It sounds like the title to a funny movie, like ‘Daddy Daycare’ or ‘Parenthood’ but the world is changing right before our eyes, and many parents all over the world including myself have been ‘working from home with children’.
We have all worked from home with our children before, on sick days, the occasional evening or for a few hours on a weekend, but this situation is very different and something many of us thought unimaginable a month ago. No school or child care, all outside entertainment essentially off limits and no clarity as to how long this situation will continue.
There is so much uncertainty in the world at the moment but one thing is for sure, working from home with children and staying productive is going to be a challenge.
This is what I’ve been doing in the past two weeks to make it work for me. I would love to hear any tips, tricks or ideas that you have found work for you. And, if you’re looking for more ideas, have a look at Talents full guide to working from home with kids.
The first thing I did was speak to my daughter and let her know what’s going on. She had a lot of questions and I tried to answer them all. If you have a child over five, they will have a fair bit of knowledge about what’s happening in the world already but it’s good for them to hear it from you. I think we sometimes forget how smart and in tune they are and that they are also feeling stress and uncertainty.
My daughter Maddy, myself and my husband have an update each day, we call it ‘question time’. We also ask her questions and it helps us to know how she’s feeling. I've let her know that I will be working from home for a bit and told her that I would need her help to make this work especially as she is also going to be home from school. I think she has appreciated us keeping her in the loop and respecting her by communicating with her in this way. It has made a huge difference to how we have begun this process.
9 to 5, 6, 2, 10... All the time
The first thing I had to do was adapt my work hours. I only have one child and she is at a pretty good age so I feel that I am in an easier situation than many parents out there. But for most parents during this time, traditional work hours won’t be possible. Do what you can when you can. I have been waking up an hour earlier than the family and getting a head start on the day and this has been really helpful for me. I have friends who are more productive at night and they try to get a few hours of work done after everyone’s in bed. Both of these options might give you some more time with your kids during the day to be a parent and deal with the many demands that will inevitably arise.
It goes without saying, but you do need to communicate your intended work hours and your reduced capacity with your team and your manager so they know where you’re at and how they can support you during this time.
Routine is key
Once you have planned out your work hours, you can begin to create a routine around these. Many parents I know, including myself, began the first week with a routine that was too strict. By the end of the week, we were removing the caps on screen time and bribing with lollies at 10 in the morning. I learnt that it is important to be realistic and create something you can stick to. We get up and go to bed at the same time and have the same activities at the same times each day. I have tried to match this with Maddy’s school schedule to minimise the disruption to her routine. This has helped everyone in the house know what to expect and when.
Maybe I shouldn’t say it, but I am already dreaming of my real office in the city. Starting the day with a quick chat with my colleagues, a great coffee and snack from a café and then into an uninterrupted day of work.
That’s going to remain a daydream for a while, so it’s time to get comfortable at home. It is essential that you set up a good space that you’ll enjoy working in. Be it a desk in the kitchen or an office in the spare room or lounge room. Make it as comfortable, attractive and space-efficient as possible. There are some good tips for this here. I communicated with my family that this is my space and they have been pretty good about it, but I’m sure this would be much more difficult if you have younger children.
You can’t do it all, please don’t try
You can’t do everything, especially at the moment. If you are working from home and looking after your children at the same time, it’s a good idea to eliminate some of the activities in your life that aren’t the best use of your time. For me, the first to go were domestic chores during my work hours. In my first few days I was getting up to fold some washing or do some dishes from the night before, it was not helping my productivity. Your house might be a bit of a mess for a while and that’s ok!
Put on your oxygen mask first
Parents do need to look after themselves during this time. I think we all try to do too much for everyone else and forget about ourselves. If you’re not doing well, everyone will feel it and things will fall apart. It’s really important. I know of many parents who are struggling because they are putting themselves last. I have a huge amount of respect for single parents working from home – they have two full time jobs at the moment. All I can say is be realistic about what you can achieve and be kind to yourselves.
This is most likely going to be a marathon, not a sprint. I think we are all going to have some wonderful times with our children and we are going to have times that really challenge us. But this is the time to stick together and ‘virtually’ help each other out as much as possible. For me, the goals are to keep my child feeling safe and secure, continue being productive with my work and to look after myself.
Read more tips and tricks to help you work from home with kids here.