As we enter over 100 days in lockdown, you might be desperate for some time to yourself! Yet, when working remotely, balancing your work and home life is a challenge. How do we balance working remotely with kids you might ask?
Even as some schools reopen, many remain closed for the foreseeable future. Those with younger children may be used to their child being around once in a while when sick or if babysitting options aren’t available.
However, the reality of working remotely with kids has been a shock to the system for many. If you are one of those remote workers with your kids at home, we understand it’s been tough. But there are some steps you can take to find a balance and make your home situation work.
Here are our top tips for balancing remote working with kids, whether in a global pandemic or not!
Remote working tip 1: to balance working remotely with kids routine is key
You have heard it all before – the importance of having a routine whilst remote working. When you don’t have time dedicated to commuting or set office hours, it can be easy to waste it being unproductive. Yet, having a family to consider adds an extra layer to how you spend your time. Which makes a routine even more essential.
You may be tempted to take one day at a time depending on your workload (or your children’s moods!) But it’s best to plan ahead. This is especially true if you have children of different ages. Create a ‘school-like’ schedule that makes allowances for how much attention and supports your child needs.
Older children will likely be able to complete virtual assignments with little supervision. Younger children may require more of your time. Try being more organised. Get younger children up at a similar time to when they would usually go to daycare can help.
Likewise, older children may need time dedicated to entertaining themselves. It is also worth alternating childcare duties if you have a spouse working from home, as this will enable you to both have ‘productive’ work periods.
The key with schedules and routine is to draft a rough plan of attack. Situations will crop up, whether work or family-related which will make every day different. But having a schedule will help you all have something to work towards and set boundaries around what can and can’t be achieved within the time you have available.
Remote working tip 2: Be sure to communicate
Communication is an essential skill needed for any remote worker, but even more essential when you’re working remotely with kids.
First, it’s important to be transparent with your remote team. Keeping them informed about juggling your work and family life will benefit both parties. Not only will they be more aware of your situation (and understanding if your video call gets gatecrashed by a hungry child!) but it will also help ease any anxiety on your part if deadlines aren’t attainable or plans shift last minute.
You may also find it useful to use a project management system such as Trello to outline your availability calendar and times you can take team calls. Being open and honest with your team will ensure they are in a better position to adapt to different scenarios.
Secondly – communicate with your partner. You might need additional support as the child care has been left to you, or you need quiet time to work on an important project. Whatever the case, opening up and discussing this can result in an arrangement that works for both parties. Perhaps you can create a shared child care schedule, or agree time periods which work for you both?
If possible sharing the load is always better and will allow you both to adapt to the changing work situation.
Thirdly – communicate with your children. How you do this will vary depending on their ages, but establishing boundaries will help them know where they stand in this changing work situation. This ‘boundary’ can be a workspace- i.e this is your dedicated space to work which is separate from where the children work/play.
Or it could be ‘a do not disturb’ time where children are kept occupied and know they mustn’t interrupt. For children of school age, you can get them involved by creating ‘stop do not enter’ signs for office doors and reinforcing what this means. You could also try talking to your children about the current ‘at home’ situation, explaining that this isn’t a forever thing and providing reassurance that life will return to normal.
Bonus tip: If you don’t have access to your own office space, how about building your own cubicle? Search YouTube for inspiration!
Remote working tip 3: Be a master planner
We all know it’s impossible to plan everything in advance, but having plans in place specifically related to your children can really help. This could be anything from activities to keep them entertained, to spending time at the weekend meal prepping for the week. Smaller children will respond well to playful, DIY activities and tasks like drawing.
Be sure to mix it up throughout the week so they don’t get bored. Older kids will most likely be able to entertain themselves, although it’s important not to overdo screen time- which is where planning will help.
Likewise, having easy to prepare lunches on hand throughout the day will keep hungry children at bay and ensure you maximise your lunch break in the most productive way. Why not sit down on a Sunday evening, look at your schedule and see what situations you can plan ahead?
It might just give you that head start when juggling family life with remote work.
Bonus tip: Planning and scheduling will also help your productivity/ bounce back from any distractions that may occur.
Remote working tip 4: Utilise technology- Web & Apps
Ahh, technology. Just as it helps us work remotely, it also helps us balance family life! There are tons of apps and websites out there that parents have credited with helping them master the balance. It’s a good idea to do some research and see what works best for your family, but here are a few suggestions:
- For babies, Relax Melodies app uses white noise to help them sleep better and longer
- ABC Mouse is a great learning tool. It helps kids with everything from English and maths, to art and music
- K12MovieGuides– Turns watching movies into learning opportunities
- Coloring Nature– Free printable coloring pages for both kids and adults
- TinyCam Monitor Pro (use with Android watch and IP Cam) This allows remote workers to check on kids via their smartwatch. Useful for smaller children who may be on nap time, or for checking kids are actually doing their school work! All without having to disturb either space.
Bonus tip: Headphones! If all else fails… invest in a decent pair of headphones. Useful for drowning out background noise during a team meeting/ important project. Especially if your kids have created a ‘Lockdown’ band! Video can also be a great temporary distraction if you need to focus on a call for an hour or so.
Are you remote working with kids? How do you make it work? We would love to hear your tips below.