A How-To Guide on Working from Home with Kids
March 23, 2020
What used to be the morning hustle of packing lunches, getting the kids out the door to school, commuting to work, and swinging through the Timmie’s drive-thru is looking different right now. Canadians are practicing “social distancing” as a prevention measure to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. This major change has caused many people to work from home – and often with kids in tow.
This is an unprecedented time in our history and navigating how to handle work, family time, and fun is a challenge. Creating a new normal for your family will help provide stability in your home, even if the outside world is shaky.
Create a Schedule
Creating a schedule for the household will help you manage the day-to-day shuffle of everyone being under one roof. Maintaining usual rising times and bedtimes is important, as is getting dressed in the morning (no one should be in pajamas past 9 am!).
For you, prioritizing important work projects during times when you know the kids will be occupied, like during naps for younger children and screen time for older children, is a solid strategy. You can keep your more menial tasks for times when the kids may be bugging you. Furthermore, maintain your regular meetings, but virtually! It can be isolating working from home when you are used to being surrounded by many people 40+ hours a week. Connecting virtually will help your work, and your mental health.
As for the little rugrats, they thrive on routine and they will look to you to create it for them! Mimicking their existing school or daycare schedule will be comfortably familiar and will keep them on routine for when schools and daycares reopen. Consider scheduling reading, arts and crafts, outdoor time, lunch and snacks, and free play. Also, this is a great time for them to explore topics they are interested in. Ask them how they want to spend this extra time at home and try to accommodate the requests with online tools and ordering supplies online. The last thing you want is for your kids to be playing video games all day or making TikTok videos on end.
“Social distancing” for several weeks is out of the norm, so you may need to be creative with at-home activities everyone can enjoy on the weekends. You still need to unwind after the work week, even if you are working from home. Perhaps your family would enjoy a movie night where you watch some classics (and use a grocery delivery app to bring the snacks!). Or a board game night where everyone takes a turn choosing the game. And who doesn’t love pizza? Making homemade personal pizzas is fun for the whole family.
Talk to Your Kids About Work
As a kid there’s a certain mystery around what your parents actually do at work – now is a great time to show them! Loop them in on what you’re working on and why. And more importantly, explain to them the values of working, like economic stability and mental stimulation. By explaining to them the importance of working and showing them what you do, they may be more understanding when you tell them you need some quiet time to get work done.
If you have young children, you will be talking to deaf, albeit cute, ears when it comes to your work demands. This is one of the toughest age groups to have at home, and unfortunately you will probably need to work outside of the typical 9-to-5 work hours to keep up with your workload. Take advantage of naps and early bedtimes to get extra work done. And although this may be a stressful time, especially compared to your childfree friends who are “Netflix and chillin” in their off hours, know this work from home routine won’t last forever and try to feel lucky to have this extra time with the kids.
Create a Workspace
We don’t appreciate our workspaces or offices until they are gone. The trappings of a modern office are hard to beat at home – free coffee, vending machines, socializing with co-workers, and frankly, some time away from being a parent.
Now that COVID-19 is forcing thousands to work from home, crafting a temporary workspace can bring some sanity and consistency to your new routine. If you’re fortunate to have a spare bedroom or an existing office, consider setting up a workstation. You’ll be thankful to have a door that you can close for some peace (assuming your kids are self-sufficient or with another caregiver). If you’re tight on space, utilizing your dining table is probably your next best bet. After dinner each night, clear the table and set up your work items so you are ready to start fresh in the morning.
To make the space more enjoyable, consider working near natural light for an added mood boost; there are lots of health benefits1! And of course, order more coffee online – you’re going to need it!
You aren’t expected to carry the weight of the world (or the household) all on your shoulders! It’s hard working from home with kids, but hopefully you have a partner who is also working from home or a stay-at-home parent who can help. Tag-teaming childminding duties and work obligations will help keep everyone, including employers, happy. And a word on employers, feel free to talk to your manager about your concerns; they know this is a difficult time, and they may even be struggling themselves. Keep the lines of communication open so you feel supported during this unusual time.
In Canada we went from living normally – kids in school, adults working as usual, everyone having a normal amount of toilet paper – to a dramatic change in our everyday lives. The biggest change for many parents is navigating how to work from home while giving the attention and support kids need. It’s a balancing act. Try and give yourself some grace and a pat on the back – you’re doing awesome!
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