There is no question that 2020 has been the year of working from home. It’s true that remote work can lead to higher productivity. However, when you work from home with kids, it presents a whole new level of challenges. As typical routines have been turned upside down, we have to find a new normal. This includes balancing, supporting, and helping our kids while trying to get work done. Fortunately, it’s possible to balance the two with the following tips.
Creating a Schedule
Creating a schedule for you and your kids is the best way to retain your sanity. Whether it’s starting off the day by making their beds and getting them dressed, a schedule will help the day start with some semblance of order. Have lunch at the same time every day so it feels orderly, and schedule an afternoon YouTube workout or dance party. The most important thing you can do is make sure kids know this isn’t a lazy Saturday.
Kids ages four and up have likely aged out of nap time, so there is little time in the day for quiet. Given that, add quiet reading time to their schedule so you have some time to catch up. The best recommendation for that is around the end of your workday so that you have time to knock out the last of your to-do items for the day in peace and quiet.
Divide and Conquer
If you have a partner, one of the best tactics is to divide (the tasks) and conquer. This can also play a critical role in building a schedule. Allocate time for each parent to concentrate solely on work while the other supervises or at least looks in on the kids.
Are your important conference calls or meetings at different times throughout the day? That would be ideal, as it would make the schedule easy to separate. A lot of work-from-home roles are likely to have differing schedules day-to-day, so talk about it the night before with your spouse or partner. And if you are comfortable, look to your neighbors who may also be in the same situation who can assist with some schedule dividing so everyone has time to get work done.
Work in Bursts
The harder you try to work in long periods, the less likely you are to parent or work well. Instead, aim for shorter bursts of “hard labor.” Set up 90-minute bursts of nothing but work time dedicated to cleaning your inbox, phone calls, meetings, writing memos or anything in between. While doing this, set up a timer for kids old enough to be left alone and let them know that during this time, you cannot be disturbed for anything but emergencies. Promise your kids that you will take them outside or play a game with them after this 90-minute burst. That will give them something to look forward to.
Get Up Early
This one is really easy if your kids are good at sleeping in. If not, it gets a little more challenging, but either way, being an early riser can be incredibly helpful in getting work done. It allows more time throughout the day for shorter tasks, staying caught up on emails (rather than digging out) and time for meetings.
On the flip side, you can also consider moving the kid’s bedtime up an hour so you have more time to work in the evening. There is a good chance that you are more energetic in the mornings, but additional free time in the evening can be just as productive. Alternatively, if you are a night owl, you may want to let your kids sleep earlier than usual so you have more time to work at night.
Set Clear Ground Rules
This one is tough, especially for younger kids, but it’s critical that you set ground rules. For example, your kids need to know that when your door is closed and/or locked, that means no coming in. You can also post a sign on the door letting them know not to enter. Explain to them what working from home means and it’s okay if this happens months after you’ve already started. Explain why your door is closed and how important it is they are quiet when you are on a call.
Relax Screentime Rules
This one is going to be a tough recommendation as parents constantly fight against screentime. In today’s environment, relaxing screentime rules is almost a must for any work-from-home parent. There is a very good chance that you can save your day by tearing down your usual screen time rules.
Take advantage of Apple’s ScreenTime. That way you can decide what apps can be used and for how long they can be used. Additionally, they can use their iPads and gaming systems to stay in touch with friends they cannot see in person. It may be the most interaction they have with kids their own age, so do not discourage that.
In the end, every family is going to be different. That is especially true when it comes to how well your kids will follow the rules you establish. This is a stressful time for them as much as it is for parents, so be mindful of that. Try and work with them to make sure they understand the importance of working from home. Offer rewards from time to time to make sure they are doing a good job. Most importantly, remember that there is no right or wrong answers when it comes to working from home with kids. Experiment, adapt and change how things are working frequently to find the solution that works for your family.