How to work from home with kids

From day care to high school, families suddenly have a full house as social distancing measures mean we’re all staying in for the long haul. Particularly if you have young children, your head might be spinning at the thought of entertaining and home schooling your kids while also trying to meet deadlines for work. We’d like to share Job Pair’s advice to keep in mind when working from home with children.

1. Schedule your time and refuse to feel guilty

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


Make a daily schedule that works for you and your family. Think about how you flex your day to suit your needs, your family’s needs and workplace’s needs. If you have young children, one way to work productively from home is sharing childcaring duties so, for example, one partner works earlier in the day (i.e. 7 am – 2 pm) and the other works a later day (i.e. 12 pm- 7 pm). If you’re single caring, you can try to allocate clear hours of the day when you’re available for calls or virtual meetings. It also might suit your schedule to flex your hours of work (i.e. wake up earlier each morning and finish earlier), rather than the usual 9 to 5. Like any new routine, it might take some tweaking. Try a week trial period and check in again with your family and workplace to see if it is working for everyone.

2. Communicate with your colleagues

It might not seem like a convenient time but now, more than ever, is an excellent opportunity to experiment with a flexible work arrangement—you’re already working from home, so why not take it one step further to rearrange or reduce your hours? Explain your circumstance to your boss and your proposed solution (make it a win for everyone). Don’t forget to communicate with your colleagues as well that your hours have changed to care for your children. They will appreciate your honesty and be able to better understand where you are coming from. If you need more guidance, help is here! Read more about working from home or get in contact with a Job Pair flex coach.

3. Prioritise sleep

With regular schedules seemingly thrown out the window, finding enough hours in the day to complete your work hours, care for kids and still complete all the usual jobs around the house can leave us feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day. But cutting into your valuable sleep time to catch up on work that hasn’t been finished for the day can have serious consequences. Recent research from the University of California found that while a full night’s sleep stabilises emotions, a sleepless night can trigger up to a 30 per cent rise in anxiety levels.

The Australian Sleep Health Foundation recommends that most adults need between 7 and 9 hours a night to feel properly refreshed and function at their best the next day. Keep yourself healthy and get enough sleep – prioritise it first in your daily schedule, like you put your mortgage first in your household budget. Then work everything back from that. Be realistic about how much you can achieve in one day and if some tasks need to fall off the to-do list for now, or be delayed.

4. Turn off the news

Keeping informed during the coronavirus crisis is important and can help you feel more prepared. But set limits to the time you spend consuming news. It can lead to needless anxiety and eats into the valuable time and energy you could be working through your to-do list or being fully present with your children.

5. Accept interruptions

Often, despite our carefully laid plans, things pop up or change. Some days you might only get a few short, productive bursts of work in between everything else. Our work environment has changed (and continues to change) rapidly and without precedent. On and off the clock, you’ll need to think up ways to entertain and keep your children occupied. It’s important to acknowledge that these are unprecedented times, and there may be instances where you will feel unproductive. Consider the value of the moment from a different angle and relish the extra time you spend with your children.

Ness’ top activities for entertaining her 17-month old whilst working from home and/or on a video conference are:

  1. Stick A4 print paper to the high-chair top. Give a crayon for your toddler to draw whilst sitting in their high chair. Post-it notes, sticky tape and other stationery items are great entertainment - keeps him occupied for a whole video conference.

  2. Arrange calls or video conferences around your child/ren's meal and sleep times. Gives you some quiet time (eating keeps them entertained and quiet).

  3. Set up a table or high chair for playing with clay or play dough. I've found Crayola’s white air dry clay to be good fun and it keeps mess to a minimum.

  4. Put things in Tupperware containers or boxes for your child to find & play with. It’s funny how a box can make an old toy seem like new.

  5. Pretend play toys are great for longer play times. My son really loves LeapFrog’s Shapes & Sharing Basket.