father working at kitchen table with son
From setting a concrete schedule to carving out specific areas of the home for office and schoolwork, there are several tips to try out while working from home with the family. — Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

Whether you’re running your own business or just trying to stay focused on doing your job, working from home during the coronavirus outbreak comes with all sorts of challenges — including having your kids at home with you. Between interruptions and remote schoolwork, there’s not a lot of time for you to focus and give it your full attention.

Here are some ideas on how to survive this new work reality and keep your business running strong.

Make a plan

The first half of your challenge is keeping your children busy and learning. Have a family meeting where you, your co-parent(s), the kids and any other member of your household come together.

For all but the youngest of children, being involved in the planning will help motivation — just like at the office. As a team, review whatever materials and instruction have come from the school. Set up specific — and separate, if you have the room — learning areas and get the electronics up to speed.

Schedule the day

According to experts, children thrive on routine, especially in stressful times. Strive to keep the same wake and sleep times you had previously. Nap time, too, if you are so lucky. Put lunch on the schedule, and specific times for schoolwork, exercise and screen time. The non-profit Kahn Academy has schedules loaded with tips—change out of pajamas, for example—and useful links for students from preschool to grade 12.

Don’t forget together time. Being in the same house all day, distracted by school and office work, doesn’t count. Even if everything goes exactly to plan, these are still difficult times and your children may need some extra attention from you.

Communicate well

Post the schedule for everyone’s reference. As days pass, discuss how things are working and what adjustments are needed. Be flexible at first: This classroom/office combination you’re living in is new, it may take some refining.

Let your children’s teachers know what you’re dealing with. While they are busy, it can’t hurt to send an email. Let them know that perhaps you are working from home and have conference calls each day at certain times, or that you aced political science but failed trigonometry. Whatever specific challenges your family faces, put them out there in advance so you can make a plan that’s more likely to succeed.

Scour the internet

If there’s good news here, it’s that you’re living this nightmare in a connected world. Online learning may not be perfect, but it’s a powerful tool, considering the alternative. If the work the school sends is not filling up your child’s day, the internet has abundant resources for picking up the slack.

You can spend money, of course, but you don’t have to. Take some extra time and utilize the free resources. Already, the editors of Scholastic Classroom Magazines have launched Scholastic Learn at Home, a free service with day-by-day projects to keep kids reading and thinking. And that’s just a start. This situation is new. More and more resources are bound to become available as individuals and corporations step up.

[Read more: 5 Resources to Help Your Small Business Survive the Coronavirus]

Take help if you can get it

Let older children help younger ones. Enlist high-school-aged cousins, neighbors or babysitters to assist with homework through video conferencing. Check for online resources offered by your local library.

If you can afford it, consider hiring an online tutor for just an hour or two per day. That’s an hour or two that you won’t be disturbed.

Set a work schedule

You’ll need a schedule, too. Begin with the one you made for your children and plan your work around it. You may have to start before they wake up or keep at it well past the time you tuck them in, but the beauty of that schedule is going to come into focus. With it as a guide, you can schedule calls and meetings during the most advantageous times.

With the kids at home needing your help with schoolwork, your day may be cut up into smaller sections.

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Commute to work

Like your children, you will need your own space for work. It will help keep you organized and signal to the rest of the household that you are on the job. To the extent that it’s practical, should be out of the flow of family activities — the kitchen table should be your last resort.

Before you move into your new home-working space, check your look. There is scientific research suggesting that dressing for the job impacts how we perform it. As a bonus, seeing you in workwear will signal to the rest of the household that you are taking this thing seriously, and they should, too. Even young children will pick up on the distinction.

Get connected

Sure, emails and phone calls will usually suffice, but we’re human. Working alone can leave us feeling disconnected and isolated, particularly if remote work was forced on us suddenly. Face-to-face communication is hard to replace.

Use available technology to communicate with co-workers, customers and clients. Microsoft is offering Teamsat no charge to help remote workers stay connected—another good reason to dress for work.

[Read more: Staying Connected With Customers Through the Coronavirus Outbreak]

Switch it off

Set reasonable hours. With the kids at home needing your help with schoolwork, your day may be cut up into smaller sections. Keep track of them. Do your best to avoid turning your nine-hour office job into a 16-hour remote one.

During that long commute from your home-working space to your family space, try to make a mental switch. Having a specific activity planned for that time slot can help signal the transition from work to home. Schedule daily family calisthenics, a jog around the back yard or a phone call to a grandparent.

Engage with clients and co-workers

Talk to your clients, your customers and your co-workers about your situation. While it’s true we are all in this together, not everyone is juggling parenting and productivity. Some people have more help and more resources than others. If it’s just you and the kids in the house, let people know. They’ll appreciate your hard work and might even offer some help. Keep it light and positive, but also keep it real.

Be realistic

This is not an ideal situation for anyone, so don’t expect ideal results. Your kids might interrupt your video conference. Some algebra homework might be beyond your ability. There’s a tiny chance you and your kids will get on each other’s nerves. Visualizing these scenarios in advance will help you relax and get you and your family through this.

For more resources from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published March 17, 2020