Guide for Working From Home Parents 2020
Author: Nikki Barnett Date Posted:29 April 2020
The Best Tips for Working From Home with Kids
If you’re struggling with making the adjustment to working from home, you’re not alone! Social distancing is something we all need to be prepared to live with for some time. But armed with some expert knowledge, and a wealth of homeschooling and working from home advice from parents, we have your essential guide to getting you through the COVID-19 isolation with the family. Who knows, you might even find you like it!
The first step in any guide to working from home for parents is setting a routine. Maintaining a familiar routine for the kids wherever possible will help the family to make the transition to working and schooling at home. Sit together and look at your family’s old daily routine and decide what’s practical to stick with, what needs a little shuffling, and what you can do away with entirely.
Kids and adults will each find different things challenging about the move to working from home. Young children may not understand why their favourite activities have been cancelled or why they have to stay home instead of going to the park. Teenagers will have a better understanding of the drastic changes happening around them, but may either not grasp the seriousness of the situation or may become overly worried. Either way, being socially isolated from friends and stuck in the house with their parents is probably not their idea of a fun time.
As their parent, you’ll need to juggle their emotional needs alongside their educational needs as you fumble through figuring out how to homeschool your kids and keep your job. If you’re lucky, your workplace will have had a smooth transition to home-based work. For many people, the sudden need to move from traditional face to face work to spending most of their time working in isolation from home meant their families were not prepared. Working remotely unexpectedly has left a lot of employees scrambling to find their own work routine while balancing their family life.
For parents of young children who are not accustomed to working from home, finding a balance between parenting and working can be a real challenge. If you need help with finding new ways to work together productively, we have helpful advice on working from home for parents.
Guide for Working From Home for Parents with Young Children
Working parents with small children will find they struggle the most with the sudden change and will need to find a way to be productive at home while caring for their kids. Designating a set work hour around the kids will be tricky.
Setting your kids up with child-led activities that they will enjoy completing on their own will be your saviour. There are plenty of educational activities that don’t need adult assistance or constant supervision. While screen time can be a lifesaver to get you through that all-important client conference call, it’s something you might want to restrict until you really need it. Finding fun activities for kids that aren’t screen time isn’t hard, you just need to get creative!
Need more help? Follow our top ten tips in our working from home guide for parents. If you need a good routine for working from home with young children, here are some specific strategies that will help the family adjust:
1. Start the day the right way
Give your kids your undivided attention at breakfast time. Or, if you’re already up and working before the kids get out of bed, take a break when you hear them up and about. If your kids are accustomed to seeing you at breakfast time as you make their lunches, the familiar routine will help. Once breakfast is over, get the kids dressed, and let them know your work day is starting.
2. A workspace for everyone
Even if your kids are too young for school, they will enjoy having their own school desk or work space. Just like you! If you have created a work area or set up a desk in a corner of the house for you to use for your work, do the same for your kids. Create a little table or a space where they can work independently. Fill it with colourful crayons, drawing books, story books, lego, or anything else to capture their attention.
Bonus tip – if you have the space, put a bean-bag or a comfy chair alongside your home office workspace with some books and puzzles. Let your kids know that if they really need you during work hours, they can sneak in and sit quietly with the big proviso that there’s not a sound! If you’re trying to work from home with two or more kids, this will be a lifesaver! If there’s disagreements or fights, one child can retreat to the bean-bag and the safety of a parent without interrupting your work. Make sure you model the expected behaviour and make it a game of tip-toeing in and sitting extra quietly so it doesn’t bring World War III to your desk.
3. Work in short bursts
If your kids are primary aged or younger, you can’t expect them to work independently for very long. You will need a strategy to schedule your work hours and complete your work at home that is different to the way you work at the office. It’s a great idea to use a time management system, like the Pomodoro Technique, where you and the kids all work in short bursts followed by a break. Set synchronised timers so everyone knows when it’s work time and when it’s a safe time to interrupt. If your child knows you are busy working, they are more likely to be content to wait if they can watch the clock tick down and know that soon you will take a break together.
4. Be flexible
It might take a little trial and error to find out the best way to work from home for your family. Don’t be afraid to try a new idea to boost your productivity or entertain the kids. If your job doesn’t require you to be available at specific times, it might be a good idea to fit your schedule around the kids. On the other hand, if you need to make calls or deal with clients at certain times of the day, that’s when you need a solid plan to make sure you’re not disturbed. Set the kids up first so you can step away for an hour of uninterrupted work. Plan ahead so you know when your high-value work hour will be so you can work the most efficiently.
5. Adjust your expectations
Remember that everyone else is in the same situation. A few short months ago it may have been a little embarrassing to have your 2-year-old video-bomb your important work e-meeting. But since March 2020 it’s now the new normal. It’s totally fine to be there for your kids if they need you. If that means you now conduct your conference calls with your kids sprawled on the floor doing their finger-painting, embrace it!
6. Get creative with your working and parenting ideas
If other team members also have children that are a similar age, why not hold simultaneous video calls? There’s a whole range of safe technology for working from home that the kids can also use for some face-to-face time. Kids love to copy their parents. They will be super excited to have their own ‘work meeting’. It will keep all the kids occupied and minimise distractions so you and your colleagues can focus on getting your work done. This is also a good way for your kids to maintain contact with their own school friends. Reach out to other parents and create an online community to help each other work at home with the kids.
7. Make lunchtime something to look forward to
We all need to eat, and everyone works better if you keep up with the physical activity. Schedule a regular lunch break where everyone who’s working at home can catch up. Go for a walk. Throw a ball outside. Or even just take some snacks out to sit in the backyard. If possible, play together! A 10 minute game of tips or one-on-one basketball will make the kids feel like they’ve done something special with you before you have to get back to your desk. You’ll find that you also work more productively after a break and some exercise.
8. Prevent boredom for kids at home
We’re all in this together for at least a few months. Giving yourself and the kids something to look forward to is essential. Keep a list of activities for when the kids say, 'I’m bored!' Whether you plan a nice family treat as a reward for hard work, or just mix things up with new surprises, you need ideas to prevent boredom setting in when everyone is stuck at home. Rotate the kids’ toys, order some new activities online, or treat them to something different to capture their interest.
The concept of ‘strewing’ is recommended by experienced homeschooling parents working from home. This is where you leave a new toy or activity out for the child to find on their own throughout the day. It should be something to spark their imagination and encourage them to play independently. A magnifying glass and picture book of insects is a great idea for curious kids who love animals and can safely explore the backyard. A half-completed jigsaw with the sign 'finish me!' is a nice surprise. But a box of paints they need your help to open and set up is not a good idea!
9. Embrace healthy screen time
There’s nothing wrong with giving your kids some chill-out time on their tablet or devices. Schedule screen-time for your most productive work hours. There’s a whole range of great educational programs and online lessons if you want your child to focus on learning activities. You could try bookmarking some cool sites or downloading a new app to keep them entertained if you really need a break from the kids for a few hours to get your work done.
Some of the best free online activities for kids in Australia include Reading Eggs, Mathletics, and BrainPop. ABC Australia also has free curriculum linked resources for kids in primary and secondary school.
P.E With Joe is every parents' physical education lifesaver. Every Monday to Friday, Joe the Body Coach does a live kids workout to do at home via YouTube. If you like to start your day with some exercise, this is the best online fitness class for kids and adults to do together.
If your kids would enjoy an interactive virtual self-guided tour of a museum, art gallery, or animal zoo, you can explore the National Gallery of Victoria, or travel online to the Smithsonian in Washington DC, see what the animals are doing at one of the wildlife parks in Melbourne or Victoria or get the best aquarium live-cam experience at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. Taronga Zoo has a whole range of online education activities for kids to go along with their live animal cams.
10. Look after yourself and your mental health
You don’t need to be a super-mum or a super-dad. Just do your best. This might mean treating yourself to a reward for getting through the week! Or just accepting that things won’t always go according to plan and it’s not the end of the world. Make some time for your relationships. Do something special with your partner. Schedule a date-night where you can cook a special meal together (or order take-out!) and then relax afterwards with a bottle of wine. Check in with each other. Surprise your partner with a gift basket or choose a mutual gift together that you can look forward to at the end of the work week. Ordering a fun gift hamper online that can be delivered to your house is a treat that you might not usually indulge in. But it’s a great idea if you both need a little pick-me-up.
The perfect way to unwind.
The Hamper Emporium has a great range of sweet treats, chocolates, and gift hampers the whole family will enjoy. With free delivery Australia wide, you can get a gift online to treat the family as a special way to say thank you and reward everyone for their hard work as you all adjust to working from home together.