them to follow. This way you and your child can rely on some structure for your days. But be prepared to be flexible.
With the school year over, challenge older kids to take on creative projects. Suggest they try cooking meals they can post on social media, researching your family’s genealogy or redecorating their room or unused space in the house.
Step away from work when you can. If you previously worried about overlaps between home and work, the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. While technology has allowed you to get your job done remotely and to keep in touch with family and friends, you may find yourself more tied to your screens than ever.
It’s not just work, either. Jessica McClain, CPA, Controller at Brand USA, who has a 16-month-old daughter, notes that with the never-ending online happy hours, virtual group movie watch parties and new options for virtual learning, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your computer or phone. You may feel you’re spending more time with your family than before, but having tech-free times of day or week can help you be more present with them.
Give yourself a break. Self-care may have previously included going to a salon for a haircut or manicure or out to lunch with a friend, so you might need to get creative about unwinding in the current climate. You could try taking walks with your children, doing an exercise video or having a movie night after the kids are in bed.
Even the most extroverted people need some quiet moments, so be sure to check your mood and adjust your schedule as needed. It’s okay to take a break from things like dishes or laundry to take care of your mental health.
Make a plan for summer. With many offices reopening but daycare and summer camp options hard to come by, some CPAs may be scrambling to cover all their bases. To care for their 10-year-old son, Scott Bailey, CPA, partner at Carr, Riggs & Ingram, and his wife plan to alternate which parent will go to their office and which will work from home with their child.
The last few months have been a huge experiment in working from home for many. Even as the country takes tentative steps toward returning to workspaces, many businesses are considering expanding their use of remote work. If you’re passionate about this topic or want to learn more, the AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) has tools and resources to help create a positive culture that promotes flexibility and remote work.