How to work at home while caring for children
18 August 2020
Suddenly found yourself juggling your job with childcare? Working from home while caring for the kids doesn’t have to harm your productivity. Here’s how.
Families are facing uncharted territory with parents working from home while schools, nurseries and day-care centres across the country are closed. But help is at hand when it comes to juggling a job and childcare commitments at this crucial time.
School holidays are one thing, but a lockdown during a global pandemic is quite another. We share some pointers to help parents keep working from home effectively while still caring for their children.
Talk to your employer
We find ourselves in an unprecedented situation to which there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why it’s important to talk to your employer about your specific situation and come up with an approach that enables you to complete your work commitments while caring for your children. This might mean adopting flexible hours so you can work in the evenings or scheduling meetings to coincide with afternoon naps. If you are self-employed, ask your client to be patient as you adapt to this new work reality and add a note to your email signature that reassures people you will get back to them within a 24-hour window.
If you were previously working remotely on a regular basis, you may already have a home office set up. If not, now’s the time to create a dedicated space – it might be a spare bedroom, a large hallway or one half of the kitchen table, the point is that you can create your dream office and make working from home a breeze. Make it clear to everyone in the household that when you are in this space, you are working. Explain to your children that if the door is closed they need to knock before entering, make a ‘do not disturb’ sign to place on view when you are in your ‘office’, and ask your partner to take on childcare duties when it's time to join a video call.
Take advantage of tech
Working from home comes with its own set of unique distractions, from teething toddlers to teenage tantrums. In order to maintain optimal productivity, you may want to invest in noise-cancelling earphones to listen to music during work to motivate you, improve your mood and avoid distractions, or a hands-free headset with a microphone that can easily be muted with the touch of a button. That way you, and everyone else in your virtual meeting, don’t have to listen to whatever imaginary scenario is being enthusiastically played out in the next room.
Try to stick to a routine
Having a plan of how each day will unfold can help you keep as productive as possible. Children respond well to structure and by maintaining familiarity and consistency, you can bring a sense of comfort and order to your new-found situations. Map out your children’s days first:
- when do they get up and go to bed?
- when do they eat their meals?
- when is playtime, bath time and nap time?
Use these answers as the basis of your timetable and allocate time when you’ll be able to focus on your work, but don't be too hard on yourself if things don't always play out the way you hoped. Remember to leave some empty slots to give you a little more flexibility should timings get disrupted.
Coordinate your schedules
Depending on you and your partner’s work commitments, you might be able to alternate childcare and work between you – so one person is with the children, while the other is in their office and vice versa. Once you’ve drawn up a timetable, you can also assign day-to-day chores – like preparing meals, unloading the dishwasher and tackling the laundry – to you, your partner and any older children in your household.
Enjoy quality time together
When you are rushing around, it can feel like it’s impossible to slow down, but parents and children alike will benefit from some quality time together. Just as you’ve blocked out a few hours to write that report, block out some time each day to have fun. That might mean coming up with a new indoor game, playing catch in the garden, reading aloud a few books, or even practicing yoga together. It will give your mind a break from answering emails and meeting deadlines, and reward children for being patient while you’ve had to get on with work.
For specific information related to the Covid-19 Outbreak, please refer to our Covid-19 updates.
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