‘Home-ageddon’ – surviving your family and your fears when working from home

‘Home-ageddon’ – surviving your family and your fears when working from home
06 May 2020

One of our sales executive, Chris Toon, is a regular homeworker and many of you will have had the pleasure of chatting with him when you have contacted us or attended one of our webinars. Chris has provided us with some useful advice on how to adapt to working at home and to ‘home educate’ children alongside it. It was so insightful, that we thought we should share it with our customers.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is changing daily and it feels like our lives are rapidly transforming into a disaster movie. Films like The Day After Tomorrow, 2012 and Contagion  suddenly feel much less entertaining and more like a go-to source for survival information. 

Our work fills up 90% of our time and is part of our social life. It is really useful for paying the bills and keeping us (in most cases) mentally active. It is also a subtle way to break free from our partners and families for 8 hours a day. 

Being asked to stay at home and practise social distancing is bringing a paradigm shift in our habitual behaviour along with a huge physical adjustment. Where possible, we are all experiencing working from home (at least for the time being) – and parents will have the added challenge of simultaneously ‘home educating’ their kids. Whichever way you look at things, it’s a big challenge. 

I wrote this blog because for the last 8 years I have lived in relative rural isolation, cut off from civilisation and most social activities. I, along with my wife and four children, live in an ancient detached cottage at the end of a farm track that mainly consists of potholes and is an awkward 20-minute drive from the nearest town. We are half a mile from our nearest neighbours, most of whom are in their 80s. Any younger folk are farmers, for whom the who main topic of conversation is sheep (my knowledge of sheep is largely derived from the kid’s TV programme ‘Shaun the Sheep’). 

I work from home permanently, while my wife home educates our children.  

Home education can seem like a daunting task at the best of times. It is especially hard if you are thrown in at the deep end, when school, for many reasons, isn’t an option. Amidst the chaos caused by COVID-19, many parents have stepped into the role of educator for their children. While many schools will be able to send work home for their students or conduct lessons online, some parents will understandably be nervous about making sure their child(ren) does not fall behind, especially those who have exams soon.

We have a lively 2 year old, an 11 year old who would just be finishing key stage 2 and primary education, a 12 year old in the middle of key stage 3 and an almost 15 year old halfway through GCSEs. Hence, I can safely say I know how unnerving the prospect of teaching your children can be.

When starting to teach your child at home, it's important to remember not to try and replicate school at home. Firstly, it’ll probably be very difficult to work on multiple subjects, particularly if you have more than one child. Secondly, you can’t be expected to sit at the kitchen table for 6 hours straight. Schools have a lot of ‘down time’ such as moving from room to room or setting up the next lesson. Furthermore, teachers regularly have 30+ students in a class so, to make sure each student understand what is being taught, it takes a lot more time than that required to teach two or three children. 

A good idea is to keep to a routine so everyone knows what is expected of them, but make sure to factor in rest, play and fun times. For example, once everyone has woken up, had breakfast and is ready for the day, children should complete any work that has been set by their school, have a morning break (get some fresh air if you can) and then they can start on work you want them to do in 10 or 20-minute segments (depending on age and ability). Older children, perhaps sitting exams soon, can self-study according to which subjects they are studying, factoring in breaks to relax. After having lunch together, I’d recommended doing some fun activities in the afternoon with your children, such as crafts, cooking or reading so as to give them and yourselves some much needed relief.

Over time my family has become pretty good at managing all this, but it does take a lot of planning, structure and discipline. Keeping the kids focused, usefully occupied and entertained is a challenging thing. Even with years of practice, things do not always run smoothly. 

Being a sales executive, I am constantly on the phone with people and, while it’s very rare that the kids or cats will make a noise or burst in the room during an important call, it often ends up helping to break the ice or build rapport. With most people working from home (if their jobs allow), many of the people I speak to have had these interruptions. However, I have noticed that people love to talk about family and pets, and nobody really considers them an interruption. 

For those of you who don’t have kids, suddenly spending too much time with a partner can be an equally challenging test of endurance. I’d recommend communicating and empathising more with your other half and, if possible, get some alone time. You can always use the age-old technique of inventing a co-worker to blame everything on (‘Janice keeps leaving empty mugs everywhere’) as a fun way to disseminate the tension. 

Working from home is a lot like trying to save someone from drowning in a pool when you yourself are drowning in the pool, and your whole house is drowning next to you. So best of British luck to all!  

While working in an office, we all have our co-workers next to us giving us much needed relief at various times of the day. However, at this time, we might feel that those coffee breaks no longer exist. Thanks to technology, there is no need to feel cut off from your colleagues. You can still engage with them via email or instant messaging – and if that is not enough, you can always pester them with a good old-fashioned telephone call.  

Keeping all jokes aside, these are scary and difficult times. Please make every effort to keep yourselves, your family, friends and colleagues safe and healthy. We all must face the changes coming our way with courage to keep our communities safe. 

None of us should feel alone. We're all in this together. 

And to quote one of the old British Ministry of Information posters: ‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory’.  

Written by –
Chris Toon 
Sales Executive, NCEC


There are a few resources online to help your child learn at home: