As many people found out during lockdowns due to COVID, trying to work at home with kids is challenging, to say the least. Whether it was kids breaking into video calls (remember when we thought that 2017 BBC news interview was so funny? How times changed!) or trying to get the kids to do homework while managing the 9-5, many of us struggled with the question of how to work with kids around.
Of course, working from home under pandemic conditions wasn’t really a true representation of what telecommuting is like, and national lockdowns are no friend to looking after kids. But believe it or not, some people make working from home with children work full-time. So how do they do it?
10 Tips To Work From Home With Kids
1. Communicate with Work
If you find yourself unexpectedly taking care of the small people in your life, let your work know that you are having to balance your usual routine with their care; lockdown has made everyone much more understanding of this issue.
Set expectations as to when you’ll be available for calls, and when you won’t. For example, if your child goes down for a nap at 2pm every day, that’s a great time to schedule meetings.
2. Explain to Your Kids
If your kids are old enough to understand, explain to them that you need to have some time to get work done. Now kids can have a very different idea of how time passes that adults do, so it can be useful to have a visual signal to help them understand when they can talk to you and when they can’t – a toy on your desk can work really well, or a sign outside your door.
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3. Set up a Coworking Space
Work at home with kids in a more literal way by inviting them to join you at the dining room table. Older kids might be able to do homework, for example. Younger kids might enjoy some printable colouring sheets, or messing about with some play dough. .
4. Make a Deal
If you need to get your head down and finish off some work, then try making a deal with your kids. Promising a reward when you’ve got it done is a good way to go about this – say something like, ‘If I can finish this, then we could bake cookies after’ or whatever motivates your child. Hopefully, that will buy you the time to meet your deadline and afterwards? Bonus cookies!
5. Set Up a Play Area
When you’re dealing with smaller kids, they have a lot of energy to burn off and expecting them to sit or be quiet for long periods of time just isn’t going to work. That’s when an inside play space can come in handy.
There’s no need to spend a lot of money – a paddling pool filled with balls, an obstacle course made with sofa cushions, or a good old fashioned blanket fort will all help you wfh with kids.
6. Be Patient
Easier said than done, we know, but holding onto your patience will pay dividends in the long run. Even the sweetest, most well-behaved angels like your kids are going to want your attention at the wrong moment, or get up to mischief the moment you let your guard down.
Accept the fact that kids and work don’t mix, which is why offices don’t have built-in schools, and give yourself and your kids some grace.
7. Use Screentime Sparingly
TV, tablet computers, and laptops can all be a big help in keeping kids entertained when we need them to. Younger kids find the videos on Cocomelon’s YouTube channel addictive, while older kids will happily spend the day mining away on Minecraft.
The trouble with screentime is that it can impact sleep, and behaviour with experts recommending you limit it to two hours a day.
8. Keep your Finger on Mute
You set up the most amazing obstacle course in the living room. You leave snacks and a drink. Your little one has just used the bathroom and you’re pretty sure you’ve bought yourself half an hour to manage your next call. You’re in the middle of introductions when there’s an ear-splitting scream – your kid just realised you’d cut their sandwiches into triangles not squares. In other words, to keep this drama and situations away from your remote team keep your microphone muted when you’re not talking or presenting.
9. Flexible Hours
If you can negotiate flexible working hours then do so. It’s one of the real benefits of working from home and that goes double when you have small people to factor into the equation. If you only have to find a few hours during the day and can get the bulk of your work done in the evening, that takes the pressure off everyone.
10. Different Time Zones
If you’re looking to work at home with kids on a long-term basis, you might want to consider looking for a job in a different time zone. This is a great way for two parents to work without incurring childcare costs; one of you works during the day, the other in the evening or night so you both get a full 8 hours of work and quality time with your kid too.
There’s More than One Way to Work from Home with Kids!
Ultimately making working from home successful when you have kids to balance with your work commitments, whether that’s on an odd day or full time takes a lot of patience, flexibility, and creativity. When it works well, it can be a real joy to spend more time with your kids, but on the bad days, it can be super challenging. Remember, though, there is always tomorrow.