Across the country, more people are working remotely than ever before, and many of them are home with spouses and one or multiple children. Even if you’ve worked from home for years, doing it while the kids are out of school and with no childcare can be daunting.
It is possible to work remotely with kids at home, but it is a real challenge that requires staying organized and being extra compassionate. To set yourselves up for success, it helps to outline and post a very clear schedule to walk your kids through their day. Giving them boundaries around your work hours and projects will help them to know when you are and aren’t available, and alternating that schedule with your spouse can set you all up for success.
Take breaks often, and don’t be afraid to communicate your new reality with your coworkers and employer. The reality is that most people are working in a similarly difficult situation, and the more open and honest you are about your circumstances, the more effectively you can organize and plan with them in mind.
Here are simple tips to help you successfully work from home with kids.
Set a Schedule
Without structure to your days, trying to work, parent and possibly help educate your kids will be nearly impossible. If you haven’t already, get to work creating a schedule for your kids that walks them all the way through their day. Include breakfast, exercise, time outdoors, tech time, schoolwork, chores, crafts and dog walking. Younger kids can especially benefit from having a schedule done by the hour or even half hour to keep them moving. And you’ll all benefit from posting the schedule clearly, so they can access it at any time and always know what’s next and where they stand.
Give Your Kids Boundaries
Especially if you’ve never worked remotely before, your kids may not understand the boundaries of this new arrangement unless you make it clear. Choose a designated work space for yourself, and inform the children of this being an off-limits room during your work hours. Post your work schedule, or even a sign at the door that tells them if it’s okay to enter (thumbs up) or not okay to enter (thumbs down). Also, if you find that you’re giving them more time on devices or on the TV, make sure to let them know that this arrangement is temporary.
Communication is Key
Communication is even more important now than ever. While it may not be comfortable, it’s important to let your employer, coworkers and clients all know that you’re working remotely, as interruptions and emergencies can and will arise. If you’re collaborating on a project with other team members, give them a clear sense of your new schedule, and when you are best available to manage longer video and conference calls. The reality is that your reality has changed, and don’t be afraid to communicate that and work with it rather than against it.
Break Up the Day
Take breaks during the day whenever possible, and head outside to walk the dog with the kids, join them for lunch or sit down for 30 minutes to help them hash out algebra or diagramming sentences. Your breaks shouldn’t just include your kids. Take 10 minute breaks as needed to move your body, take a shower, listen to soothing music and have a few minutes to yourself. Not only will it improve your productivity, but it will also improve your mood.
If you have a partner at home, try to alternate schedules as much as possible, to support you both getting your work done, spending time with kids and having some time to yourselves. This can mean scheduling calls at alternate times, or planning long work sessions when you know your partner’s load is lighter. If you have a busy day one day, be willing to jump in and help out on the next day, when the tables are turned. Working as a team will help every member of your family to get what they need.