Working from home with kids is no easy task. Here are some tips and strategies to make this transition easier for everyone.
Working from home with kids at home is not ideal. In fact, it’s almost impossible. No matter how much time or effort you put in, either your job or your children (usually both) are not getting the attention they need.
While this is no easy task, it is one that millions of Canadians are currently facing. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, many parents are working in less-than-ideal conditions.
Working from home can certainly have its advantages. From the lack of commute, late sleep in and relaxed dress code, it can be a great way to maximize your time and save money. However, when it comes to working at home with your kids, all those advantages can seem minimal compared to the huge list of challenges thrust upon you. To make a difficult situation a little easier to manage, we have compiled a guide for working at home with kids.
1. Set Expectations
In order to minimize possible issues during the work day, it is a great idea to set expectations. Firstly, with your boss. While it may be uncomfortable, having an honest conversation about working from home can help keep expectations appropriate. If possible, you could ask to work less hours during the week during this time. While not ideal, it may be a more realistic schedule.
Letting your boss know that while you are committed to your position and responsibilities, you are performing them while caring for young children. This type of situation is not unique and many are in a similar situation.
It is also beneficial to set expectations with your children. While it’s not feasible to ask your kids to play quietly all day, let them know when it is absolutely necessary to be quiet (during a call or meeting).
2. Schedule Quiet Time
Working in a loud environment is a challenge to say the least, but in some instances it’s just not possible. Set times during the day when your children are allowed to have noisy fun (art time, outside time, play time) and time when it’s important to stay quiet.
Parents may already have this type of schedule in place if they have nappers and non-nappers at home. Naptime or quiet time can be designated as quiet time during which you can schedule meetings, phone calls or get some deep work completed without interruption. A colour coded daily schedule (use pictures for non-readers) can help kids learn the schedule for the day.
3. Red/Green Sign
Let your kids easily know if you are available during the day by making an easy to understand sign. When the sign is green your kids know they can come to you with any problems, requests or questions. If the sign is red it means absolutely no interruptions.
The most important part about making this work effectively is to only use the red sign when absolutely necessary. If the sign is always red your children will feel like they have to violate the boundaries that have been set. Occasional use of the sign will be more effective.
We’ve created a sign that you can make at home! It’s a fun craft activity for ages 3 and up. All you need is a printer, a piece of heavy paper (construction paper works nicely) and a popsicle stick or wooden tongue depressor. Get the free printable HERE! (To save it, right-click and save the image.)
4. Fewer Meetings, More Email
In line with keeping an open line of communication with your boss, is asking to only attend the meetings that are absolutely necessary. If the information can be relayed in another manner – for example, by using project management software such as Asana, or via email – that would be preferable.
If you have small children at home, attending virtual meetings during the day may be difficult to manage. Keeping the number of meetings you attend to a minimum often translates into greater productivity for everyone. Another option would be to set meetings during a scheduled nap time or quiet time, if possible.
5. Work a Split Shift
Another option that could maximize efficiency while still offering your children supervision is to work a split shift. By working a few hours in the morning and then a few hours in the evening you could spend the afternoon with your children.
While it is not ideal, this could be a way to help school aged children with their home school while working full-time. Alternatively, children who are able to complete their school work independently in the morning could enjoy an afternoon walk, game, or movie with you.
If you have a partner at home, this alternative schedule could allow one of you to spend quality time with the kids during the evening and allow the other to work uninterrupted. A win-win.
6. Early Morning Start/Late night Finish
Early birds may prefer to get up before the kids and start their workday. Getting in a few hours before the sunrise could allow for taking the afternoon off. It could also allow kids to start the day slower, play before school work and have a more relaxed approach to their day.
Alternatively, you can choose to put in a few hours after the kids go to bed. Those who find they get a burst of energy in the evening could benefit from this schedule shift. However, it does make for a long day.
While this approach may not appeal to everyone, it could be a good fit for some families.
7. Share the Workload with a Partner
If you have a partner working from home, you have the advantage of being able to ‘tag-team’ the kids. If one of you is an early bird and the other is a night owl you can use this to your advantage.
The early riser can enjoy working a few hours uninterrupted while the other does the morning routine. The night owl can enjoy some much needed time snuggling the kids in bed, eating some breakfast in their pjs and enjoying some quality family time. Let your day start out the right way with lots of cuddles and few expectations.
Once one of you has a good head start you can work as a team to keep the kids occupied during the morning. By lunchtime the early bird is taking a rest and taking over duties. The other partner can get in a few hours of concentrated work.
Tackle mealtimes and household duties as a team so neither partner resents the other one. This way you can share the workload while still getting in your work hours.
8. Work with your kids
A great tip that was shared with us by a fellow working mom was to work alongside your kids. Set up the dining room table with some quiet activities and work side by side. If your child(ren) is able to play quietly, they can be at the ‘work table’.
Being physically present with the children during the day can help keep you feeling more connected.
Another way to approach this is to work together with the kids to complete the household tasks. If you have very young children, equip them with a spray bottle filled with vinegar and water and a rag and let them clean alongside you. Young kids love nothing more than to play ‘adult’ so they will love the opportunity to try these grown-up tasks.
Older kids can spend this time learning life skills along with you. Let them search for a recipe and learn how to make it step by step. Plant a garden together or do some spring cleaning. Teach them how to do their own laundry or wash dishes side by side.
Kids are craving connection right now. By giving them quality time while teaching life skills, you’re able to get some value out of this time spent at home.
9. Work outside
As the weather gets nicer, kids are going to want to spend more and more time outside. Most WiFi connections are strong enough that you can take your work to the front porch or back patio to allow the kids to burn off energy while you get your work done.
Time outside can be used as a reward for a successful ‘quiet time’ and a great way for the kids to blow off steam – while you both get to the benefit of some much-needed vitamin D.
If your children are younger, stick to the backyard and stock up on bubbles, chalk, or set up a sensory table. Keeping the kids entertained in a safe space means you will be able to work without having to watch them like a hawk.
10. Give yourself (and your kids) grace
These are unprecedented times. While you or your partner may be able to slip out of the house to grab essentials occasionally, chances are your kids haven’t left the house in a long time. They are little. They are scared. They are being asked a lot right now.
This is not the time to put pressure on yourself to be perfect. Everyone is stumbling through and learning as they go. All you can do is wake up each day and try your best. It is not possible to work full-time while parenting full-time and homeschooling. You will find the right balance for you and your family.
No matter what path you choose at this time, it is important to remind yourself (and your kids) that this is not forever. This is temporary and soon things will return to normal. What is most important right now is to show each other love, kindness and a whole lot of grace.
Melissa Robertson is a journalist with 15 years of experience as a professional writer. She is also a hot mess mom to three very energetic daughters, and loves to DIY, share design and upcycle projects and creating patterns. She shares it all on her blog, Keeping Up With The Robertsons and, luckily, has a husband who is a total softie and is usually willing to go along with her crazy plans!