I’m not going to lie, working from home with the kids around is not an easy task. Over the years I’ve had my fair share of failed attempts to be productive while the kids are at home with me, but I’ve also had some successes which I wanted to share since many schools globally are closed and parents are still having to get work done.
Get up super early!
It’s amazing how much you can achieve with an early start to your day. If you can sneak into your home office (or kitchen table in my case) as early as 5 or 6am without waking the children up then you might find you have two-three hours of uninterrupted working time - depending on the age of your kids and the thickness of their curtains! I encourage my children to play quietly in their room(s) when they wake up - for as long as possible. We trained the kids to do this at weekends from a young age so my partner and I could have a lay-in!
Make a not-at-school timetable
The children are used to adhering to daily timetables at school so why not create a timetable for while they are at home? This should include time that they need to be quiet so you can work, but also include time outside if possible or for some form of indoor exercise if you really are contained to the house. Hopefully the school will have provided the children with some activities to do, if not then prep some of your own. Not only can you find lots of free resources through sites such as BBC bitesize but many of the big EdTech companies such as Edmentum International, 2Simple, and CenturyTech are offering schools that have had to close free access or resources - make sure your school knows about this.
You might be used to seeing #MealPrep all over social media, but this isn’t just for the muscular gym goers. Preparing breakfasts, lunches and evening meals ahead of time will save you from having to spend extra time cooking during your working day. A favourite in our house is a picnic platter, this is a mix of sandwiches along with other nibbles and fruit, all of which can be put together the night before and stored in the fridge. Or if you usually make packed lunches for your children to take to school then keep doing that so they can get their own lunches with minimal support from you.
Forget the cleaning
If you’re a working parent then you’re already used to the challenge of keeping the house clean with so little spare time. Now the kids are at home full time it’s about to get a whole lot worse! If they’re old enough to do chores then you might be in for a treat, but if they’re young like mine and their attempts at cleaning are guaranteed to make the house worse then you’re just going to have to forget about the cleaning. We don’t know how long the kids are going to be stuck at home for but it’s not going to be forever. You can clean when they’re back at school (or when they’re 18+ and have moved out!).
Make work a game
If your children are young enough to love a bit of roleplay then turn your home into an office and hire the kids! Set up desks around the kitchen table and as their manager it’s up to you to delegate important tasks to your new workforce. These important jobs might include junior artist (colouring in), marketing manager (design an advert), data analyst (maths sums), content creator (write a story), or simply set them up with educational videos and apps if they have tablets and call it ‘work’.
Communicate with colleagues
If you are used to working with a team of adults and now you’re at home with just children to talk to, you might find your sanity slipping away ever so slightly. Encourage your colleagues to use platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Slack so that you can still be in the loop with important information and the office banter. It’s also handy to let colleagues know if you’re going to be away from your computer to spend a bit of time with the kids too. There’s no doubting your working hours will flex during this time but you’ll find it much less stressful if all your team and managers are in the loop as to when you are available.
Take it in turns with your partner
If the schools have closed then it’s both parent’s responsibility so try not to let this fall onto one parent. (For single parents this time will be even more challenging) Depending on your roles it may make sense for one of you to be at home more than the other but ultimately, your employer needs to enable you to care for your children. Many of the big companies are encouraging everyone to work from home if they can anyway, from Facebook to Microsoft and Apple. If both of you are now remote workers then all of the above can still come into play - but you can also take it in turns to play teacher/entertainer while the other cracks on with work.
Working play dates
Depending on the severity of COVID-19 cases in your area, and your general concern with it, play dates may or may not be ideal right now. If you have a friend in the same position also having to work around their kids then invite them round for the morning/afternoon. Children tend to play much nicer with kids that are not their siblings so there’ll be much less fighting to break up. This not only enables you and your pal the opportunity to work but also means you get to spend some time with another adult, which might be rare during this period of school and office closures.
Talk to someone
There’s no doubt this time is stressful for so many people, it’s not just the working parents having to adapt to changes. Many businesses are going to suffer during this time and of course some of us may well fall ill. It’s in my nature to make light of such a serious situation but ultimately if you are stressed and/or worried then talk to someone. Whether it be friends, family, or professionals - it’s ok to ask for help.