Whether you have babies, toddlers, big kids, teens, pets, or spouses vying for your attention, working from home while caring for others can be tricky.
Here are a few strategies for successfully working from home with kids:
1. Plan ahead, within reason
Planning for things that we can control is one way to minimize anxiety, but we should expect the unexpected. Set aside time each night to sit down and plan a weekly schedule. Be sure to communicate clearly with anyone else helping out with caregiving responsibilities.
2. Be flexible
While keeping normal office hours may be a priority, try to work out a somewhat flexible schedule to prepare for unexpected circumstances. Do you feel a surge of energy in the evening? Or love getting up ahead of the kids to sip coffee and check emails? Use these windows of time to make progress on your to-do list.
3. Unplug from social media
Set a block of time each day to check headlines and Twitter, then turn it off. You’ll reduce your stress and anxiety levels and be less prone to distractions.
4. Be realistic
There WILL be some hiccups along the way. Don’t expect perfection – from your schedule, your kids, or yourself, especially in the beginning. Be kind and patient with yourself and others.
5. Check-in times
Let your kids know what time they can count on you to take breaks and check in with them throughout the day. Knowing that they will have your full attention at dedicated times will reduce anxiety for everyone. Tip: at these times, take a real break and put your phone away.
6. Visual reminders
Use age-appropriate signs and barriers to protect your work time and workspace. Make a construction paper stop sign to signal “mom is working” or use a baby gate to wall off your laptop and paperwork space. An easy visual reminder? A closed door means “do not enter unless you’re having an emergency.”
7. Communicate with your colleagues
Start conference calls by saying “you may hear a toddler in the background” so the person on the other end of the phone will know who’s begging for goldfish crackers.
8. Get in a routine
Creating a visual schedule for your family to follow will reduce uncertainty, anxiety, and the chances your child will ask you “what time is lunch” every 5 minutes. Make it age-appropriate – pictures for little kids, words for older ones – and let your family have input on how the day should run.
9. Take care of yourself
Remember that parenting advice to “put on your own oxygen mask first”? It’s even more important now. Be sure you’re eating, sleeping, staying hydrated and carving out time – even if it’s only five minutes – for yourself. Go for a quick walk or set aside a few minutes to meditate (the Headspace app is a good one).
10. Get outside
Set a standard time for a family walk, take a phone call from your back porch, or go for a morning jog. The combination of fresh air and endorphins is good for the body, mind, and soul.
11. Web resources
There are so many online resources for activities to keep kids busy and learning while at home. Here are just a few of many:
- Pinterest – check out ideas for homeschooling, preschooler activities, and easy recipes
- Local library online resources – e-books, audiobooks (quiet time!), and educational games
- Online school resources like Khan Academy
- Virtual museum tours
12. Host an au pair!
Having an au pair join your family can make working from home much less stressful. Au pairs can provide child care assistance within your home and your family can benefit from the experience of cultural exchange.