5 Tips for Working From Home With Kids
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, employees around the world were forced to move away from the corporate office and into the distributed workforce, often relocating to a home office surrounded by all kinds of non-work distractions. Spouses, roommates, pets, and neighbors are certainly noteworthy interrupting participants, but when it comes to disruptive coworkers, kids take the gold medal.
You might find yourself asking: how am I supposed to get work done with my kids in the house? The key is keeping kids busy, and setting clear boundaries between work time and family time. Of course it’s easier than it sounds, but in this article, we’ll provide some tips for working from home with kids that’ll help improve your productivity and hopefully improve your work/life balance along the way.
1. Stick to a schedule
It was easier in the “before times,” when we left the house to go to the office, and 8 hours later, wrapped up our work and headed home. Now, your office is 15 feet from the bedroom, and you share the company lunchroom with a duo of sticky-handed toddlers.
One of the secrets to how to work from home with kids is setting a schedule. Of course you can’t expect to be able to block off your entire 9-5 with little ones running around, but you can create designated blocks of time that are “off-limits.” Let’s say, for example, you have a weekly meeting on Mondays from 10AM-11AM. Make this a “no interruption” hour that applies to both you and your kids. The kids can’t interrupt you while you work for that hour, and you won’t interrupt them while they get their screen time.
For new parents, here’s a pro tip: make the most of nap time. If you know junior is going to be down for a nap at a certain time and for a certain duration, you can plan your schedule around theirs.
2. Create a true home office
It’s tough to be productive when working from home among distractions, and even tougher when those distractions are your children. One way you can make it clear to the rest of your family that you are in the middle of your work day is to create a designated space where your work can be done.
Ideally, this would be an entire room or home office, but you can just as effectively create a workspace in one part of a shared room. Choose a room in your home that doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic, then identify one area of the room that has enough room to set up a desk. It’s important that you designate your workspace as you would at an office: set up a desk, a chair, a monitor, and whatever else you need to feel productive.
If you’re looking for an alternative to sitting in a chair all day while working from home, a standing desk is a great ergonomic alternative. If you’re concerned that standing for 8 hours is bad, or wondering how long you should stand at a standing desk per day, consider a convertible standing desk that is easily adjustable.
Convertible standing desks are especially convenient for moving from the sitting position to the standing position throughout the day, especially if you don’t love the idea of spending your entire workday on your feet. However, for long days of standing, we also recommend an anti-fatigue floor mat, such as the Sky Solutions Anti-Fatigue Comfort Floor Mat to reduce stress on your knees, muscles, and joints while working.
3. Set boundaries for balance
As someone who grew up with two parents who worked from home before it was status quo, I will readily admit that I did not respect their workplace boundaries. It was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that my mom and dad could be home, but not be available to me.
This is a difficult concept for kids to grasp, but made easier by explaining clearly to them that – just like their classes are happening inside of the house, even though they usually do it at school – your job is also happening in the house, even without an office to go to.
For me, I was better able to understand my parents’ situation when they explained it in terms of setting boundaries between work and home and home and work. If I interrupted them during their work day, they would have to work later, which would give me less time with them during usual home hours. (It also didn’t hurt that I was food-motivated: “The more you interrupt me, the later dinner is going to be!”)
Be clear with your kids about what it means to respect boundaries and how everyone can benefit by those boundaries being maintained.
4. Be upfront with your coworkers
Of course there are many steps you can take to make sure that working from home with children is a productive experience, but no solution is perfect. The reality is that there will always be interruptions and you won’t be able to plan for everything. That’s why it’s important to be clear with your coworkers about your work-from-home situation.
The good news is that you’re far from the only one experiencing these disruptions and frustrations. At some point, most of your coworkers have probably asked themselves: “How can I be productive when working from home with my family?”
The key is to be honest about your situation and exercise patience and understanding with one another. You’re doing your best to keep your kids busy so that you can get your work done, but if a coworker sees your cute kid, are they really going to be upset? Probably not.
5. Take breaks
It’s hard. Working from home, during a pandemic, with your family around, with very little previous experience – it’s no simple adjustment. And as much as you may feel like you need to keep your foot on the accelerator, the reality is that hitting top speeds is a quick way to lead to burnout.
Don’t be afraid to take breaks. If your teenager wants to show you something they’re working on for class, let them. If it’s a beautiful sunny day and your elementary schooler wants to take their scooter out, go for the walk. If your spouse offers to bring you a lemonade, take the time to sit out on the porch and enjoy it.
If the last year or so of shifting to the virtual workforce has taught us anything, it’s that you never know what’s going to happen next. Plan your schedule, create your workspace, establish boundaries, and be transparent, but don’t lose sight of the importance of your mental and physical well being. The best employee is a healthy one, so whether you’re vying for partner or for “Mom of the Year,” remember to focus on balance – your kids and company will thank you.