Let me state the obvious – working from home with children is not easy and sometimes even daunting. Many of us have our own horror stories and have probably experienced some version of the following:
Its 9:40 am - you are 10 minutes into your meeting when your child suddenly breaks down because its Tuesday and now you find yourself presenting while being locked in your bathroom.
Its 12:30 pm – lunch time was 12:00, nap time is 1:00 but you still have at least another 30 minutes left on the call and there is no lunch prepped. To improvise, you resort to feeding your child crackers, hummus, and cheese.
Its 3:00 pm - nap time is over; energy levels are all time high and you have a call with a client and your child just wants to play (in my case with noisy fire trucks) right next to you.
Its 4:00 pm- You are on a video conference call with your team (or worse - with your client) and your child wants to “see” and in some cases join your call.
Here are few helpful tips that I have learned throughout this “working from home with kids” journey.
1. Dedicated space – During the first few weeks of working from home I did not have a dedicated working space, so throughout the day I took my work to the couch, breakfast bar and the dining room table. My child often disrupted me in the most inconvenient times. What I realized is that my child was not in my space, but rather I was in his and bouncing around from kitchen to dining room did not help enforce the concept that my space is important. As soon as my wife and I established our personal working areas it was much easier to set and explain boundaries which helped minimize the interruptions.
2. Building a routine and setting a schedule – We did not abandon our schedules now that we work from home, why should our kids? Building a high-level daily plan that incorporates my work schedule helped me prepare for my child’s activities throughout the day. Depending on the child’s age you can structure the schedule with more specific activities.
Here is a high-level schedule that you can use
3. Prepping – Meal and activity prepping helps to avoid wasting precious time during the workday.
4. Shift Swapping – A critical part of planning includes identifying key work meetings for you and your partner. We plan and try to make sure that we can cover each other during important calls.
5. Block out time – My wife and I each block intervals of 15-30 minutes every 1.5 – 2 hours to provide personal attention. This helps to prevent attention seeking outbreaks during inopportune times.
6. Whispering and visual cues – This is probably one of the silliest tricks I have learned that has paid off in a major way. The idea behind this is recognizing that at some point you will be interrupted while being on call. Teaching my child to whisper and show visual cues around my dedicated space has helped to minimize these interruptions or at the very least, keep them quiet.
7. Virtual Play dates – Virtual play dates are a great way for your child to stay connected with his friends and family members. A virtual play date is a simple and fun way for “together” activities like reading books, coloring, or building things.
8. Prioritize and be realistic with expectations – It is much harder now to get everything done for work with a child while also doing housekeeping. It best to prioritize most important and urgent tasks, things that are administrative can be done during off hours. It is also important to manage expectations and be realistic on deliverables whether it is to your boss, coworker or your client.
9. Personal Time – Many of us are now working atypical working hours, our day is no longer 9 – 5, but instead looks closer to something like this 6-7:30, 9-12, 1-4, 8-9. Because we had to adapt to this new lifestyle it is easy to lose track of your personal time. I suggest blocking out 30 minutes to an hour to do things like exercise, meditate, read or do whatever else you like to do for yourself.
10. It is all okay – We are all in this together and we all can share a “work from home with kids” story. Plan for interruptions while doing everything you can to minimize them, but when they do happen it's all okay.
Working from home with kids is not easy but making these adjustments has made it more manageable and sometimes even fun.