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How to Work From Home With Kids

Drew Hendricks
Unsplash image of pillow fight

One of the best parts of technology is the liberating capabilities it’s given to companies and workers worldwide. Suddenly it’s possible to work with anyone, anywhere, opening up new opportunities for income, growth, and expansion. Plus, the added benefits of being inside your own home. A 2018 study pointed out that nearly two-thirds of the world works remotely at least once a week, and I’m sure many of those people have children. Working from home with kids is absolutely manageable, and there’s no reason you can’t do it too. 
 
Of course, everything is easier said than done. Once you’ve managed to find a steady online gig or talk your company into allowing you to work from home, you have to sit down and actively manage your productivity. Working from home is supposed to eliminate distractions and increase output. Based on data from SurePayroll, about 86 percent of individuals believe they prefer to work alone to hit ‘maximum productivity.’ In the same study, two-thirds of supervisors agreed that employees who worked remotely had a more significant output. 

As you can guess, everything changes when you have children mixed into the equation. Kids are great and working remotely is an excellent way to spend more time with your family, but to make this scenario function, you’ve got to create a setup with boundaries. 

Follow our guide to creating the right atmosphere for remote work when you’ve got a family. Whether you’re reasonably experienced and looking to become more productive, or embarking on an entirely new career path, these tips will help you find a feasible way to balance your family and your job. 

Have a dedicated work space 

Having a work place to call your own is the most important way to set boundaries for yourself when you’re working from home with kids. Although you can work from anywhere in your home that catches your Wi-Fi, you still have to attempt to not get distracted. Working from your bed or the couch isn’t a great scenario, especially with kids around.

Image of mother holding baby and working on laptop

Even if your home isn’t that big, set up a workspace somewhere. You can choose a corner with a table or decide that your kitchen table is where you complete your hours. It’s best to pick somewhere that isn’t right in the middle of the action. If you have small kids that play in the living room all day, they’ll likely demand your attention if you are working in that space.
 
Once you’ve decided on a workspace, tell your family. Let them know that this is where you work, and when you’re in that spot on your computer or phone, you’re busy and cannot be interrupted. It takes cooperation to make this scenario work, but by setting up a distraction-free environment, you’re already a step ahead.

The editors of Child Magazine suggest that while, “getting your 3-year-old to behave can be a challenge... The trick is consistency and learning to pick your battles.”

Create a schedule, and stick to it

If you’re the only one home with a child all day, productivity is nearly impossible with small children around. You’ll have to craft a schedule and stick to it to be productive. With infants, it’s a little easier, considering they sleep a large part of the day. They’re also simpler to entertain and keep an eye on when they’re not mobile yet. Once they start moving around, they need constant supervision. Luckily, there’s always nap time. Instituting a scheduled nap-time and quiet time in the afternoon will help your kids get used to the idea that their parent is working and cannot be interrupted.
 
Or, if you have a partner, you might choose to start working when they come home from their job. While they watch the children, you can set up an evening work schedule, and your partner can help make sure you’re not preoccupied with the youngsters. You can also schedule your breaks according to your family’s active time. If you have kids in school, you know you can get a certain amount of work done before they come home and set yourself up to take a break at the time they come home, so that you can spend some time talking to them before you go back to your computer. Whatever your schedule is, set it up mindfully, and you can be sure you’ll get your work done.
 
When you work from home, it is tempting to grind all the time or sneak work in between playtime with your kids. Creating a schedule gives you a chance to be 100 percent immersed in what you’re doing. You’ll enjoy the time with your children a lot more, and get a lot more done during office hours if you clearly separate the two.

Consider child care

A lot of people choose to work from home to save on childcare costs, but the reality is that you’ll may need some form of assistance. Small children need to be watched at all times, and you don’t want to wait until they’ve gone to bed to start working. This type of schedule will only serve to stress you out.
 
You might choose to enroll your child part-time in a local daycare. There are so many home day-care centers that you can likely find one nearby, for easy pick-up and drop-off. Those 20 or 25 hours that your child is in a program can be enough for you to get your work done, and then you can be focused on spending time with your toddler. Besides, “state-funded preschool programs are better today than they were just 10 years ago… and kids who attend public preschool programs are better prepared for kindergarten than kids who don't.”
 
You could also invest in a babysitter for a few hours a day and have them stay in the house with your supervision, giving you the time you need to stay focused on a project. From summertime day camps to after-school centers that help your youngsters with their homework, there’s always an option to get them out of the house in a way that benefits both you and them.

Plan ahead, communicate clearly and be honest

Communication is the key to anything, and that includes your at-home employment. Gallup is finding that “employees are pushing companies to break down the long-established structures and policies that traditionally have influenced their workdays,” more than ever, making it vital to learn how to work from home.

Image of father holding baby on lap while working and drinking coffee

If applicable, talk to your partner about boundaries and stay realistic when you make promises. Don’t offer to be the one to watch your child when you know you have work piling up. Your partner should understand, as long as you’re giving them clear direction and notice. When you set certain expectations and stick to them, the entire process becomes much more relaxed.
 
If you’re a creative type, you likely find yourself putting off work a lot, because you know you can get it done quickly when push comes to shove. Or perhaps you’re still telling yourself that you work best under pressure. That could be, but when you have children, that mindset has to go out the window. With kids in the house, you can no longer rely on the night before to get things done. If your kids have distracted you from your job all week long, that isn’t exactly going to change because your project is now due in a few hours. Planning ahead is key.
 
Planning also goes hand in hand with communication and honesty. If your managers ask you to get something done instantly, be realistic when you take on those projects. With kids, there’s little room for any last-minute plans. Offer to have the piece back the next day or give yourself two days. Your boss will start giving you more work that you’re capable of doing, rather than throwing things at you that stress out the home situation. If you’ve got a big project coming up, make your family aware ahead of time that you’ll be busy for specific hours during the week. Give them a minute to get used to that, so that your kids and partner can plan to do something while you finish up.
 
If you have a full-time job where you have to be online during regular office hours, let your managers know that you have kids and will need to consider that in your schedule. If you’re freelancing and taking on various gigs, be honest with your clients about when you can get work done, what your hours are, and what your limits are. It’s tempting to agree to any gig because it pays well, but if you can’t do the amount of work in your situation, then it’s best to be honest. You might want to get a project done within a day, but make sure to set a realistic due date and give yourself a few days or a week. That way, you’re always exceeding expectations rather than falling behind.
 
And to all the procrastinators out there, don’t judge yourself, we’ve all been there. 

Give the kids a break

In her column, author and parent educator Laura Markham, Ph.D., has a memo for parents working from home: “Your number one job as a parent, after assuring the safety of your children, is to manage your own emotions.”
 
Sometimes, too much pressure can make the entire situation spiral out of control. There are good days and bad days, and as your own boss, you’ve got to manage the bad days on your own. This means taking a deep breath, and sometimes accepting the fact that today is not your most productive day. If you’ve got a vital looming deadline and can’t take the break, call in some reinforcements. Get your best friend to come over and watch a movie with the kids or call a neighbor that owes you a favor. Do whatever you have to do to take the reins by getting some help.
 
Otherwise, it’s best to breathe and give your kids a break. If they want your attention, make a deal with them. Give them a half hour or an hour of your time, and then go back to work. You can even implement that on a daily basis. Tell your kids that they have this specific hour in the day where they can engage you in any activity they want. This will satisfy their need for attention and give you some lovely moments during the day, leaving you with time to get your work done afterwards.

Involve your kids

“When working from home, you can use all the help you can get, right? So let the kids help out with your job or business wherever possible. It can take a little planning on your part, but young children can be very enthusiastic helpers,” says The Balance Careers.

Image of woman on computer with her two small children

You can’t have your kids join you all the time, but giving them some leeway might help. If your children are a little older, you can have them ‘help’ with work by giving them a stack of papers to organize quietly or ask them for their opinion on a design or idea. Children love to do what they’re not supposed to, so by involving them in your work, you can lessen the temptation to annoy mom and dad when they’re supposed to stay out of the office. If you don’t have anything to draw the kids in, maybe offer them a half hour where they can sit at your desk and do a quiet activity, like reading or coloring. Limit them to a specific time, and everyone in the home will be a lot happier.

Create a to-do list and rewards system

According to Mom.me, “rewards can be a great way to turn your kid's behavior around. And don't worry, rewards don't need to be lavish gifts that will spoil your child. In fact, if your child is like most kids, he probably already receives quite a few extra privileges that you can start linking to his good behavior.”

Image of 3 children filling out a chores list

Sometimes, you have to buy yourself time. Try creating a to-do list for your children and partner. If your kids are old enough to do chores, leave a list of things that need to get done, like washing the dishes, prepping for dinner, or something else that will help you and keep them busy at the same time. If they complete their chores, you can institute a rewards system. You can bribe them with an allowance or toys, but you’re probably better off establishing a fun activity. For example, if everything on the list is checked off for the day, make tonight a movie night and have the kids pick something to watch while you treat them to some popcorn. Or, if they’ve behaved this month, take them to a fun place on a specific weekend. A to-do list will also give your partner some ideas on fun activities to do with the kids when they’re left to entertain them on their own.

Balancing work and family

“The goal of work-life balance is to remove your stress so you can focus on prioritizing those activities that make you happy,” say the authors at Forge.
 
Overall, working from home with kids can be a wonderful way to enjoy your family while they’re young. Work will always exist, but your kids are only small for a certain period of time, and before you know it, they’ll want to be out of the house, giving you plenty of time to indulge in your career later. Until then, implementing some simple boundaries, a schedule, and a space, can make a world of difference. By creating a specific routine, you can focus on your job and make your family happy at the same time. Similarly, communicating with your colleagues will go a long way. And don’t forget to involve your kids when you can, be it chores or distracting to-do’s.
 
Thanks to modern technology, anyone who works from home is surely grateful to do so, especially if they have kids. You can earn an income, stress less, and be around to help your youngsters with whatever they need, all while working remotely from the comfort of your own home. For more tips, check out this list of 4 Ways to Stay Productive When Working from Home.
 


Image Credits
Feature Image: Unsplash / Allen Taylor
All screenshots by author. Taken February 2019.
Image 1-4: via BigStockPhoto