Any parent who works from home even half the time, will tell you that the most difficult stretches are when children are home from school. Holiday breaks, spring break, and summers off can wreak havoc with the schedules of those working remotely.
Nonetheless, people do it all the time. One major goal of working from home is to achieve work-life balance, and that goal remains. Working from home with kids in the house just means that balance can be a little trickier. Here are four ideas for working from home when children are present.
1. Designate a space
If you have a laptop to work on, it’s tempting to tote it with you and work in various spots around the house. With children around, this isn’t always a great idea.
Instead, try to designate one place where you will do your work. If you don’t have a home office or spare bedroom, try to set up something temporary somewhere else, even if it’s a makeshift workspace in the dining room or basement. It’s important for kids to know that when Mom or Dad is in that place, they’re working. Teach them to respect that place and your time when you’re there.
2. Establish a household routine
Transitioning from working in an office to working at home means changing your routine. Without a commute, your morning ritual of a shower, coffee, and whatever else you do before heading out will likely be altered to fit your new circumstances.
Children are perhaps even more routine-oriented. Schools and pre-school daycare centers are very regimented, schedule-wise. For both your sake and your children’s, it helps maintain sanity when daily routines are established.
There need to be times for your work that coincide with quiet time for them. They should know when they’ll be asked to bathe or shower, when they’ll eat, when to nap (if applicable), and when they’re allowed screen time. Plot out a routine schedule and stick to it, and things are likely to be easier for all involved.
3. Set up a signal system
Even if you designate a space for work, there inevitably will be times when your children approach you while you’re working. If you’re used to working in an office, you could treat these interruptions as you might handle a colleague who comes to your desk while you’re working on something.
If it’s something you can’t break away from, use a signal like holding up an index finger or pointing at your computer or phone. This is a “do-not-disturb” gesture that will need to be understood.
If your workspace has a door, you could leave it open most of the time and close it when you really need quiet and privacy, just as you might close your door in an office when you’re on a call. It’s important to let your children know when you really can’t be interrupted.
4. Ration the requests
When it’s someone in the office who comes to your desk 10 times a day needing something from you, you might feel obligated to give them your attention. It could just be an unwritten office protocol.
At home with children, parents get to make the rules. You might not be able to limit your chatty co-worker to, say, five requests a day, but you could give your children a request ration. Let them know that they get five requests per day during your work hours, and then you keep track somewhere they can see, a chalkboard or chart on the fridge. You’ll be helping guide them toward knowing which requests are worth interrupting you.
If you’re going to work at home during the Covid-19 Pandemic, it’s going to take some getting used to, especially if there are kids at home. Implementing a few key ideas at the outset, though, could make working from a home a smoother experience for all involved.
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