It’s amazing how life can change in the blink of an eye. One minute, you’re typing away in your cubicle. The next minute, the entire world is in panic mode over COVID-19, your kids’ school is closed, you’ve been released from your office, and find yourself working from home with kids.
Maybe you consider this to be a bright side to the current pandemic. After all, working from home certainly has its benefits. There’s no commute, you can wear pajamas all day, and you’ve got no one looking over your shoulder. Right?
Ok, yes. These “perks” are all true. However, working from home brings its own challenges — especially if you have kids in the house (which, considering the increasing school closures, is becoming more and more of a possibility for many of us). The work environment isn’t always peaceful and kids
can sometimes will cause unexpected interruptions. And, let’s be clear, switching abruptly from “professional” to “mom” can be disruptive and frustrating.
Challenges of Working Remotely
To put it simply, working from home is different. Sure, your schedule might be a bit more flexible and your dress code nonexistent. But there’s a whole new set of challenges you’ll need to face. The lack of accountability raises questions about anyone’s self-discipline. And then there’s the social side of it. Less time in the office means less face-to-face time with others, which can be strange. Not to mention, working from home gives many of us little reason to leave the house, making us stir crazy.
On top of all that, when you consider the thought of doing your job while your kids are around? All of a sudden, the challenges become very real.
I should know. I’ve been working from home with kids for over five years. I feel like I’ve tried just about every combination of working-from-home-with-kids imaginable. I’ve tried doing it full-time, part-time, and on a contract basis. I’ve worked with an in-home nanny, neighborhood daycare, childcare swap with a friend, my husband. And yes, I’ve also tried TV-as-babysitter. Let me tell you what I’ve learned.
It’s all exhausting.
But be encouraged. Although challenging, working from home can give you an opportunity to learn something new about yourself and grow in new ways. It has shown me new facets of God’s grace and given me plenty of opportunities to practice my habits in self-discipline.
10 Tips for Working from Home with Kids
1. Be Realistic About Your Childcare Needs. If you have kids, you may need to arrange some form of childcare. This, of course, depends on how old your kids are and what your job duties are. I’ve had work that is flexible and can be done in 10-minute spurts throughout the day, so childcare hasn’t been necessary for it. I’ve also had work that requires deep thought and creativity, for which I’ve needed longer blocks of childcare. Maybe you have an infant who sleeps most of the day, so you can manage your work without childcare. If your kids are older, consider arranging childcare swaps with a friend, family member, or neighbor. (Added bonus: Regular play dates for the kids!). Or, if your spouse also works remotely, you might be able to take shifts with the kiddos.
2. Wake Up Early. If you’re working from home with kids, it’s helpful if you wake up before they do. Whether you get work done during the early morning hours, or just use the time to enjoy your coffee in peace, this practice is invaluable when it comes to your state of mind. Bonus points if you can squeeze in a short workout.
3. Stick to Your Schedule. Establish a schedule (or at least a basic, somewhat flexible rhythm) to keep your day from blending together too much. While you don’t have other people “looking over your shoulder”, it’s admittedly easy to get distracted with your own interests. As any mom knows, being productive requires a certain amount of personal discipline. (Bonus: There is a time for everything under the sun, and if you practice this discipline, it will make your times of rest and play more enjoyable.)
Here are some actionable steps you can take to build your work-from-home schedule or rhythm.
- get dressed when you first wake up. I know the idea of staying in your pajamas all day is irresistible. But trust me on this one. If you get dressed, you’ll feel more awake and productive. Even better? Put on your shoes. This will help keep you from getting sucked into the lull of less accountability.
- have regular meal times. Eat your lunch at noon and enjoy it slowly, away from your desk. I love doing a little meal prep on the weekends to make lunchtime easier. Even if it’s as simple as chopping up veggies or cooking up some chicken, it really helps.
- get moving. Please don’t succumb to sitting in your chair all day. If you can leave the house for a walk, or have a 10-minute dance party with your kids at lunchtime, it can help separate the “home” from the “office”. Even if they’re under the same roof.
4. Set Up Your Workspace. Make sure your workspace is happy and conducive to your job. This may look different, depending on your home situation and your job duties. If you have kids and/or a job that requires regular phone calls or video conferences, a separate room (even if it’s your bedroom) will be helpful. Here are some tips about setting up your workspace:
- yes, this means you need a desk. Maybe your work doesn’t involve regular meetings and you’re tempted to sit on the couch with the TV on while you work. Don’t. You will be happier and more productive if you have a dedicated space for work — even if it’s just a desk in the corner of your bedroom or living room. Make sure you have plenty of desk space, a comfortable chair, and good lighting. Adding a little beauty never hurts, either.
5. DO NOT Let the Kids Near Your Computer. While we’re talking about separating your workspace from your kids, let’s get one thing straight. If your child is in your office and starts manhandling your laptop or mouse, you’ve lost. Stop your work and take care of the situation.
6. Don’t Take Advantage. Trust me. Whether you’re working in an office or working from home, if you slack off, it will eventually catch up to you. I’ve worked with people who took advantage of the flexibility of working from home, and let me tell you, it showed. They were clumsy in meetings and you could never rely on them to complete a task. There was always some excuse for why the job never got done, but at the end of the day, it reflected on them.
- show your productivity. You will probably be under greater scrutiny from your bosses while working from home. Let’s be honest, it’s easy to get distracted at home, and managers generally fear that the people working from home won’t be as efficient as those sitting in a cubicle. To rise above this, you need to go out of your way to prove you are being just as (if not more) productive in your remote setting. Check-in with your manager frequently. Give progress updates. Pick up the phone. Even if it isn’t required for you, these extra steps will remind your manager that you are on top of things before they even get a chance to wonder.
- know that any extra effort you give is seen. Yes, I think your colleagues and managers will, in some form, see your extra effort. But for those of you who follow Jesus, remember that God sees it all. When you complete an honest day’s work, He is pleased. Let your unseen work, your “lily work”, be an act of love to Him.
7. Stay Connected. While working from home, you might begin to feel like you are missing out on things (project updates, social situations, office politics, etc.) by not being in the office. Make a deliberate effort to be “in the loop” — especially if any of your co-workers are still in the office. Whether it involves making a phone call, using FaceTime or Skype, or sending a chat, it is important to check-in frequently.
8. Prioritize Your Social Life. One of the more unexpected challenges I discovered in working from home was the isolation I experienced. Working from home is great, but being confined to your home for 40+ hours per week leaves little time for social gatherings. Here are a few tips to help with this:
- send meaningful texts. Make an effort to check in with friends and family members through phone calls, texts, or chats. Try to have meaningful interactions where you can. We’re all human, and we’re all in this together. Literally. The world. #covid19
- schedule play dates. If your work schedule permits, try to schedule play dates for you and your kiddos. The interaction you both experience is refreshing and oh so important.
- schedule video conferences with colleagues. I used to resent video conferences because they required me to change my shirt and wear makeup. What I didn’t appreciate was the importance of face-to-face interaction. Even if the interaction is digital, it helps to establish connections between colleagues. If you can allow a little time in your meeting for personal chit-chat, that’s even better. Working at home doesn’t allow for those impromptu “water cooler” moments, so having this time built into your meetings can help build a sense of connection between you and your colleagues.
9. Get Out of the House. Even if it’s just for a walk around the block, make it a priority to get out of your house daily. I know there’s a lot of fear around COVID-19 right now, but I would be more concerned about the psychological impacts of being cooped up inside all day for a couple of weeks. Practice good hygiene, use your hand sanitizer, and enjoy the fresh air.
10. Invest In a Pair of Headphones. Have you ever tried to work with “Into the Unknown” reverberating off your walls? I realize office buildings aren’t completely silent, but if you’re working at home with children nearby, headphones are a must. I wear mine just about any time I need to focus. They almost transport me to a different place, somehow.
- harness the power of white noise. Don’t assume headphones equate to music. This is not true. I cannot listen to music while I work. I just can’t. Do you know what I do? I play white noise. The sound of a fan or beach waves is all I need to get into my work zone.
- consider them for phone calls or noise cancelation. If you’re on the phone at all during the day, a good set of headphones can also double as a solid microphone/earpiece. My husband works from home too and he uses his AirPod Pros all the time. He loves them because they allow him to jump between phone calls, music, and podcasts without switching devices. They also have noise-canceling capability, which is pretty much gold when you’ve got kids racing around outside your door.
As with any major change, working from home can be an adjustment at first. But once you find your rhythm, you might discover that you love it. It might also reveal truths about you that you weren’t able to hear amongst the cultural “noise” of the office.
Let me know how the situation is going for you and what you’ve learned so far in the comments below.