Easy tips for working from home with kids can be the difference between getting your job done and collapsing in a stressed-out heap (trust us, as a remote team, North Shore Mums have been there!). Here are some tips from local working mums, who often share their wisdom (on this, and many subjects) in our Facebook Group.
Easy Tips for Working from Home
1. Set up your workspace properly
This is going to look different for everyone, depending how much space you have available. Ideally, you all have a different room to set yourselves up. If not, make sure you have a space in the shared room. It’s important to have an area to call your own, and this is just as important for your kids while they are homeschooling.
You might be in a rush to run out and buy new desks and chairs for the whole family. Yes, it’s important to have somewhere to sit, but it doesn’t have to cost an arm and leg. One ingenious Dad realised this, and created cardboard desks. How cool is that?! For just $45 each, you can set everyone up with a space to call their own.
2. Manage your expectations
Things are different when you are working from home during isolation. You have gone from working in an office with a dedicated workspace and no (or perhaps minimal) interruptions, with all the right tools to get the job done. Don’t expect the same from home with kids.
It’s important to make these expectations clear to your boss and co-workers. Let them know how things and changed and the circumstances you are managing. In these changing times, you won’t be the only one, but the most important thing is to be upfront about it.
The same goes when it comes to homeschooling. You aren’t a teacher (or maybe you are!) and there is no way to completely adapt to this change in roles. One great idea is to ask your child’s teacher to ‘triage’ their activities. This way you can focus on the high priority activities each day and work your way down that list.
3. Share the load with your partner
No matter what your normal routine is, it has changed for everyone! Mum, dad and the kids. If both parents are working from home, then ensure you share the load. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Split up the morning and afternoon.
- Split up days of the week.
- If you are both busy, try a Zoom call with Grandma or Grandpa and see if they can take over with some learning help.
- Get some outside help: if it still isn’t working, consider bringing in someone to help. If they are also self-isolating at their home, the risk is minimal and it may be worth your sanity.
4. Create a schedule
Yep, a proper routine will help, and it’s one of our favourite, easy tips for working from home! Your kids will be following a homeschooling schedule (with recess and lunch factored in) and you will have your own commitments with phone calls and meetings. Setting a schedule is so important for everyone, as it adds some order and structure to your days. Every family’s schedule will look different.
Here are some things to think about:
- New work hours: instead of doing the normal 9-5pm, you and your partner might be flexible enough to work in shifts around the kids. One does the early shift from when they wake until 11am, and the partner can start work early then. You can switch later in the day, with one partner working into the evening. The most important things to be clear about what hours are working hours, and what hours are ‘mum/dad’ hours. You need to be able to separate the two to flick between roles.
- Plan your breaks together. It allows everyone to check in throughout the day and see how they are going and make sure everything is on the right track. Communication is healthy!
- Working at night: while not ideal, it is another option when you have kids around. Once they are in bed, you have plenty of time to concentrate in peace and quiet.
- School on the weekend: you can even switch the school days to fit around your work. This allows you to be present to help with school work, while kids play independently when you work during the week.
5. Put some ground rules in place
Write down some basic rules as a family, such as:
- Mum will make lunch for the family on Monday, Tuesday and Fridays, while Dad will do lunches on Wednesday and Thursday. If the kids are old enough, get their help!
- While Mum or Dad are on the phone, STAY QUIET. Perhaps the rule is that all meetings are held in a separate room that you or your partner can escape to when you need. Either way, make it clear you aren’t to be interrupted.
- No TV/screen time until lessons are complete. Give kids a checklist of activities to do. Once they make it through this, then let them have a reward, ie treat food, TV time, etc.
We all know the benefits exercise can have on both our physical health and mental health. Think about all the incidental exercise you used to get each day, whether it was from walking the kids to school, walking to the station, taking the stairs at work and so on – this is now gone.
Make a note to stop and exercise throughout the day. Doesn’t mean you have to throw on your workout gear (though nothing is stopping you), just get moving.
Here are some great ways to add some exercise into your day, or for kids maybe try one of these 102 fun and creative outdoor play ideas for kids!
- Walk around the block
- Walk up and down your stairs
- Stand up and do 10 jumping jacks/squats/etc every hour
- Find a good workout on YouTube.
7. Don’t compare yourselves
Social media is a fun thing, isn’t it? You get to see just how well everyone is is doing in their self-isolation. Truth is, we only see the good, and it can be hard for us to remember that. People aren’t going to share that time they got so fed up they yelled too loudly, or the time they locked themselves outside just to escape the chaos.
Everyone has their own story and their own struggles and social media is just showing the good moments, so don’t compare yourself.
8. Everyone pitches in with their ideas
If everyone is now home, everyone pitches in (if they didn’t already). Set daily chores that every member of the family has to get done in their own time. This is an important lesson for kids about contributing to the household and working as a team.
Here are some ideas you can implement while working from home during isolation:
- Get the older kids to help younger siblings with homework.
- Create a list of chores around the house and rotate them between all the members of the household (depending on age).
- Put all the chores into a jar and have each person pull one out in the morning.
9. Find what works
What works for you, may not work for another family. Don’t stress about screen time, homework and falling behind at school. These are unprecedented times and we need to be gentle on ourselves and our kids.
Here are some ideas to keep the kids busy:
- TV: yup, I said it. If TV is what works, then go for it. Once you get the work done, you can then turn that TV off and spend some quality time together. Not all screen time is bad! There are so many amazing resources out there at the moment to help parents out during this time, including plenty of educational YouTube channels.
- Busy box: depending on the age of your child, you can set up a busy box full of things to keep them occupied. For older kids, consider a busy jar, where you write down an activity and draw a new one out each day to do.
- Boredom: that’s right, it’s actually good for kids to be bored. It encourages them to use their imagination and gets them thinking creatively. Don’t be afraid of a bored child!
10. Set aside family time
This one is important. When we are working from home during isolation, we are home all day everyday with our family, it can feel like we are living on top of each other. Family time can often go out the window when you are seeing each other everyday.
The difference is, family time that you put aside to spend together is quality time. It’s a chance to check in and see how everyone is coping in these changing times and to ensure everyone is happy and healthy. It’s one the top easy tips for working from home with kids that works for everyone.