How to Work from Home with Kids Around
Working from home seems like a dream for many parents around the globe. Getting rid of traffic, commute time, office distractions and bad coffee, while gaining a comfortable workplace on the sofa, doing odd chores around the house and keeping an eye on your children in the meantime sounds perfect, but is it really?
Well, when you add kids to the professional space and time, things can get challenging fast. Children demand around-the-clock attention, therefore parenting while juggling meetings, e-mails and deadlines is a daunting task.
Even if you’ve been confronted with the situation before and have a great work-at-home setup, for occasional sick days and weather-related school closures, doing so for long periods of time and with all family members around, fighting for the computer or the TV, demanding your attention and asking for food or snacks every two hours, it’s time for a new plan — now.
First of all, communication is key — you should be aware that some of your coworkers may be in the same situation; you are not alone and everyone is struggling through these trying times.
So the best thing to do is let everyone — colleagues, bosses and clients — know, from the very beginning, that some conversations may be interrupted, certain video calls may feature an odd participant and the noise they hear in the background is not someone getting murdered, just a kid making a fuss over some trifle. They will surely understand.
Find resources that can help — share the task with your spouse, a family member or a paid professional. Even if they cannot be physically there, with the aid of a laptop or tablet, they may keep your young one entertained or involved in an activity for precious minutes or hours — reading to them, playing games, singing, teaching, etc.
3. Boundaries and rewards
Set boundaries and reward compliant behavior — explain to your family that working from home is still working and you need dedicated time to do it. Assign a work space or room and set up rules — if the door is closed, it means you have an important meeting or task you must attend to. Put up a “do not disturb” sign on the door and turn it around to “available” when you can share some of your attention with the rest of the household.
Practice, practice, practice! Patience and repetition will do the trick. If your children manage to tend to their puzzle, coloring book or other quiet activity and solve certain small problems by themselves, praise them, spend some extra time together, offer some candy (no one will judge!), play a game or allow additional Internet time or later bedtimes.
Plan activities that don’t require your supervision — here, it depends a lot on the age of the child:
- for babies, that means naps, swings, cartoon videos, songs;
- for toddlers, toys, games, favorite shows, educational online games and apps,
- for older children, reading, doing homework, watching a movie, online socializing.
Organize your schedule — decide which work activities are most important and need your undivided attention.
Wake up very early, so that you can get some work done before the rest of the family members get up; plan conferences and meetings when babies are napping or after their bedtime or while older ones are engaged in an independent activity; work in shifts with your spouse, so that both of you can get a few hours of uninterrupted work; include frequent breaks in your day to hang out with your children and tend to their needs; prepare meals and snacks ahead of time and leave them on the table or in the fridge, to be used at a moment’s notice.
Get creative — if the house is turned upside down and the kids are causing a riot, take your phone or laptop to the car and have your meeting there. Work on your phone and use tools, such as dictation apps or various platforms so that you can work even while carrying a baby in one hand. Coordinate real or virtual playdates with neighbors’ kids. All of you need air — if possible, take your children and your work outside, to the garden or the balcony, where you can keep an eye on them and be productive in a relaxing environment.
Go on bike rides or walks in the park to get some exercise and revitalize. If you have an important meeting, give your children post-its ahead of time, on which to jot down their questions and complaints for when you are free to answer them. Create a “boredom box” filled with activities, crafts or projects: glue, scissors, hole puncher, glitter, sticks, canvas, straws, watercolor paint, buttons, bubble wrap, stickers, beads, anything you can think of. Make index cards indicating what various of them may be used for — building a robot or a family tree, stitching together their favorite animal or making an accessory they will wear on their clothes.
You got this!
And last, but not least, we at TRISOFT think you got this ;) So take it easy on yourself — it’s not easy for anyone and all parents in this situation are struggling to balance home and work life. I’m not saying that anything goes or that limits are erased, but as long as it works and your children are safe, use it. If there’s an important conference coming up or you have to meet a tight deadline, turn on Netflix, give them popsicles, let them play games on their tablets. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and having a job so that you can pay rent and put food on the table is mandatory.
Don’t feel guilty about what you have to resort to. Loosen up on screen time — you won’t ruin your children forever. Give them supplies to make slime, let them watch their favorite shows on TV, FaceTime with grandma or a friend, encourage them to make fake Youtube videos using an old phone. After your task is finished, everyone returns from digital to real life and spends quality time together.
And while you’re doing all these, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy your children — it’s a wonderful opportunity to bond and get to know one another better, to play, relax, cook together and talk. Appreciate and make the most of these moments, so they may turn into precious memories over time.