Working from home with kids
Whether you're employed by an employer or self-employed, you never know when you might need to work from home with kids around. Increasingly, we all appreciate that remote working is a reality that most of us will contend with at some stage, and for parents, the prospect of school closures, half-term and multiple unexpected lockdowns means that remote working with children is something you may have to plan for. And while working from home with kids can be challenging, if you make the right preparations there are many positive aspects about spending more time at home with the little ones. In this guide we’ll run through our top home working tips, and the thoughts of parents themselves, to help you manage your workload and get the most out of remote working.
The rise of remote working
Of course, there are many professionals for whom working from home with a baby, toddler or young children has become second nature. Modern technology has made remote working a more realistic opportunity than ever before, with ‘digital nomads’ able to complete tasks from their study, co-working space and where possible, while travelling. The Office for National Statistics reported that the number of people who work primarily from home rose by 884,000 between 2008 and 2018 — totalling 1.54 million people. And in April 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, 46.6% of UK workers worked from home at least some of the time. But even if remote working is more widespread in general these days, working from home with kids is another proposition entirely.
How can I work from home with kids?
Spending more time at home with the family is one of the great upsides of home working, but it comes with challenges too. It’s important to ensure you encourage a distinction between work life and family life. Even the addition of a ‘quiet’ sign on the study door might eventually discourage your children from entering. If you can afford childcare, a childminder can ensure your kids remain stimulated even if they’re not at school in the daytime. Working from home with a baby is no easy feat, and while you won’t be able to leave a baby unattended, a standing desk ensures you can concentrate on your work and help your partner with the occasional nappy change.
10 tips on working from home with kids
Trading the long trek to work for a short walk across the landing is every commuter’s dream. No traffic, no train delays, and more time to make a pot of coffee. But for parents, it’s not always such a rosy picture, and unless you’re able to take remote working as seriously as an office job, the gloss will quickly wear off. Read our top tips on working from home when little ones are around.
- Stick to your routine — Just like any job, you’ve got to arrive at work on-time and work to a schedule. Your routine could include getting everyone up and dressed as usual, setting the table for lunch, and getting children to help with chores. Preparation and planning may take time, but it can help the day run smoother and take the stress away.
- Block out sound — It’s not just children that create noise, but appliances, lawnmowers and neighbours putting up shelves. Invest in a good pair of earplugs — or headphones — so you can work in peace.
- Go for a walk — A brisk walk around the corner can help clear your head, get the blood flowing and enhance your wellbeing. Make time to take the kids out; fresh air and burning off steam helps them have a good night sleep, and so will you. Or ask the grandparents to do something outdoors with them.
- Create boundaries — Stick to your study if you have one, so that your children can keep themselves entertained in the living areas. Consider a stair gate for young infants.
- Take breaks — Just as in the office you might make a coffee or chat to colleagues, remember to relax and recharge your batteries between tasks. Playtime is just as important as home schooling, so take time off for childcare, put your play dates in the diary, and tell your kids when they can expect some fun!
- Get your tech ready — Set up your camera to avoid walk-through areas where toddlers can roam. Make sure that everyone in the household knows. If you need to be flexible to slip in and out of rooms, take calls on your mobile so you can do toilet runs with the kids or address any mishaps.
- Remember to let go — It’s time to accept your home is multifunctional now, so mess is a given when working from home with kids. People may see and hear your children, so don’t stress! But while swapping your office clothes for slippers and a dressing gown has a certain appeal, you’re best advised to wear your normal clothes so you don’t drift subconsciously into the rhythm of a sleepy Sunday.
- Have some useful distractions ready — Sometimes kids just want to be near you and see what you’re doing. Having pens, paper, old laptops, keyboards and jigsaws at the ready can help buy you some time.
- Turn off the doorbell — It may sound drastic, but deliveries and visitors can cause unnecessary distractions when you’re focused on an important task. Consider removing those doorbell batteries, then replace them when you’re done.
- Take the little wins – Not everything will go perfectly, so if you’ve managed to get the kids dressed, remembered to feed them and you’re getting your work done, you can feel a sense of accomplishment.
What do parents say?
“You are their mummy or daddy; their best friend; their world, and playing is just as important as learning through activity sheets from school.”
“Ask for support when you need it, whether that’s from friends, family, teachers (virtually) and remember one thing – the best attention you can give to your children is love and security.”
“I try to explain the difference between ‘mummy is on a call’ and ‘mummy is working… there is a distinction between the two types of ‘working’.”
“The biggest thing for me is just letting things go. I’ve stopped caring that the house is a right mess, that there are toys everywhere and the kitchen still has breakfast bowls in the sink. I feel it’s a win… if they’re happy and I’m getting my work done.”
“Accept that you’re not in the office and will get interrupted! There are a lot of others in the same boat.”
Embrace the remote working revolution
Technology means the world of work is changing faster than ultra-fast broadband. So even if you’re only temporarily working from home with kids, it’s a smart idea to get fully prepared so that whatever the circumstances, you’re ready to work remotely.