Working from home with kids brings in a whole new set of challenges to working at home. The key to success is creating rules everyone can live with and being consistent about enforcing them. Here are five tips for working at home with kids.
Working from home can be tough. But for many people, being tasked to work from home isn’t the issue — it’s the prospect of doing it with kids in the vicinity.
Work and family don’t mix, but when the kids are out of school (or going to school from home) and demanding your attention, you’ll need to quickly adjust to this new challenge. Working from home with kids isn’t unachievable — you can still get your job done if you establish rules and get your children and yourself organized.
Here are the top five tips for working with kids at home:
1. Establish some ground rules
Every parent knows that the only way to prevent madness in the household is to establish rules. And while you’re working from home, you’ll need to create a special set of rules specifically for what can and can’t be done during the day.
For example, prohibiting your children from entering your home office area during set hours may help you to stay on task without distraction. This may especially be of value if you need to take an important conference call. We’ve all seen thethat was beautifully interrupted by the interviewee’s children.
If the area you’re working in has a door, closing it completely or part-way will help remind older children not to interrupt you.
2. Create a schedule that everyone understands
Most children are happy to take time off from school for at least a few days. (Then, boredom can set in.) If you’re working from home, you may not share the same level of enthusiasm.
To help maintain relative normalcy while you’re working, create a schedule that everyone can follow. Set aside time to spend with the children and time to work. If you have very young children, you may have to work while they sleep. If there’s another adult who’s also working at home, work out a plan where you take turns watching children who need a lot of supervision.
If you have a teenager or mature preteen at home who could supervise younger siblings, put them in charge. Offering to pay them to babysit and do chores can help avoid the “Why do I have to do everything?” complaints.
3. Keep the kids busy
The busier your kids are, the happier they’ll be, and, of course, that makes for a happier household. Leaving them to their imaginations alone probably isn’t the best idea, as you’re probably aware.
First, if the kids are out of school during the normal school year, check with the school and their teachers to see if they have required work to do either online or on their own.
Next, dig through closets or your basement for the craft projects, toys, and puzzles the kids have gotten as gifts and never used. Doing a 500-piece puzzle, building a Lego toy, or completing a craft item may keep their attention while you’re on that conference call.
Encourage them to be creative and make up their own games or stories. If the children are old enough, have them plan meals, create a shopping list, and even cook meals.
4. Get outside
Children (and adults!) get a little stir crazy when they’re cooped up inside for too long. To help them work out some of their excess energy, go for a walk with them around your neighborhood, or in a nearby park. If you have bikes, go for a bike ride. The exercise and fresh air are good for you as well as the kids.
Another option: if you have a fenced-in backyard or another safe area for the children to play, take your phone with you and take care of some of your email while you watch the kids.
5. Create a hobby box
Sometimes, children need to be pointed in the right direction when it comes to entertainment. If you don’t want to resort to letting them sit in front of the TV all day,and stuff it with all the things kids find most exciting — glittery pens, pipe cleaners, felt, googly eyes, beads, tissue paper, paper plates, etc.
If you don’t have a box to put these goodies in, an old shoebox will do the trick. Challenge your kids to create different designs out of the materials they have available, and you won’t hear from them for a good hour or two while they get to work.
6. Let the kids have more screen time
Most parents don’t want their children glued to the TV or a computer all day. But when everyone is stuck in the house and you have to get work done, letting the children spend longer than normal watching TV, playing electronic games, or using their devices may be something to consider.