The idea of spending 24/7 with your children at home while juggling important work tasks can seem both daunting and extremely stressful for most parents. However, with school closures across Canada due to new social distancing measures, many people now find themselves working remotely with full-time childcare responsibilities. While many parents have worked the occasional sick day at home with their kids around, the prospect of doing so for many months can be quite overwhelming.
Although it won’t always be smooth sailing, there are several effective strategies you can use to increase your productivity while working from home with your children around. Here are some helpful tips to help you balance your work tasks with the extra challenge of being in proximity to your kids.
Create a dedicated home office
While it may not be possible to isolate yourself in a different room if your children are too small, setting up a dedicated home office can help you stay productive. Compared to working in bed or on the couch, setting up a designated workspace at a desk or a table is an effective way to get in a more focused mindset. If you can share parenting responsibilities with your partner, getting a separate home office can be an effective approach to increase focus and minimize interruptions.
Maintain a Daily Routine
Creating a daily routine will help to add some structure and make your children feel more comfortable since they will know what to expect. Since children are already used to having a routine at school, maintaining one at home is essential for maintaining consistency. Since a strict or rigid routine will be difficult to put into practice, adding some flexibility and including breaks is important. If your children are old enough, you can fill their schedule with two-hour blocks of activities they can do on their own. These include games and drawing, reading books and designated homework time, educational screen time, as well as watching cartoons or movies.
Optimize your work schedule
Let’s be honest – it will likely be impossible to get all your work done at home during your standard working hours while your kids are around. Therefore, you will need to adapt your schedule accordingly to maximize your productivity. For instance, if your partner is also working from home, you could split your working schedules, taking turns doing childcare. Moreover, if your children are still taking naps, you can take advantage of these few uninterrupted hours of work time and incorporate them into your work schedule. Another idea is to stagger your work time throughout the day. This way, you can get a few hours of work before your children wake up, during the few designated hours of “quiet downtime” and in the evening, after they fall asleep.
Schedule quiet time
As tempting as it is to let your children have as much screen time as they want to keep them quiet, it is best to resist this temptation and limit device use. Rationing screen time sets a routine for your kids and helps them use their time productively. However, there may be a couple of times when it may be necessary to let your children use their devices for extended periods to meet your work obligations. Since there are many free online learning programs and games available, there are many ways to make screen time more educational.
Communicate with your employer and co-workers
Since you will likely need to adjust your work schedule, it will be necessary to talk to your employer and colleagues to clearly communicate your needs. In this conversation, you should make it clear that you are still committed to delivering high-quality work and meeting deadlines. In addition, it is a good idea to share your schedule and times during the day when you will likely be available for video calls and meetings. In addition, if you have a conference call coming up and foresee some unavoidable background noises from your children, you should also be upfront about this with your boss and colleagues.
Create an activity box for the kids
For days where your kids have finished all their tasks on their list or are having trouble sticking to their routine, creating an activity box full of toys or specific games can keep them occupied while you work. Some items to include in such a box include puzzles, crayons and other art supplies, colouring books, construction paper and interactive toys. Moreover, you can also make a list of projects that your kids can do with the items they found in their activity box.
Prepare lunch and snacks ahead of time
Meal and snack prepping ahead of time can save you valuable work time. Laying out some snacks for your kids will minimize disruptions when you need to focus on your work obligations. It is also a good idea to give your children some choices before preparing their snack and lunch. Some healthy snack ideas that you can store in snack boxes to give to your kids include cut-up fruits and vegetables with dip, apples and peanut butter, and whole-wheat crackers and cheese. Giving your children the choice for their snacks and autonomy over self-serve meals can help them become more independent while allowing you some uninterrupted work time.