working from home with kids

Working From Home With Kids: Navigating the New Normal

With shelter-in-place orders mandated around the country in response to COVID-19, families are finding themselves tackling new territory. Working from home with kids.

On top of bringing home the responsibilities of the office, work from home moms and dads are now tasked with guiding their kids’ schoolwork each day. The compounding stress between work, financial worries, day-to-day life, and keeping the kids busy is enough to drive anyone mad. As a result, families everywhere are searching for guidance on how to work from home with kids.

The Common Challenges of Working From Home with Kids

Although a 2018 report from IWG found that 70% of professionals telecommute at least once a week, working remotely is a new experience for the majority of companies and their employees. As parents adapt to the change in their typical work environment, several have reported challenges such as:

A Lack of Productivity

Parents who are figuring out how to work from home with a baby may be experiencing a drop in typical productivity levels. They are not alone. Between the global crisis and making sure your household is safe and healthy, it’s normal not to remain focused 100% of the time.

If you find yourself losing momentum or unable to focus, cut yourself some slack during this time. Understand that this situation is not “normal.”It is perfectly acceptable to find it difficult to maintain full productivity levels at a time like this.

Providing Children with Enough Care and Education

All of a sudden, parents have taken on yet another critical role in their child’s lives: teacher.

Teachers (many of whom are also working from home with kids) across the world are going above and beyond to keep kids active and educated online during the pandemic. But ultimately, it boils down to the parents.

It is important for parents working from home to recognize that they are not teachers by trade and to give themselves leniency when it comes to educating their children. You’re not going to have all the answers.  You’re only going to have so much time to dedicate to your children’s needs and education.

Schools and families across the country are banding together to create resources for parents working from home with kids. From Facebook groups to online guides, parents have a wealth of resources at their fingertips. Reach out to your kids’ school system and teachers to see what they recommend or can offer.

Feelings of Isolation

With extra responsibilities, greater societal restrictions, and a constant stream of bad news online, it’s natural to experience feelings of isolation.

It’s all too common for parents working from home to feel stressed given the nature of this situation. On top of your typical job responsibilities, you are now in charge of your child’s activities throughout the day. Working from home with a baby or little kids is not for the faint of heart. It is tough for everyone.

It’s important to find ways to recharge throughout the day or set aside time to let those emotions play themselves out in a safe space. It’ll take some time to discover what works best for you.

When it gets a bit too tough, reach out to those you trust or a professional to discuss these new feelings of isolation and worry.

How to Work from Home With Kids: 8 Effective Tips for Parents

Every family has their own way of tackling this crisis. It will take some trial and error to find what works best for you and your kids. But perhaps these tips will come in handy.

1. Create a To-Do List with Only a Few Items

Get groceries.

Make sure the kids did their homework.

Compile reports for the quarterly board meeting.

Hop on a video chat with the marketing team.

Doesn’t it seem as though your to-do list is ten times longer these days?

When dads and moms work from home, they may have many more tasks to accomplish each day. As a result, trying to accomplish too much in a single day can lead to burnout, productivity declines, and poor mental health.

Instead of trying to be a super-parent and achieve it all in a matter of 24 hours, create small to-do lists every day.

On these lists, include:

  • One task that must get done
  • Two larger tasks
  • A handful of small, easy tasks

With only five or six items on your daily list, your workday and family life will seem much easier to manage.

As you navigate each day, you’ll gain a better understanding of how to best formulate your task lists for work and family. And, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t complete everything on your task list. Life goes on, and in the grand scheme of things, one task is a drop in the ocean.

2. Communicate Clearly

With the new move to remote working, companies and employees are discovering the importance of clear communication more than ever before.

As a parent, superior communication must become your superpower during the stay-at-home orders. There are several groups you must properly communicate with to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding your routine, availability, and work responsibilities.

Your Boss and Colleagues

For many companies, working from home is uncharted territory. For working parents, this means clearly explaining your at-home situation to your boss, manager, colleagues, and anyone you may manage, too.

Let your company know that you have children at home and that their well-being is also a priority for you. This might mean that conference calls may have to be before a certain time. Or that you might not respond to an email or message instantly.

Don’t be afraid to block off certain hours for family needs, too. If you know your baby is fussy around a certain time, don’t accept conference calls or team meetings during those hours. Set your boundaries and communicate with your team about your current availability.

Teachers

Just like parents, teachers are struggling to keep up with the demands from their school district and the new online class formats, all while striving to provide a quality education for their students.

At the same time, parents are worried about their kids falling behind in school or retaining the information with the endless distractions at home.

Reach out to your child’s teachers to discuss your concerns and ask questions. After all, they’re there to help!

When you do speak with your child’s teacher, do so with empathy. Remember, teachers have a ton on their plates and are also balancing their job and family. Communicate with understanding and ask if there’s any way you can support them, too!

Your Kids

As a parent, your family is your top priority, followed by your job. When these priorities intersect, it can become confusing for children.

You must explain to your kids that you will be working from home now. Just as they will now be doing their schoolwork and classes at home.

Keep in mind that this transition is confusing for everyone, but most of all, for little children. While clear communication is key with this age group, so is constant communication. You may need to remind the kids about your work responsibilities regularly.

Your Partner/Spouse/Family Members

If you live with another individual, whether it’s a spouse or family member, communicating about yours and the kids’ needs is vital.

If possible, work out a plan for helping the kids throughout the day that coincides with each person’s work responsibilities. Discuss ways to overlap your work schedules with the kids’ educational requirements in a way that also doesn’t derail your job responsibilities and tasks. This may require some flexibility and compromise, but tackling this new schedule as a team is critical!

Regardless of how you decide to manage your household and job right now, communication is the most important aspect of your time at home.

3. Create Your Own Space for Work

Many households undergoing a re-structuring, thanks to the quarantine. In some homes, the kitchen table is now a classroom, and the guest room is a brand new home office.

To get yourself into a productive mindset, find a spot in your home to dedicate as your new home office. It can be a card table in your bedroom or a full room—whatever works best for your daily lifestyle and family.

Once you’ve designated a specific spot in the house to be your work area, communicate this to your kids and family members. If you’re in your “office,” kids should know not to interrupt you unless it is an absolute emergency.

Of course, it may take a few times for this boundary to resonate with the little ones, but after a while, they’ll understand!

4. Demonstrate What Working from Home Looks Like

For some families, the kids have never seen their parents “at work.”This means that you’ll need to demonstrate what working looks like.

Show the little ones your new workspace, explain to them what you’ll be doing in that spot, and why it’s important that you have alone time when you’re there. It may take a bit to sink in, so don’t fret if you have to repeat the process a few times. After all, kids learn best from proper repetition! This process will help kids separate your time at work from your time as mom or dad.

Additionally, take the time to teach them what to do in specific scenarios that may arise while you’re working. For instance, if mom is on a conference call, but dad is cooking lunch for the family, which parent should the child ask for assistance? Or, if they have a question about their schoolwork but both parents are working, what should the child do in that situation?

Spend time together as a family discussing and role-playing various scenarios so that your kids know what to do in different situations.

5. Recognize that Interruptions Will Happen

As much as you prepare your family and yourself to avoid work interruptions, they will happen. It’s inevitable. Of course, there are things you can do to avoid interruptions as much as possible.  This includes muting yourself on calls if necessary or investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones.

However, when something goes awry or not according to plan, take a deep breath and roll with it. Remind yourself that this work and living situation is out of the norm for everyone.

Be sure to remind your coworkers of this principle too. It’s difficult for them to control the interruptions in their households as well! If everyone at your company is understanding of the possibility of interruptions, then it won’t be a big deal at all.

6. Adopt a Schedule that Works for You

The key to working remotely with kids is routine. Between your productivity levels at work and their schooling, adhering to a routine is beneficial for everyone in the household.

Your schedule doesn’t need to be rigid with every minute planned out in advance. Additionally, you don’t have to be one of those parents that rises at 4:00 am for sunrise yoga and journaling. Do what works best for you!

Give your kids guidelines of when you’ll be working and when they’re expected to do their schoolwork, activities, etc. If possible, overlap these times with their teacher’s availability for streamlined learning.

Work-life balance is crucial for maintaining a healthy home environment when your house becomes your office. It’s critical to find a distinct separation between the two. Doing so will also help the kids understand when it’s time to play and when mom and dad need to work.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

This is a new situation for everyone. No one is going to have the right answer or the perfect solution to a problem. But that doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to your friends, family, or colleagues for help when you need it.

When your workload becomes too much to handle with the current crisis, talk to your team and boss about reassigning tasks or coming up with a solution that works for everyone in the company. Discuss if certain projects can be put on the back-burner until things calm down a bit, or how to better streamline your tasks and responsibilities, given the circumstances.

Or, if you need time alone to decompress and recharge, talk to your partner about watching the kids for an hour or two (or however long you need) while you relax.

And, don’t forget to reach out to friends and chat! Ask for their advice on handling a situation you’re dealing with while working at home with kids. While we can’t be together during the crisis, we can still rely on our friends and family for wisdom and sound advice.

8. Take Advantage of Online Tools and Resources

The Internet is a gold mine. Whatever you could possibly need for managing your home and job during COVID-19 is online. Take advantage of resources such as:

Remote Work Resources

If you’re new to remote work, the change of environment and pace may throw you for a loop. Fortunately, there are several blogs and online communities to guide you.

Check out PGi’s Work from Home Resource Hub. Read through HubSpot’s article “How to Work From Home: 20 Tips From People Who Do It Successfully” to hear from seasoned pros. Or, take a look at Buffer’s remote work journey through their Open Blog. Be sure to browse Trello’s top telecommuting articles in their Work from Home Guide, too. To get tips and tricks from other remote workers, join online communities like Reddit’s Remote Work community.

Tools for Working from Home

To conquer working from home with kids and babies, you’ll need a few tools in your corner. These platforms help you stay in contact with your work team while navigating your daily to-do list and keeping the kids entertained.

Some of the top telecommuting tools include:

  • Slack – Messaging platform
  • GlobalMeet Collaboration – Video conferencing tool
  • Google Drive – File storage
  • DropBox – File storage
  • Basecamp – Project management platform
  • Trello – Project management platform
  • Zoho – Project management platform
  • Todoist – To do list management
  • Toggl – Time tracking app

Your company may already be using a myriad of tools designed to keep your team on track, regardless of their location. If not, talk to your team about implementing new tools and platforms to make working from home a seamless, enjoyable experience for the entire company.

Company Resources

Ask your HR department about the resources and additional benefits your company provides. Some companies offer insurance-sponsored counseling, fitness stipends, online learning benefits, and more. Some of these resources and offers may prove to be beneficial to your new work-from-home lifestyle.

Free Online Activities

There will be times when you need to keep the kids entertained while you work. While you might not want to stick them in front of the TV all afternoon, you can take advantage of free online activities.

From online museum tours at the Boston’s Children Museum to live animal streams at the Georgia Aquarium and San Diego Zoo, your kids will have fun interacting with educational material online while you work.

Spend time as a family finding and compiling age-appropriate online and offline games, activities, crafts, and more, that the kids can enjoy while you work from home.

Working from Home with Kids Isn’t Easy, But It’s Possible

Remote work has gone from a new trend to an entire societal shift. Working at home with kids isn’t an easy feat. But with the right frame of mind and a few tools, parents can set clear work and family boundaries that help create a productive environment.

What tips have helped you work from home with kids?

About Kelly Strain

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