Whether you work from home by choice or necessity, it can be a challenge to balance your work day with the needs of your kids. It's a dream come true for many people, but it's not always a straightforward path. People who work from home with kids encounter special challenges that many employers are unprepared for. This can make the transition really hard! Here are a few tips to help make it easier for you to work from home with kids.
Whether you're a mom who works full-time from your home office or a dad who logs in during his lunch break, these tips can help you make the most of your workday and keep your family happy.
Have a Set Schedule
A major productivity and happiness booster is structure. Schedule out your days in a way that will allow you to accomplish what you need to as efficiently as possible.
Many people who work from home are actually at a significant advantage over their peers, because they can set their own hours and work as flexibly as they’d like. In essence, you choose when to get your tasks done! You can get up earlier than the kids and work before they get up. You can also set boundaries around the work you do, and the tasks you complete at home, so you can focus on the job at hand.
Nothing sets the tone more for a work-from-home environment than knowing exactly when you’ll get your tasks done. Set a time that works for you, and stick to it!
If you’re homeschooling while working, you will need to embrace a fair amount of flexibility in scheduling. It makes your interactions with your kids more enjoyable and helps maintain family harmony. Most of us would agree that “getting work done” is a big part of what we look forward to at the end of each day. However, getting a task completed and out of the way before the end of the workday isn’t always possible.
If you do need to hop back into work in the evening, after putting the kids to bed, set a time limit for yourself so you aren’t up until all hours. It’s also helpful to communicate to your bosses and coworkers what time is best for you to communicate directly, and what times you plan to be unreachable as you focus on family.
Create a Defined Workspace
There will be times when you’ll need to bring the laptop to the kitchen table to oversee the kids while juggling deadlines. As much as possible, though, try to have set spaces for working. This way, your family knows that when you’re in that area, they should avoid disturbing you. Many working parents do a lot of work all over the house, but when they really need that head-down focus time, they have a work space with a door to close to separate themselves from their kids.
It’s also important for kids to have a defined workspace for their more serious tasks. Homework should be done in the same place every day, so they develop a comfortable routine and learn that when they’re in that space at that particular time, it’s time to make progress on specific tasks.
Good furniture can make all the difference in your workspace! Make sure you have comfortable chairs, tables at the right height, and good lighting to help perk up your mood when you’re stuck inside.
Take Care of Personal Needs First
Make sure you’re getting regular sleep, eating the nutritious foods you love, getting sufficient exercise, and taking time to relax and unwind! Figure out what is most important to you. I don’t mean that you need to know exactly how much time you should spend with each of your children every day. Instead, figure out the necessities for you, the things that make your life meaningful, to include in your weekly plan.
It’s also important not to let physical activity go to the wayside amidst competing work and life priorities. Have a consistent plan for getting some exercise every day. Walk around the block or do a set of pilates stretches. Even a small dose of physical activity, like moving around the house, reduces stress and boosts your mood.
Organize your Task List
Organizing is crucial. Many people like to a spreadsheet approach, puting everything in a tabbed spread, prioritizing tasks by importance, and categorizing notes in different columns. Others use an app like Trello, Todoist, or Notion to break down tasks into bite-sized pieces. Whatever process you prefer, make sure that you have a running list of your tasks and a plan to tackle them so you don’t get overwhelmed. Include house chores in your running task list, so they don’t fall to the wayside.
Batch Work to Stay Ahead Whenever Possible
Many people find that while they can carve out consistent moments to work with kids around throughout the day, they feel better-organized if they’re able to block out large chunks of time to truly get into deep work mode. If at all possible, ask a partner or relative to supervise the kids for several hours in a row as often as possible so that you can get caught up – and even ahead of work. Everyday tasks go much smoother if you’re not constantly in catch-up mode.
When you feel stressed about a day, don’t beat yourself up. Some days WILL suck. Get used to that idea, so that you don’t feel hopeless when it inevitably happens. There will be times you may have to drag yourself through the day. At the end of it, just make a practice of looking back with gratitude at the things you were able to accomplish. Remember that any progress - even slow and small progress - is a good thing as it all adds up.
Have a Plan for Entertaining Kids at the Last Minute
Movies, video games, LEGOS, a toddler art kit, chatting with a relative on the phone or r. Whatever it is that your kids love, stock up on it and have it at-the-ready to keep them busy when you really need a minute to yourself!
With a straightforward approach and an honest look at everything you have on your collective plates, your family can thoughtfully tackle each day at home in a way that works for every family member.