As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, a huge number of workplaces and schools won’t be reopening as normal anytime soon. Many parents are finding themselves responsible for educating and entertaining their children at home, while also trying to fit in a full day of remote working. These are some simple tips for balancing childcare and working from home:
Adjust your schedule
Working from home while also looking after your kids is going to be a lot easier to navigate if you can adjust your schedule. Talk to your manager or your HR department and discuss how flexible your working hours can be.
Make them aware of your situation (you’re not going to be the only one), outline the working hours or flexibility that you need, and emphasize that this will ensure you’re able to maintain the same standards, attend meetings when necessary, and meet all of your deadlines.
You might find you can fit in two or three hours before the children are awake, then you need an hour or two to get them up and entertained for the morning. You can fit in a few more hours during the day while the kids are occupied and then a couple more hours in the evening after they’re in bed. If there’s another adult in the house then you could alternate days or weeks where one person works regular 9-5 while the other fits in shifts of work when possible, and then swap over.
Stick to the new routine
Once you’ve found a working pattern that suits you try to stick to it as much as possible. It’ll help your kids to adjust to the situation and maximize the amount of time you can be focused on work. Write up a schedule that your kids can see, and outline what they’re supposed to be doing at different times in the day.
If your kids are old enough to be left alone in another room, then make it clear on your schedule when they can and can’t come and speak to you. Try to stick to one or two hours at the same time each day where you need to be completely focused on work. And put a sign on the door or on the desk when you can’t be disturbed.
Set your kids up for the day
As part of your morning routine, set your kids up with activities, school work, and food for the day. Create lunch and snack packages at the beginning of the week so you have to spend less time during the day preparing food.
If your children’s school has set up a plan for remote learning then you can base their daily activities around that. To ensure they’re not spending too much time at a computer incorporate breaks, playtime, and outdoor activities necessary to give them a balanced day.
If they haven’t got a remote learning plan then there are free teaching education resources such as Khan Academy that provide lessons and tools to help your kids learn. It’s also important to ensure they’re safe online by setting up parental controls and checking up on what they’re doing.
Give your kids some choice of different activities to do — create a list that they can pick off one or two fun things to do each day. And then set up activities for them at the beginning of the day in a dedicated area that gives them space to play and make some noise.
And don’t forget, play isn’t just downtime, it’s an important part of kids’ development, so your kids don’t need to be doing formal lessons all day every day. You can provide them with educational toys and activities that keep them entertained and learning.
For example, subscription boxes for kids like Sago Mini Box are specifically designed to help children learn through play. Each box contains everything they need for a make-and-play activity that educates them on a different topic and will keep them entertained for hours. They’re ideal for child-led play, and receiving a new box each month keeps kids interested and engaged.
Prepare for interruptions
Despite all your best intentions interruptions are going to happen at some point. When you have a phone or video call, be upfront and explain that your kids are home, and there’s a chance that they might interrupt or you might have to disappear for a moment. Try to schedule any important client meetings when your kids are asleep and explain that you need to keep it to the agreed time frame if possible.
Most importantly, remember that it’s a difficult situation that you’ve been forced into. Everyone is having to find ways to adapt or make compromises to their working habits, so when your kids do interrupt it’s not the end of the world. With a bit of warning, colleagues and clients will understand.
These are some basic tips for navigating working from home while also looking after your children. The most important thing is finding a routine that works for you and your kids, and trying to stick to it as much as possible — but accepting that it’s not a perfect situation, and there’ll be good days and bad days.