Working from home can sound like a dream to many people. You get to enjoy more time in your house, you interrupt the commute, and you can see much more of your family.
But the flip side has some not-so-dreamy realities, especially for parents who need to balance work and childcare: a difficulty focusing; having to juggle work caring for children and in some cases homeschooling them; blurred lines between work time and personal time, and children lobby for your undivided attention when you need GSD.
On the least glamorous WFH (work from home) days, you may feel like you have done no work and you have been a bad parent. One can juggle work and look after children, but it requires a recalibration of expectations and work styles.
To make your telecommuting reality more functional, here are some of our top tips for parents working from home.
10 tips for parents working from home with children
1. Focus on the positive.
While some parents work from home of their choice, others have unexpectedly had to adapt to this new reality.
This situation has its own challenges, but we can all find some benefits from working from home – whether it is avoiding the daily commute, having more time with the family, being home for dinner or the proximity to the fridge.
It will not always be easy, but focusing on the positive (and reminding yourself of what you are avoiding in the office) can help tremendously on stressful days.
2. Adjust your schedule.
Like children, adults thrive on routines and work much more efficiently when we have a schedule.
Having a WFH routine helps us stay focused and avoid the productivity stops that come with multitasking or struggling with constant interruptions.
To add more structure and predictability to your day, create a morning routine and be strict with it whenever possible. When awake, get up and prepare for the day as you would before going to the office. Then go to your home office no matter what it looks like for you and get in a state of mind for work.
To optimize the rest of your day, adjust your work schedule to allow for home life, whether this includes breaks to relax or time to catch up on chores and take over child care.
If you can, you can take advantage of a flexible schedule and come up with a routine that works for you and your children – but remember that you can always adjust it to accommodate daily changes.
In our collection of teleworking tips from our team, we shared this great tip:
Make a schedule with the people you live with. I work in AM, see kids (two and four years) in PM, and my husband does the opposite.
3. Be in advance with your colleagues.
Although there are many steps parents can take to maintain their productivity while working from home, interruptions will still occur. Your kids run into your office, throw a tantrum during a Zoom call, or demand that you help with an emergency in the house.
The worst thing you can do is pretend everything is okay, go to work the same way you did in an office, and insist that you do not need help.
Be upfront with your team about what working from home will look like for you, and think about what requests you can make to make it easier and more productive. This can be an adjusted schedule that allows for more flexibility or just a little extra patience.
4. Optimize your workspace for focus.
Although you do not have to stick to this 100% of the time, assign an area of the house as your dedicated work area.
This makes it easier to limit distractions and focus on work without it seeping into personal life.
When you start your everyday life arriving at your dedicated work area with a cup of coffee and wearing daywear, you let your mind know that this is the time and place where you start working.
Ideally, this would be a separate room that you could transform into a home office. But if that is not an option, try to find a non-municipal corner of your home to become your work area. Agree with everyone in your household on the rules for when and how they can get your attention.
Parents can also get their kids to help design homemade office signs with green for “yes, you can come in” and red for “don’t even think about it.”
5. Work in short bursts.
Parents of babies and toddlers have a harder time with it than most, as you can not leave them alone.
If you are in charge of childcare, your best option may be to work in short showers whenever you can, e.g. When the children are asleep.
But if you’m lucky enough to be able to focus on work while your partner helps with childcare at home, you can design your schedule so you can get out of your office and help as often, rather than locking yourself in throughout. the day.
6. Foster creative activities.
Your child is probably not going to sit still and read a book all day while you work. If you are in charge of childcare, keep your children immersed in play by nurturing creative activities.
Rotating between different sets of toys and other activities can encourage deeper and more meaningful play while giving you a little more time to focus. If your children are not used to playing independently, you can try to awaken their imagination by making it a game in itself – one that encourages independent activities such as solving a puzzle or creating something from scratch with art materials, with a set time to show you what they have come up with.
If you enjoy having your kids have some screen time while making important calls or need to focus, check out educational resources like Scholastic Learn at Home, digital games that teach things like spelling and music skills, or even virtual museum tours.
7. Schedule meetings wisely.
Almost every parent who works at home has a few unfortunate mishaps to share.
While much of this is unavoidable, and all you and your colleagues can do is laugh, plan interruptions by giving your children a non-verbal ‘do not disturb’ when you are on conference calls.
Of course, it does not always work with free roaming children, in which case it may be better to schedule calls during their normal sleep times. Sometimes you may just need to mute your calls or even divert if you need to have a babysitter on duty.
8. Get technology on your side.
The rise in cloud computing is precisely what enabled the rise in teleworking. Instead of having to manually exchange documents or log in to on-site user accounts, employees can now access the information they need to perform their jobs online.
With collaborative platforms like Microsoft Teams, project management software like Trello, and web-based CRM (customer relationship management) software, getting work done at home is easier than ever.
Whether it’s a little fun setting up your own video conferencing background on Zoom or taking the time to create a technical stack that makes your job so much easier, choosing the right applications can make a world of difference.
9. Know when to turn off.
Mastering the work-life balance has never been harder. While many are quick to praise the virtues of working from home, you may also end up feeling like you are always at work. Therefore, it is important to know when to turn off.
As a parent, it is likely that you will need to take some flexibility into account when it comes to drawing up your daily schedule. Still, it is important to indicate a time when you can confidently say you are done for the day. This of course requires some self-discipline and expectation with your team, but you need to have clear boundaries to keep stress at bay.
10. Be light on yourself – and ask for help.
If you are a parent juggling work and childcare, you deserve a medal and all the opportunities you can get for a helping hand.
This could mean getting support from a family member, hiring someone to help with childcare, or asking your employer for flexible hours or a little more ease during WFH.
But above all, do not expect yourself to balance everything effortlessly and efficiently all the time. Look for opportunities to make your work life easier, but also be kind to yourself when things are not going as planned. If things are difficult to manage, try to take some time off if you can, and also remember to focus on self-care. It can be a stressful situation for many people, so it is important to focus on one’s own well-being and know its limits.