While some people may have gone back to work in the wake of COVID-19, others are still working from home – and so are their children. With only a few school year groups having returned to the classroom, and the six-week summer holiday just around the corner, thousands of parents face weeks of juggling homeworking with parenthood – something which, for some, will have been one of the biggest challenges of the pandemic.
If you’re someone who’s perhaps struggled with the demands of looking after children while working from home, we may be able to help. In this guide, we’ve put together a handful of practical tips on how to master remote working when you have kids at home.
1. Create a schedule
Rule number one: implement a schedule. A traditional 9-5, 8-hour day may not work for you, but the key is working smarter not harder. How many hours can you realistically commit to? Will you have a set time for certain tasks? Work out when you’re most likely to be undisturbed and dedicate this time to your most important tasks.
The beauty of remote working is that you can be flexible. If you’re most likely to get work done before your child wakes up or while they’re having a nap, then be honest about that. And then, at the end of the working day/week, log off and concentrate on your free time just as you would if you were taking time away from a traditional office environment.
2. Design a dedicated workspace
If you haven’t already, make yourself a dedicated workspace. A home office would be ideal but if this isn’t possible, create a workspace that doesn’t also double up as a laundry station or dining table. If you don’t have your own room to work in, a desk would be a great investment.
Set aside a corner of the kitchen/bedroom/dining room that is purely dedicated to you and your work. Don’t use it at evenings and weekends and let the little ones know that once you’re there, you’re off-limits.
3. Keep the kids entertained
Whatever the age of your children, expecting to get a full, uninterrupted eight-hour shift is unlikely. But, if you give them your undivided attention for set periods of time before offering activities to keep them entertained, they’re far more likely to happily content themselves.
Set aside special toys or activities that they only get to interact with on your workdays, so this feels like a treat for them. Give younger children a designated space close to your workspace so you can keep an eye on them while they busy themselves.
4. Plan for interruptions
It would be wonderful to wave a magic wand and have dedicated work time for catch up calls, but with children around you need to be realistic. Plan ahead by muting yourself during conference calls and perhaps teaching your little ones a non-verbal cue to get your attention while you’re speaking to the boss.
Put a sign on the door when you’re on calls if you have older children and, in the event of a toddler tantrum mid-call, your best bet is probably to ask your colleagues to reschedule.
5. Make use of technology
If your child is currently off school, then make use of the wealth of greats apps and educational resources to ensure they’re learning while you’re working. Check out BBC Bitesize, Ted-Ed, the British Science Museum and online learning sessions being held by their school.
6. Ask for help
Parental guilt is never too far away, and many teleworking parents have expressed feelings of remorse at struggling to juggle both their career and their family. If things get tough, then don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Yes, you’re at home but you may well be attempting to fulfil a full-time job, too. If you have a partner and don’t feel the workload is equally split, then discuss how you can improve this.
7. Be honest with your employer
If you’ve been told to work from home, then your employer may already have an understanding of the additional challenges you face. If you’re finding this difficult, then be honest.
Ask if your hours can be more flexible to ensure that you can complete your workload around your new work environment. If the Monday morning conference call coincides with breakfast, ask if this can be rescheduled to a more convenient time – chances are, your fellow parents will be glad you asked.
8. Be kind to yourself
No one ever said being a full-time employee and a full-time parent is easy. Your workload has essentially doubled overnight. Go easy on yourself, accept that you might not nail it right away but rest assured, you’re doing a great job and someday soon everything will fall into place.
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