Thanks to the growth of digital, more and more parents were ditching traditional office jobs for remote working opportunities even before the coronavirus hit. For many, the idea of working from home sounds amazing – having the ability to spend quality time with their children whilst still getting a regular paycheck. What’s not to love?
The reality probably wasn’t as leisurely as you had hoped. Working from home with children of any age comes with its own challenges. If you’re currently in the middle of this juggling act, it’s important to realize that you (and your family) would need time to adjust and it’s only natural that your productivity might take a hit as you learn how to adapt to your new work-life situation.
So, how do you balance being there for your children with your desire to having a flourishing career? Here are a few strategies suggested by BOOQED’s remote team to hopefully help you stay productive and maintain your sanity as you find your own way to balance family and work. Don’t forget, it does take some experimenting to find what best suits you and your household, so feel free to pick and choose from our suggestions below to create your perfect strategy to working from home with kids.
Find a dedicated workspace
Some families might not have the luxury of having a spare room for an office, but we’ve found that designating a quiet workspace to spend your workday can help to reduce distractions and boost productivity. Invest in a comfortable chair that you wouldn’t mind spending a few hours sitting in, make sure the area is free of clutter, has adequate light, and has everything you need to go about your work. If possible, try to have your workspace in a separate room with a door that can be closed so you can take calls away from any household chaos.
If you simply don’t have space at home or find it difficult to stay focused with your children nearby, consider booking a desk at a coworking space. A few of us on the BOOQED team have certainly had to do it once or twice a week, especially if we have a big project on! Luckily, the BOOQED app offers the option of instantly booking a hot desk or meeting room at a host of coworking spaces in Hong Kong and Singapore. It’s a convenient, affordable solution if you need a quiet place to get your head down and do some work.
Solicit the help of family and friends
Is there anyone you know who could potentially help look after your kids either in-person or virtually? Trusted neighbours, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, babysitters? Sometimes, having help is a must if you want to be able to work from home successfully. It fully depends on your situation but these people can be great resources whether they’re only able to spend a few hours out of a day or a dedicated time each week to keep an eye on the little ones during your work hours.
If you know another work-from-home parent in your neighbourhood, why not arrange a babysitting swap? This basically means that one parent looks after both kids for a certain amount of time, and then swap allowing each parent to have some much-needed time alone to focus on work. Plus, your kid gets a fun playdate! Win-win!
Establish a schedule
Both adults and children alike tend to thrive on routine so it’s important to add some structure to the day. It does take some forward-thinking and prep time to organize but trust us, it’s worth it.
Start by putting together a semi-flexible master timetable for the week. Set out non-negotiables such as wake-up times, meal times and school. Then add in chunks of time for free time to play, artwork, helping with various housework, learning activities and exercise.
If you live with a partner, communicate with each other to establish a plan of how your working days are going to run. It could be helpful to sit down at the beginning of each week to mark down when you each have meetings or deadlines, and when the other is the ‘on point’ parent in another room supervising the kids, feeding them, doing homework with them. Having shifts and staggering work times can help both parents not become overwhelmed with both work and kid responsibilities.
Of course, it’s unrealistic to assume that you would always be able to adhere to a set routine, so cut yourself some slack when things don’t go to plan. After all, creating a timetable is supposed to help, not add to the stress!
Children of different ages will need different activities to keep them busy outside of class and homework time. Here are a few age-based suggestions to help give you a little inspiration, but feel free to do your research to find more. There are so many activities out there that you could tweak to suit your schedule and the age of your children. Bonus points if you come up with activities that require minimal to no supervision!
- Carry them in a swaddle or baby backpack
- Put them in swings or bouncy chairs with visual stimulation
- Baby-appropriate videos
- Their favourite movie or show
- Arts and crafts
- Build a fort
School-age children, tweens and teens:
- Educational games and apps
- Outdoor sports
- Positive or inspirational shows
- Online games that allow them to socialize with their friends
Prepare for interruptions
No matter how many varied and exciting activities you plan for your kids, you’ll still have to manage disruptions from time to time. It’s not just kids either! We’ve all experienced interruptions one way or another from our significant other, family members and pets. Since they’re inevitable, we wanted to share two ways you can manage being disturbed.
One is to set boundaries with the people in your household. Set aside a few hours for focused work or meetings where you can’t be disturbed. Put up a do-not-disturb sign on the door, or some signal to indicate you’re unavailable. Schedule quiet activities for your kids and if you have another caretaker in the house, communicate with them so they can make sure nobody walks in on you during that time.
Another way to get your children to adhere to boundaries is to practice! Children learn best through repetition, so take some time to talk to your kids about what they need to do when you have a do-not-disturb sign on the door or if they see you take a phone call. Then, run through the scenario with them. Pretend to be in your office working or taking a call and see how your children react, and repeat the exercise again and again. Don’t forget to praise them when they start getting it right and offer some gentle guidance when they haven’t got the grasp of it.
Communicate honestly with your employer and colleagues
Don’t be afraid to be upfront about your work situation with your manager and team, they’d probably be more supportive than you think! If you do need to make adjustments to your work schedule or push back on a deadline to look after your kids, discuss it with your manager or the HR department beforehand.
Begin by contextualizing your situation, and offer a clear action plan to show when you will be online and available for calls. By communicating with utter transparency, you demonstrate respect and lets your employer know that you are committed to making the situation work.
Remember the big picture
Whether you’re a work-from-home newbie or remote worker veteran, don’t forget to take it easy on yourself and your children. There will be some days that are more challenging than others, so it’s important to roll with the punches, celebrate the small wins wherever you can get them and recognize that you’re already doing enough!
It also helps to hold on to the overall vision and benefits of being able to work remotely. Remember, you have the opportunity to get more involved in your kid’s lives and enjoy those milestones you might have missed if you were stuck working in an office. Your little ones probably love having you around more too!
Find a quiet place to work for the day with BOOQED
We want to help. If you need a tranquil space to concentrate on work, download the BOOQED app (available on Android and iOS) to book on-demand hot desks, meeting rooms, and café tables in Hong Kong and Singapore. You can also get 50% off your first booking when you use the code HK50!