As I write this, the world is on partial lockdown due to the Coronavirus. Millions of people who would usually work in an office are instead working from home. At the same time, many schools and nurseries are closed. People are discovering just how challenging it can be to work from home with kids. And as a parent to two young children myself, I certainly know the feeling!
Working from home while also looking after children can seem like an impossible task. This is particularly true if both parents need to work, or if you are a single parent. How do you give your kids the attention and education they need, whilst also doing your job?
It’s certainly a challenge and nobody will get it right all the time. But I believe these ten tips will be a big help for anyone attempting to juggle parenting alongside working from home.
Top tips on working from home with children
- Set up a dedicated work space in a separate room. I suggest you do this when setting up a home office anyway, but it’s especially important when there are kids in the house. Of course, this assumes there is someone else in the house to look after the children.
- Give your kids lots of structured things to do: If you need to stay in the same room as the kids while you work, try giving them tasks and activities that will keep them busy. TV can help too. An hour in front of cartoons could buy the time you need for that important phone call.
- Stick to a routine. Children of all ages appreciate routine in their daily lives. You don’t want to struggle through each day making it up as you go along. Instead, find a routine that works for you and stick to it!
- Prioritise: No matter how hard you try, when attempting to work from home with kids, you probably won’t be as productive as you would ideally like. That makes it particularly important to prioritise. You won’t get everything done, so get your important tasks done first.
- Communicate with your child. If they are old enough to understand, and you have someone else to look after them, explain to your child that you are going to work. Say goodbye and tell them “mummy is going to work” at the same time each day. As long as you are in a separate room, they will quickly learn that you are not to be disturbed!
- Share the workload with your partner: If you have a partner who is able to help with the children, be sure to split childcare duties between you. One of you can work while the other spends time with the children, then swap. Stints as short as two hours at a time may be enough to get some good work done.
- Talk to your boss: If you have a boss, it’s a good idea to talk to them about your childcare situation. Any good boss will be understanding and offer some flexibility where needed.
- Explain to colleagues: If you need to be on a call and look after the kids at the same time, don’t try to hide it. Tell your colleagues (or even clients) that they may hear the kids in the background. Nobody will mind.
- Mute your mic when you’re not speaking: Another good conference call tip is to mute your mic. That way, if the kids start screaming, nobody will hear it. Just remember to briefly un-mute your mic whenever you need to speak!
- Make the most of quiet times: If your children are quiet while watching TV, or perhaps they are young enough to nap, you should use this time wisely. And that doesn’t necessarily mean working. Remember – you need to rest and recover too! This is particularly true if you are a single parent trying to manage on your own, or you have sole childcare duties while your partner works. You need to rest of you will burn out.
Finally, there’s one more way to work from home with kids that you might want to consider…
Seriously – if it all gets too much then consider taking a leave of absence. If that isn’t possible then explore other options that mean you don’t have to manage childcare alongside a full-time job. Perhaps you can go part-time or arrange child care that will give you some days to work while the kids are looked after elsewhere.
At the very least, if you’re getting stressed and tired, take some time off from work to recharge your batteries!