January 6, 2021 6 min read
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Holding productive Zoom meetings from a home office can be challenging, but with kids in the household, it becomes an even more seemingly insurmountable task.
Distractions from kids not only make it hard to concentrate during virtual meetings, but they can also disrupt the mood of a meeting. After all, it’s hard to maintain a professional atmosphere if kids are making noise, playing or climbing on laps.
With discipline and the right approach, however, it is possible to minimize distractions and experience the best of both worlds, i.e. working productively and spending time with the family.
Here are a few tips to minimize stay on track during virtual meetings.
1. Set clear boundaries
Explicit rules are the first step towards a distraction-free household. Unless rules and boundaries are laid out clearly, kids won’t know what is acceptable and what is not. These rules will be new for many families, which is why it’s all the more important to make those new boundaries as clear as possible.
One good place to start is with “quiet time” rules that prohibit loud noise during phone calls, video meetings and other work tasks. As most parents know, however, setting rules is only the first step. Next, we have to make sure that kids follow them.
Incentives are a great way to earn cooperation, which is why they are used so frequently, both at home and at the workplace. Rewarding kids for following rules, for instance, can ensure that those rules actually produce the desired result.
Of course, parenting styles differ, and some may prefer negative incentives. Limitations on phone time or video games, for instance, can also be a good way to maintain good behavior.
3. Distract the kids
Another great way to minimize distractions from kids is by preemptively distracting them. Some distractions, like TV or video games, are likely to keep kids occupied But fun activities such as these are typically unproductive, as most parents are reluctant to let their kids spend hours a day on social media just to maintain a tranquil home office.
However, if those activities are used as incentives for other good behavior, it’s possible to keep kids occupied with more productive work, such as homework or housework.
4. Create habits and stick to a routine
Without structure, it can be difficult to stay focused and concentrate. This can be a big issue for those of us who work from home. Without a daily routine and consistent habits, it’s harder to stay focused. Not only does that lack of structure affect one’s own ability to concentrate, but it impacts kids’ ability to stay on task.
Applying a set structure to the entire household — such as work schedules for the parents and study schedules for the kids — can be a good way to keep the entire home in sync and productive.
5. Use noise-canceling headphones during meetings
Quiet time rules can help keep kids from distracting other participants in a virtual meeting, but they aren’t always enough. For those who are distracted easily — and who don’t want to interfere with their kids’ freedom to play — noise-canceling headphones can be a good way to reduce outside distractions. They’re not always a good option for parents who need to keep an ear or an eye on their kids all day, but they can be very useful during meetings when it’s important to stay tuned in.
Headphones, as well as the other tips mentioned here, are really just part of an overall strategy to separate one’s work life from one’s home life. This separation is key to staying disciplined and productive.
6. Separate the workspace from the rest of the home
There are several ways to avoid putting one’s personal life on display when hosting a meeting.
One is to create a dedicated home office or workspace that is separate from the rest of the home. This means maintaining a work area with work supplies, appropriate décor and a professional vibe.
This separation helps train the mind to stay in work mode, but also looks more professional than hosting a meeting in the living room with kids playing in the background.
7. Dress professionally
Professional dress and a professional work environment go hand-in-hand. Both aspects help to create a division between work life and home life, and both convey a more professional appearance during online meetings. Like the other techniques covered here, they can act as cues that help kids grasp these new work-life boundaries.
Over time, business clothes can become a sign that quiet time rules are in effect and that parents are not to be disturbed.
8. Spend more quality time with the kids
If kids need more attention than they’re getting, they may come seek it out, even during virtual meetings. It is important, therefore, to spend as much quality time with the kids as possible. This means stepping away from work completely and dedicating time to family related activities. The reason is simple: Blurred boundaries between home life and work life erode the quality of both.
9. Turn off social media, cellphones and email
Another well-known tactic for staying focused is turning off digital distractions, including TV, cellphones, email and social media. In Zoom meetings, it’s easier to bend this rule, since we are not sitting in the middle of a conference room under the watchful eyes of our co-workers. It’s best to avoid that temptation, though, since it eats away at our concentration, and ultimately, the quality of the meeting.
In cases where kids must be in the same room, it’s also a good idea to have them turn off or at least silence their media distractions as well.
10. Evaluate performance and adjust regularly
For many of us, working from home is a brand new expereince. It’s a work in progress. Getting it right takes time and experimentation. Experienced remote workers know this, which is why many of them analyze their own productivity and look at their own performance through a manager’s eyes.
Time logs, work metrics and similar tools can offer insight into what works, what doesn’t and why.
The bottom line: Staying productive during Zoom meetings, especially when kids are around, often depends on using a variety of techniques to maintain focus, minimize distractions and separating work life from home life.