As we’ve seen in previous articles, working remotely or from the comfort of your own home has undoubtedly many benefits for employees and companies alike. However, if you’re reading this article in 2020, you already know that national emergency declarations because of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced millions of companies to adopt a remote working policy, if their industry allows it.
However, it’s not only offices shutting down. Schools are also closed to avoid the spread of the virus, presenting remote workers with children with yet another twist: managing all work-related challenges, on top of all parenting-related challenges.
Working from home with kids presents you with a varying set of difficulties, depending on their age. It seems the kids are either calling your name a million times, cannot seem to keep entertained and/or get loud and wild during your busiest times. We’ve got a list of a few ways you can work from home while the kids are there without losing your mind.
Clarify your expectations
Having kids at home while you’re working is like having another job. And just like with any other job, it is important to communicate.Talk to the kids about respect and listening while you’re busy. If they’re old enough, you can even write out a list of expectations. They need to understand being at home while you’re working means they can’t always be loud, they have to do chores and they need to have a little quiet time.
Break out the box
You probably have a million cool toys and gadgets laying around. The coolest thing the kids will ever play with is in a box. It might be a simple, big cardboard box. Throw them in there with some crayons, and let them go to town. It might be an activity box filled with art supplies. Kids can create all sorts of projects to keep themselves entertained that come right from that box. For younger kids, you can fill a box with balls. They’ll jump in and out, or just throw them around.
Expect a mess
As we mentioned about the balls being thrown around, life with kids and work together is messy at times. Your floor may be filled with toys and art supplies. Just go with it. You can clean it up at the end of the day. If they’re going to get really messy, tell them to get outside with the paint and chalk. If they’re playing inside, just be ready for toys to be strewn throughout the house. That’s okay, they’re learning by play and having fun. They’re also keeping busy while you work so it’s all great.
Take a break
You might find yourself losing your mind with the constant chaos. This means it’s time to take a break. Take a little bit to just go play with them. Go on a bike ride or walk. You can watch a little movie or bake a dessert with them. Give yourself a break so you’ll be refreshed ready to get back to work when you’re done. The kids probably just want attention so they won’t stop until you give in, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Kids will work for rewards. Offer incentives if they reach their goals throughout the day. These incentives don’t have to go be something big like a trip to Disney World. It could be a pizza night, a movie or a toy. If they do a great job with the projects or chores you give them, they get a reward at the end of the week. Of course, they should be expected to do well, but it gives them that extra push they sometimes need to really reach this goal.
Life isn’t normal when your kids are playing and you’re working. You usually try to limit screen time and cut down on crazy activities. Cut out your stress levels by giving the kids a break. Sure, they don’t need to play video games for hours, but they can push their usual time. This is a special circumstance, and you need to keep your sanity, so let them cut some corners. It’ll really help your stress levels.
Create and enforce a schedule
Everyone’s day will run a little better on a schedule. Create a rough schedule of the day. It might not go perfectly, but it’ll help with distractions. Create a time when your office is all about you. The kids are not allowed in at this time. Write down times they need to do art, listen to music, eat snacks, and work on academic projects. You do get to be flexible at home, but everyone needs structure during this time. If it’s a beautiful day, change some things around and get outside for a bit.
Set up an activity center
Each day you can get out different toys and activities to put in a special activity center. The kids know this center is specifically for getting things done. You can plan for them to do learning games, build Legos or get out the play-doh. You can change it up on a daily basis. This gives them a place where they can play while learning, and you can get things done while keeping an eye on them.
Go crazy during naptime
If you have smaller kids, take advantage of naptime. Go crazy at this time by attacking work with full force. Make most of your calls at this time. Write your most serious emails. Do the things where you need your total concentration and attention. This may be the only time of day where you get total peace and quiet. You may be tempted to curl up next to them, but it’s the perfect time to get the toughest tasks completed.
Some people think it’s easy to stick a kid with a coloring book while the parent works, and everyone will live happily ever after. It won’t happen. Be realistic about the time when your kids are home and you’re working. Know there may be multiple interruptions. Know things won’t always be perfect every day. Be ready to enforce the rules with the kids. Be ready to attack work while watching the kids with one eye at the same time. You’re going to feel a little guilt, and that’s okay. This is just how it has to be, and everyone is going to be okay in the end.
Life doesn’t have to be totally out of control when the kids are home and you’re trying to work. It can be done if there’s respect on both ends. It’ll take a little practice, but you all will soon get in a normal routine.