Remote work has seen an uptick in the past couple of years. More and more, people choose to work from home instead of going to the office. Working from home may be a welcome shift from going into the office every day, or it could be a regular part of your workweek. But what happens when your children are suddenly home with you, too?
How do you balance getting the required work done, showing up for your team, and keeping your child occupied and entertained? With an expanding number of people working from home, whether temporarily or on an ongoing basis, here are some tips for working from home with your kids.
Communicate with your manager and team.
Likely, a few fellow parents on your team are also going through the same situation. Being upfront with your manager and team that your kids will be home helps them understand your work environment and better support you.
Sharing your schedule in advance if you need to manage your day differently than you usually do will keep everyone on the same page, so there are no surprises. Take a look at your calendar to see if you need to schedule any breaks so you can set up new activities for your kids and give them lunch or open snacks. If you have a planned schedule, it will be easier to know when you might need to take a break.
Designate work areas and play areas.
It would be best to create an engaging atmosphere to keep your child’s attention by setting up a dedicated area to play or do activities. Having crafts and books to read and various activities to rotate throughout the day will help keep kids’ attention. You could also think of creative ways to keep your child occupied.
For example, if your toddler is acting out before a call, walk around the house with them while you’re on the call. This strategy may also help them find something more interesting to do so you can get back to work. Busy bags filled with simple activities and toys for toddler-aged kids are a great way to rotate toys and keep the interest of little ones.
Be empathetic and flexible.
Encourage everyone to over-communicate their needs; sharing things like your schedule, time off, meetings, deliverables, project statuses, and the feedback and inputs you need from others will help the workday run more efficiently for everyone. Keep an open and regular stream of communication to share this kind of knowledge so everyone is in the loop.
Showing empathy when someone on your team is stressed is critical to helping them feel supported, included, seen, and heard. That doesn’t mean you have to feel sorry for them. Empathy is all about listening to what’s going on with them, looking to understand how they are feeling, and recognizing their situation’s difficulty.
Above all, empathy is about connecting with your teammates to show you sincerely care and respect them. When a coworker comes to you with a concern, helping them feel heard and confirming their feelings will help them feel like they aren’t alone and are still a vital part of the team.
Proactively ask your team to share how they are feeling, how their families are doing or how their day has gone so far to help open lines of communication. If you’re a parent with kids at home while you’re working remotely, share how your day is going, activities your kids are doing to keep busy, or resources that the parents on your team may benefit from.
Get up and get ready.
You may not be going to the office, and the kids may not be headed to school, but taking a shower and putting on real clothes will help you feel ready for the day ahead. It may also keep a sense of normalcy and structure, which kids want. Plus, you’ll be prepared to hop on a video call at a moment’s notice without worrying about whether you’re adequately dressed or need to brush your hair. Your kids will feel like there are distinct phases of their day, too. Getting out of pajamas and into play clothes will help shift them into different activity times instead of spending the whole day in jammies.
Unless you can split duty with someone, don’t expect to give 100 percent of your attention to any one thing for an extended period. If working at home with your child is a short-term arrangement, easing the usual rules around screen time may be beneficial. Knowing when your child has reached their limit without your attention is also crucial.
Giving them your attention and time to connect with you can fill their need and reset them for another independent activity, even if it’s just for a few minutes. If you can share the parenting load with a partner during the workday and take shifts. Both of you have committed time to focus on work while the other cares for the children. Evaluate schedules in the morning and create a plan for the day if more frequent hand-offs are needed. Above all, be patient with your child, partner, and yourself. Simultaneously balancing work and parenting is challenging even under the best circumstances.
Full-time working parents are accustomed to the near-continuous demand of managing the ongoing projects, practices, meetings, doctor’s appointments, business travel, and child care arrangements. The enhanced feelings of pressure to constantly deliver at work and for our families, with the added mental load of having our children at work with us, can substantially increase stress levels.
However, it would be best to remind yourself that this is just a rocky patch in the short term. In the long-term, you’ll be back in the office, or the kids will be back in school, and some normalcy will return to your life. The best way to work from home with children is to communicate with your coworkers until that day. Hopefully, they’ll understand what you’re going through and do their best to accommodate you.