Tips for working from home with children during COVID-19
We all face slightly different challenges when we work from home due to the type of work we do, our lifestyles, family commitments and our different personalities. If you have children to take care of too, this can raise stress levels further as it brings its own set of unique challenges!
To help make it easier, make sure you try to stay calm, plan ahead and have some flexibility. Try mixing up your working hours to make them work around caring for your children and if you co-parent, take it in turns watching your children and working.
It’s important as a general rule of thumb to make sure you explain the current situation, create a routine for your children, try new activities, keep in touch with their friends and your family and don´t put yourself under too much pressure to make everything perfect.
Read our tips to help make working from home and caring for your children easier. We have also included some tips from our own team members who are navigating the waters of working from home, whilst taking care of their children and supporting them with their distance learning.
1. Explain the situation
You should talk to your child about coronavirus and be open and honest about the situation to help prevent them from feeling anxious. It is especially essential for older children who will better understand the impact on day-to-day life. It’s probably not possible to protect children from the news about the virus as, dependent on their age, they may be accessing it across multiple platforms particularly online (internet and social media) and television. It’s best instead to talk to them at their age appropriate level about what is happening, what they have seen or heard and discuss how they are feeling and what may be concerning them.
2. Work out a schedule
Sit down together as a family and create a daily schedule for the week. It is important to try and keep as much of a normal routine as possible. For those children of school age, try and follow the daily school routine, including start and finish times as much as you can. Within the schedule create specific times for wake-up, schoolwork, reading, break times, fun time/family time and bedtime. Make sure you talk it through with your children each morning so they know what to expect and so you can also keep on top of everything. One of the key things is to make sure you are continuously talking together as a family.
3. Switch up your working hours
Companies are being more understanding around the current situation and the need to work from home whilst caring for your family. If your job allows for it think about different ways of working whilst at home that may not necessarily follow your normal hours of work. Incorporate this into your daily schedule for the week, so it allows you to get your work done and take care of your children. That may mean some of the following examples:
- having different start and end times for your day;
- if you have young children work around nap times and start earlier in the morning and work later in the evening once they are asleep;
- you may need to take lunch or break times at slightly different times and work in shorter bursts rather than for hours at a time.
- If you do co-parent, work out times when each of you have quiet time alone to work, whilst the other looks after the children.
- When you are working stay in a separate room, if possible, so your children don’t know you are there.
4. Prepare for distractions and be open with colleagues
Even with schedules in place, constant communication as a family and the best intentions, your children will still interrupt your work. There will be distractions and you need to prepare for and accept these whilst remaining calm. Be upfront and open with your colleagues ahead of time to warn them about possible interuptions as they will be more understanding and it will be likely that many will be going through similar experiences. If you are working different hours than normal, think about including them on your email signature, on your mobile voicemail and consider using your out of office. Remember the mute button on conference calls or video meetings is your friend, keep your mic muted until you are ready to talk in order to minimise noise and distractions as much as possible.
5. Try different activities
Make sure you allow time for fun new activities to give children something to look forward to and make sure they are also incorporated into the weekly schedule. For younger children, fun toys and games they haven’t played with before will spark their curiosity and interest and help keep them entertained for longer. Also think about new activities you can do as a family, for the whole family. The internet offers a lot on inspiration for fun indoor activities you can do at home.
6. Stay in touch
Try to video/voice call with their friends and extended family as much as possible. Children may be feeling isolated and left out not being able to see and socialise as much. This will help to provide them with a sense of connection and will provide reassurance, comfort and enjoyment. Think about other activities you could do when keeping in touch with their friends and extended family – singing, dancing or virtual games such as Pictionary or quizzes.
7. Reward good behaviour
Remember positive praise and treats are important during this time. For example, if your children have completed their schoolwork, have been quiet during a video call or completed household jobs such as tidying their rooms or cleaning up their toys, make sure you positively acknowledge it. This doesn´t necessarily mean spending money. It’s about spending time together and having fun doing things within the current restrictions that you can enjoy together as a family. Allow time for this and arrange fun activities to look forward to – baking, crafting, watching a movie together. For younger children consider creating a reward chart with different treats for when they reach an agreed target.
Some of our team, who are parents currently navigating the challenge of working from home whilst having children to take care of, have offered their own tips to help make it work:
“I have a few tips that I think are really important and have helped me while working from home and taking care of my son. My first one is to make sure your children follow their daily school routine as closely as possible. From the alarm going off at the same time in the morning, to having breakfast as a family to talking about the day ahead and then checking in with each other throughout the day. It is more difficult during school holidays. If both parents are working and your child does not have schoolwork to do, you still need to approach the day in a similar way – give your child the support, routine and the structure they need. Plan each day with a good mix of learning activities, sporting activities, challenges, social time with friends online as well as just talking as a family. Parents also need to build breaks into their day that coincide with what children are doing. One of the things I think is most important is you should communicate continuously and show as much support and affection as possible.”
“It is very hard to have a normal solid eight hour working day when you have small children while working from home. I have an eight year old son and I need to take regular breaks to check on him. I also need to plan the activities I’m going to do with him and give him a schedule of when it is mummy time! When I do this, there are less distractions because he will wait until it is mummy time! I make sure I plan things like doing a school lesson (which ever one he wants help with) spending breaktimes together and doing something fun with him every day, like a science experiment, or going for a bike ride/walk. We create a little schedule in the morning, and I ask him questions about what he wants to do before I give him some ideas.
“My children are older 12 and 14 years old so they are more independent. They can generally fend for themselves and keep occupied during the day. So, my tip is around structure – in both a physical sense and a time sense. With four of us working in the house, we each need our own space particularly for conference calls and online lessons. However, we’re in a small London house so it helps to let each other know what we have on so we know when we can each be disturbed and interruptions don’t happen at critical times; there’s always something that needs doing or a question that needs to be asked. On that note, questions are generally around what there is to eat, so I publish a meal planner for the week as well! Finally, I make sure that we structure in breaks from screens and get our daily time outside to get some vitamin D and recharge.”
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