Being a working parent is really hard. Working from home with kids is — you guessed it —extremely hard. In fact, 87% of parents we surveyed in November 2020 said that working from home without childcare is “difficult” or “very difficult.” Though many parents have had a “one off working-from-home day” when a kid is sick, the reality of working remotely every single day alongside your kids has been a steep learning curve for a lot of people during COVID. Here are some expert tips for working from home with kids.
1. Get Creative With Your Schedule
If you have another adult home with you, consider a split schedule. Parents can discuss their work schedules as a team the night before to determine who is more available at different times of the day.
Of course, it may not be possible to get all your work done during regular business hours if you’re also on duty with the kids, so staggering your work times with your partner, or working in the evening when the kids are in bed might be the right option for you. However you choose to split your schedule, you will have to retrain your mind to focus during your new “business” hours.
2. Communicate with your employer & coworkers
It is probable that with toddlers or kids at home who are participating in virtual schooling at home, you will need to make schedule adjustments. It will also be necessary to communicate your needs and your schedule adjustments with your employer.
However, communicating with coworkers is also essential, because even with the best-laid plans, your children will interrupt your work. They’ll scream just as you unmute during a conference call. They’ll bomb your video meetings. Or you may just need to take them outside for 30 minutes so they can burn off energy. Your coworkers will be more understanding about all the interruptions if you warn them ahead of time.
It’s also important to remember, you are not alone. You are not the only one that is seeking flexibility in their work schedule, and you are not the only parent balancing work with distance learning. It’s likely that your employer and some of your coworkers are experiencing the struggles as you are, and if not, they are at least now more understanding than ever.
3. Claim a dedicated workspace
One of the most important suggestions is to be able to close a door and work in isolation. Find a room with a door you can shut, if possible. Even a table in a bedroom is preferable to working at a kitchen table where there can be abundant distractions.
If space is an issue, visual cues become extra important. Putting on headphones, using masking tape on the floor to mark the “walls” of your office, or even putting up a stop sign where you are working can be a signal for your children that they need to be quiet. Conversely, take the headphones off, come out of your “office” or put the stop sign down when you are ok to be interrupted.
4. Take breaks
Working for a few hours in the early morning or evening gives you the opportunity to take breaks during the day. During your “off” time, play with the kids, preside over schoolwork, or get outside. Consider drawing, board games, dance parties, and even scavenger hunts. That one- on-one time is something your kids will appreciate when they can’t have your undivided attention later.
And of course, just as important as it is to spend that time with your kids, it’s just as important for you and your partner to take some of those breaks for yourself. Patience and energy levels are running at all time lows for most people these days, so go for a walk or maybe read that article you have been wanting to read, your mental health will thank you.
5. Hire a caregiver/tutor
Let’s be honest. Working from home with kids present is unbelievably hard, and there is no shame in admitting you need help. Hiring a caregiver, or a tutor to help your kids with their virtual classes, might be exactly what you need to be more productive.
Talk with your employer about childcare benefit options. Having your employer provide access and subsidies through services such as UrbanSitter will allow you to easily find trusted and reliable childcare and tutors, occasionally or for part-time, full-time, virtual, or backup care.
2020 continues to be an unprecedented year, and we do not yet know what 2021 will bring. What we do know is that working from home with kids is becoming more mainstream, and we need to continue to make the adjustments accordingly. Bend the rules, whether it’s allowing some extra screen time or giving your kids a snack they wouldn’t normally have. Parents need to cut themselves some slack, and most importantly give themselves a little grace right now.