You got this! 11 top tips for working from home with children

Is anyone else struggling to adjust to working from home? We miss the days when the Peppa Pig soundtrack wasn't blaring in the background of every Skype meeting. Everyone is facing their own battles during this intense lockdown, but fear not, we will get through it. 

Michelle Tyson, founder and director of Tyson Wilson Recruitment, has shared her top tips with parents who are struggling with working from home.  

1. A flexible routine

That sounds odd, but the core of it is that while a routine is vital for you and your children, it will be disrupted simply because they are children… Ideally you can set out break times that reflect your normal working practices that the children can follow too, but just be prepared to change. It might be that you take more breaks and complete the tasks after they go to bed, or if they are teenagers before they get up.

2. Communicate

Your boss needs to know that you are working at home with your tiny terrors. Ask for reasonable deadlines for work, update them when things will be ahead of schedule or slightly behind. 

If your workplace has a joint working app or calendar this can help, but nothing beats a quick call, text or email. Try to stay off WhatsApp and their ilk as you will become easily distracted.

3. The 10-second rule

Every parent should know this but is worth reminding ourselves. Your lovely child will, at some point demand attention. Even if you are in the middle of a complex task or with a deadline looming. It is too easy to snap at them. You wouldn’t do that in the office, so don’t do it now. Count inside your head to 10, discuss it, or explain that mum will be with them in five minutes or 10 minutes. Ask them to set a timer, set yourself one and hopefully any temptation to shout will be gone.

4. The magic of headphones

They really can be magic. Whether it is a conference call or just listening to some music make sure you explain to your children that when you have your headphones on you are not to be disturbed.

5. Workspace

Whether it’s a bedroom, dining room, or the conservatory you need to have a space that you can set up all the equipment you need, including some extra areas if needed. Try to avoid spaces used by the rest of the family such as the living room or kitchen.

6. Homework/home schooling

Your children may or may not have been given tasks by their school. It is important that you treat it the same way you would if you are making sure they complete their homework by a set time, ready to be checked. If they have questions or are having difficulties, you can take a break to help.

7. Work buddies

There will be other people in your work that are going through the same experience. Keep in touch with them, exchange hints, moan to each other, laugh at the absurdity of home schooling and working at the same time, whatever it takes.

8. Exercise

You will probably be sitting down for most of the day. So will your children. Make sure to get up, stretch, move around. You can’t usually do that in the office, but you’re at home. Make up some fun games with the children, look up some of the online resources for children’s exercise and join in. And, with them get out, walk the dog, just make sure that you all get fresh air and daylight, remembering to keep social distance from anyone also out.

9. Task allocation

At work you may have a routine that the various tasks in every project are allocated, with the timing understood. Can you do the same at home with children? Yes, but only by thinking it through. Can your youngest tidy away their toys in 30 minutes in an exchange for a treat? Can your stroppy teen earn goodwill points towards a gift by washing the dishes? The goodwill points are something all children can understand and will eventually see them getting down to eagerly helping out with tasks.

10. Time off

No weekend, evening or early morning work. If you don’t normally work outside office hours don’t start now.

11. End of day procedure 

You’ve finished your tasks for the day, it’s five-to-five. Make a note of what you have completed and a note of tomorrow’s tasks. Close the laptop, pour yourself a cuppa and spend some time with your children. Perhaps once or twice a week have set activities: a movie night when the entire family agrees what to watch; a board games tournament across several evenings; or, learning something new such as chess or a craft – just as long as it isn’t members of the family learning a musical instrument – that way madness lies.

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