How to survive the home office with kids?
A home office presents different challenges than the traditional office, but if you add kids into the mix, the difficulties just add up. Surviving the home office with kids is a feat in itself, and hopefully, the tips for working from home with a baby we present can help you conquer and succeed in your Home office.
Here are 7 steps that can help you to not only survive home office with kids but also to succeed:
- Talk honestly and clearly to your kids
- Lay out specific home office rules, and be persistent
- Accept help from family and friends
- Be flexible with your working time
- Take breaks for your kids - and for yourself
- Keep your kids busy
- Accept that not everything will work out as planned
In this article, we will discuss each point in detail.
One of the most difficult aspects of working from home with toddlers is the self-discipline required in the process. You need to be able to work in the designated hours, mentally disassociate your Home office from your home, and find strategies to relax and unwind after a day of work, without feeling like you never left the office. Managing a home office with kids is another matter altogether. It can be very challenging to schedule your kids’ routines to your work hours, not to mention the constant unwavering interruptions you can surely expect.
Then, it also depends on your kids’ ages and personalities. Especially with increasing number of parents working from home and kids not going to school due the COVID-19 pandemic, working parents have double the work: managing the kids, and working efficiently from home. While all parents employ different strategies for surviving the home office with kids, here we have compiled the most effective ones, brought to you by parents who know the struggles, for your home office success
Talk honestly and clearly to your kids
Kids are just tiny adults that wish to be treated as such, except when they want your cuddles and have tantrums, and so your first and the most sensible approach should be talking to your kids about the way things need to happen. Speaking honestly and clearly to your kids about your requirements, and asking for their cooperation, will make them feel like respected and appreciated members of the family. Simple the act of asking for their help adds a responsibility that your kids love and it will drive them to accommodate you. Of course, this strategy might not work with smaller kids, but it gets the job done when you have bigger kids that you can reason with.
“As an accountant, all I needed was to focus my head on the numbers, and with kids around the house, I didn’t think that’d be possible. My wife and I sat the kids down and talked, mostly her, about both of us needing their help for a while when we had to work from home. It worked! I’ve never seen my kids as silent as during those couple of hours that I have to work in the study.” -Kai Martin, Accountant, father of 4
Lay out specific home office rules, and be persistent
While the most common saying about rules is that they are meant to be broken, a few well-established ground rules can make surviving home office with kids easier for you. Let your kids know the rules when you set up your home office and make sure that they are followed. Rules only work when they are emphasized and reinforced continuously, so, time and effort are required to get your kids to understand.
Make sure that the house rules you set are relatively easy for your kids to follow, like not entering your home office while playing, or always reducing their volume if they want to be heard, especially when you are working. The rules should not be so many that they become hard to understand and spark rebellion instead of compliance. A good example would be to let your kids know in what situations you can be approached during work, and what they can do in situations that do not necessitate interruption, like getting snacks.
Accept help from family and friends
Managing your home office with kids is especially tough when you are doing it alone. Enlist the help of a partner, a friend, or a helper to get you sorted when you need it. They can help with the kids by taking care of them while you work, taking over other chores so you do not have the added strain, or just arranging shifts with you for some quiet time.
Although hiring help is not feasible to many working parents, they can still manage by helping each other, and even enlisting the help of neighbors and their older kids. Asking for help does not mean that you cannot manage on your own, it just lessens your burden and opens connections with people who would love to help you.
“We have a shifting schedule in place: I need to work at least 4 hours in the morning while his [husband’s] work does not have a fixed time. So, he watches the kids in the morning, I take the evening shift, and later we all have dinner together. The kids even call it ‘mom time’ and ‘dad time’, which is a fun lingo to use around the house!” -Kristen Grande, manager, mother of 3
Be flexible with your working time
Working from your home office with kids to look after does not have to be as rigid as you think. You can try to compromise and cater to your work around the schedule of your kids instead of the other way around. This might require some lost sleep on your part, but it will be worth it to get your work done without interruptions from your kids. This is very important with younger kids, especially babies and toddlers, with whom you cannot reason.
Try to work while the kids are sleeping, especially in the morning before the wake-up, or during naptime. This will leave you more relaxed and focused. If your kids require your attention, try taking a break from work to listen to them to avoid bigger and longer distractions. If your work requires online meetings or calls, schedule time with your kids by promising them some quality time later (small treats work too!). Also, letting your coworkers know the situation can help; they will understand and cut you some much-deserved slack when needed.
Take breaks for your kids - and for yourself
Scheduling breaks can save minds. When you are working from your home office, especially if your kids are also stuck at home, tempers can run a bit high, and patience very low. Your focus, mental and emotional health, and your kids' temperaments need to take breaks now and then for refreshment.
Just as you would during lunchtime, take your mind off work and go for a walk. You and your children can spend time in the playground with to-go lunches, or enjoy the air in your garden. You can even schedule a lunch-making hour and have your kids help around with the kitchen. Another idea is to break your work hours into smaller sections to accomplish two goals in one: your work and your kids.
Keep your kids busy
If you are busy when your kids are not, that is a recipe for disaster (for you). If they are not sleeping when you are working, involve them in other activities that they can indulge in for a while as you finish up in your home office. Small and big kids alike need activities that can keep their young minds engaged.
Get your kids to do their schoolwork while you are working, so that they can work beside you. You can allow for their screen time to be scheduled when you are busy, and let them spend the allotted time watching cartoons or playing games. screen time, in moderation, of course, is your friend here. You can create educational and fun activities for them to do, ahead of time, to keep them busy.
“I use a wooden box filled with many games, puzzles, and books that they can just open up when it is time for me to work. We call the 'workbox', so when I work, they open the workbox and do whatever 'work' they need to." -Gabe Levante, Author, father of 2
Accept that not everything will work out as planned
According to the University of Maryland's Professor Nicole Coomber, there is no benefit in pretending that things are normal (CNN Business). When you accept that there will be difficulties and challenges to working from your home office with kids, you will be much better equipped at dealing with those challenges. Your home office, whether temporary or permanent, will likely have more challenges than a traditional office where your kids are not present, and you need to manage your health, time, and activities accordingly.
Let your coworkers and/or managers know of your situation so you do not have to work harder by pretending that everything is normal. Build a good routine for your kids to accumulate to your home office and work hours without feeling bored or ignored. Heather Jones, a business consultant working from home, shares her experience:
“I let my clients know what to expect when they initiate audio or video meetings. So, they understand when unexpected background noises enter, or I am carrying my 9-month old baby during the video meeting. It is refreshing to not pretend that I am not a mother along with a professional consultant.” -Elisa Alvarez, mother of 2
You know your work and your kids the best, so customizing a strategy, even a blend of methods, to suit your family is the best option for your home office. Applying these strategies of parents working from home, you can survive home office with kids and learn to manage your time, effort, and stress levels effectively.