Parents Working From Home: A Survival Guide

One of the most challenging things to do in modern life is to work from home when your kids are at home too. 

There are millions of Americans in this position but we’ve learned how to make the best of this situation, not just for our careers but for our children, and you can too.

This is our survival guide for parents working from home and you’ll pleased to know that it’s easy to follow and to carry out the action points.

How To Survive Working At Home With Your Kids

One thing we want to acknowledge upfront is that your kids shouldn’t be viewed as a nuisance or scolded for the occasional interruption, we think working at home with your kids is a blessing – it just needs a little work to get it right for all of you.

Start With A Schedule

Start With A Schedule

This is one of the most important things for anyone, learning to adapt to virtual working, to do. 

Setting a schedule of when you’ll work and when you’ll be “living” is vital. 

Firstly, it helps to confirm in your own mind that there is a work-life balance and that it’s achievable and it prevents you from blurring the boundaries between work and life.

Secondly, you can communicate a schedule to others. You can let your boss and colleagues know when you will be available and when you won’t.

You can also pin a copy to the fridge or a cabinet for your little ones to read, if they’re old enough. 

Your schedule should also include any tasks that involve your kids during the day. If you have to feed them or take them to the dentist or whatever, make sure it goes in your schedule. 

You can use apps like Calendly to communicate your schedule if your company doesn’t already have an app in place. 

Digital Babysitters Are A Last Resort

We know, it’s super tempting to turn the TV on and park your kids in front of it, the more they watch Star Wars or Sesame Street, the less they can interrupt you, right?

Well, while this may be true, the reality is – digital babysitters become less and less effective the more they are used, kids get bored pretty easily.

And digital babysitting is not good for your children’s development. 

We use fewer calories when watching TV than we do when sleeping and plenty of research shows that too much TV can damage a child’s IQ.

Instead, encourage your kids to do anything but screen time 99% of the time (we’ve put a ban on screens except at certain times of day) and then use the time they are in front of a screen for conference calls and meetings. 

We wouldn’t allow much more than 1-2 hours in a day except under very special circumstances.

This also helps your kids know that TV time is the time when they don’t interrupt you, whereas if the TV is on all day? It’s much harder for them to tell. 

Do Your “Immersive Work” When They’re Asleep

Do Your “Immersive Work” When They’re Asleep

Rather than treating your kids as though they’re always intruding on your concentration, set aside an hour or two before they get up or after they go down for the night to do “immersive work”.

When we say, “immersive work”, we mean the stuff that needs real concentration that you can’t handle interruptions for. 

It’s not a time to work on a to-do list or filing unless you’ve got nothing else to do. 

Can You Share The Kids?

Look, we don’t mean go out on a street corner and offer to loan people your children.

But if you can split a day up so that you work for some of it and your spouse works a different shift, you can often have some free time while the other is looking after the kids. 

You can also consider the strategic use of a real childcare specialist, even a couple of hours a day can make a real difference. 

Spend Quality Time With Your Kids On Breaks

Spend Quality Time With Your Kids On Breaks

Everyone needs to take breaks – in fact it’s on our list of wellness tips for home workers as well as in our guide to avoiding burnout when working from home. 

When you’ve got kids, you should spend your break times with them. 

There are research studies that have shown kids can be super happy with short periods of focused attention from a parent. 

This also helps to reassure your kids that they matter and they don’t come second to work. 

Use Apps And Gadgets Wisely

As you might expect in the electronic era “there’s an app/gadget for that” and remote working parents can grab some of these to help them out with their kids when needed.

  • Relax Melodies – ideal if you want your baby to get better, longer lasting sleep
  • Todoist – a great app for planning the personal side of your life
  • TinyCam Monitor Pro – this app needs pairing with a smartphone or smartwatch plus an actual camera but it allows you to watch the little ones without being in the same room as them
  • Freedom– one of a number of apps that can block apps, websites or even the Internet working for a period of time, it’s ideal for getting space to work and to play
  • KidCo Safeway – this is a simple barrier that prevents kids from wandering where they shouldn’t, use on stairs, in hallways and wherever else you need them

Maximize Your Immersive Work Time

Maximize Your Immersive Work Time

And when you do have immersive work time, use it to the fullest by:

  • Disabling all notifications. Research says that constant interruptions from notifications are equivalent to taking a 10 point drop in your IQ score! Turn them off, be smarter.
  • Work in batches. It’s best to group a bunch of similar tasks and do them all at once rather than doing things that are markedly different to each other. It allows for more continuous concentration without a break.
  • Try to align your immersive work time with your most energetic times. So, the author of this piece, is great in the early mornings, he gets out of bed and is full of energy. However, by about 4 p.m. he’s nearly asleep and everything feels like it takes twice as much effort. His best immersive work time is therefore in the mornings, not the evenings. Work out when you feel most alive and then try to fit your immersive work into that part of the day.
  • Create a work space and use it. Your kids are less likely to interrupt you if they know you’re working, having a space that is “your office” (even if it’s a desk in the corner of the kitchen) that you use to work from helps them know you’re working.
  • If you have to work when your kids are around, then use the dual focus technique of child management. Here you spend 20 minutes working then 10 minutes with your children and repeat as often as necessary. And in the 10 minutes with your kids? They get 100% of your attention. Don’t try to flit back and forth between them and work. 

P.S. One last tip. Don’t be embarrassed if a young child interrupts a Zoom call or a meeting, this is the 2020s not the 1960s, people understand that if you work from home, you can’t control your kids 100% of the time.