Working from home can be tough for those used to the fast-paced environment of an office, but when you add young children into the mix, things get even trickier
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Achieving a healthy work-life balance has never been easy, but with schools, nurseries and daycare centres closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, things are even tougher right now.
Not only have all your hard-won routines gone out of the window, now you have to attempt to work from home, provide homeschooling to the kids and maintain some kind of cosy family unit.
And do you know what? It is challenging. Don’t let anyone, not even Instagram, tell you otherwise.
‘There was the panic phase, the spreadsheet phase, the wheels-come-off phase, and now, hopefully, we’ve entered the equilibrium phase’
A month in, everyone’s still adjusting. There was the panic phase (‘how one earth…?!’), the spreadsheet phase (‘look at my beautiful coloured-coded timetable!’), the wheels-come-off phase (‘is midday too early for wine?’), and now, hopefully, we’ve entered the equilibrium phase (‘well, it’s not ideal, but it’ll do…’).
Many have opted out of homeschooling altogether, putting their energies into maintaining a happy family life – and some teachers approve – but where does work fit into all this? Hopefully, you have an understanding boss who lets you take a flexible approach to work, but sometimes a deadline is just a deadline, and you really need to get your head down.
Fortunately, the tech part is easy, with companies like GoToMeeting providing everything you need to communicate and collaborate while working from home. As for keeping the kids occupied, that’s a little trickier…
Tips for Working from home with kids
1 Come up with a game-plan for help
Is your partner or spouse also home? Schedule out one or two hour increments so each of you can make time to get some work done. Use your routine to make it clear who is responsible for the kids at what time. If you live with extended family – even better! Have a parent or sibling take the kids outside or to the playroom while you hop on calls. And remember, asking for help is not an acknowledgement of failure. This is an unprecedented situation and we’re all trying to figure things out. You will need almost certainly need help at some point, so make your SOS game-plan a priority and don’t think of it as a last resort.
2 Communicate and prioritise
Let your team know when the best time to schedule calls will be. That might be during nap time, first thing in the morning when your partner is making breakfast, or ‘after school’ when the kids are watching their favourite cartoon. If your colleagues have kids as well, try to find times you work for everyone for a team meeting or catch up call. Make sure you have a clear agenda, keep meetings as productive as possible, and be realistic – know that you won’t be functioning at 110% productivity. Prioritise both what needs to get done at home and what needs to get done at work – the little one’s trip to the park and the big presentation you need to get done might be equally non-negotiable, but tidying the kitchen can wait.
3 Schedule downtime
Toddlers thrive on routine, so being at home all day will be an adjustment. Expect some bumps in the road. I’ve actually started writing down our routine, which helps us maintain consistency. Schedule downtime in your routine through naps and child-led activities, and fall back on screen time, guilt-free, when necessary.
Naps: If your toddler still naps, then use that time to jump on a call or catch up on email. If not, schedule some quiet time in their room (set the expectation that they don’t need to sleep, but they have to stay in their room). This helps promote individual play and gives you a break to start that PowerPoint.
Activities: Another way to get some downtime as a parent is to set up activities that encourage individual play. Check out bouncebackparenting.com or even pinterest.co.uk for some ideas. Set up an activity in the morning so you can get an hour or so to catch up on email. Chances are, your toddler will still need some assistance – so it’s best not schedule calls or meetings during this time (as I write this, I’m sitting on the bathroom floor while my son plays with bath paint).
Screen time: You may need to loosen up those rules on screen time. If you know you can get 30 minutes of uninterrupted time with a show, the fire up Peppa Pig or Paw Patrol when necessary! You always have that option in your back pocket for a last-minute call or meeting.
We’re all in this together
You don’t need us to remind you that these are unprecedented times. We’re all figuring this out together and chances are that all this will pave the way for more flexible working in the future, which can only be good news for you and your family.
So use this time – while companies are adjusting and a decent boss will cut you a break – to figure out what works best for you and your kids.
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