Summer breaks are great, aren’t they? Surely you’re not too old to remember how you spent a few weeks out of school, swimming, hiking, or riding bicycles with your friends around the neighborhood! You may reminisce on Summer as a great pastime before adulthood took over and you worked most of the year consistently, but you may see it a little differently now. More than likely, when you were a child, if a parent was at home, they weren’t working. Technology has changed that (for the better, in most cases) so today’s youth may see it in another light. If you’re home, it means you’re available, right?
Eh, not so fast. The ability to work remotely from the comfort and familiarity of your home has a ton of benefits, including more family time. But this can be an issue when kids are out of school from illness, or holiday breaks, and you are still expected to work. While kids do understand limits (or, at least may be currently learning them), it can be difficult to enforce those boundaries and still feel productive like when your time is uninterrupted. They say interruptions are the death of progress, but there are ways to help minimize those distractions. Let’s dive into ways to make your life easier when working remotely with kids at home.
- Talk to your Boss. The main step to managing this situation is to make sure your boss is aware of what’s going on. You don’t want them thinking you’re off galavanting doing whatever else besides work all day. Make sure you explain to your boss that you care very much about the work you do, and you may need a more flexible schedule to ensure your work has your undivided attention as much as possible, but that may mean little ones are taken care of, first. Make sure you listen to their concerns and set up a plan to check in on your progress.
- Talk to your Family. If you have a partner, make sure they understand what your needs are to make your day successful, especially if they’re also working from home. If your kids are old enough to understand, also have a chat with them. Let them know what working from home means for you, and that you’re not available every minute of the day, but that they can come to you for urgent situations. Talk to them about how they can be a big help to the family by following the rules you put in place to structure the day.
- Routine is King! You are well aware that having kids means you usually have a routine. Younger kids especially benefit from knowing what to expect throughout the day. Make sure your schedule is visually displayed in a way that they can understand, and easily see what they should be doing and when. Sticking to that schedule as much as possible will help things like nap time or down time in general become a habit, which means more time for you to concentrate.
- Self Sufficiency is Key! It’s also important not to micromanage, letting kids govern themselves a bit (within reason). Make sure they have access to pre-portioned snacks where they can reach them, or a list of activities that are acceptable for them to do while you’re busy. An art center with access to crayons and paper, or tactile building kits to let them safely harness their imagination is as important for development as it is for their independence. A healthy dose of encouraging them to entertain themselves benefits everyone.
- Visual Cues. Along the lines of self governance, make sure you have visual cues you can use to indicate when you are unavailable due to work. A color coded sign on your office door, or on the kitchen table, is a great way to let them know at a glance whether or not they can approach. However, you have to hold yourself accountable. If you have a “Do Not Disturb” sign (in kid friendly terms, of course) and you respond to their interruptions, you’ll only encourage it more.
- Mini-Breaks. Make sure to take mini-breaks throughout your day to let your kids know you’re there and you see them. It can be ten minutes in between meetings to make sure they’re set up to succeed in their next hour of independent time, or some quick snuggles so they receive a little extra attention. This is great for you, as well!
- Follow through with Work Commitments. Make sure you hold yourself accountable for following up with your coworkers on outstanding commitments you may have. If you’ve said you will get back to them in an hour, make sure that happens (or that you start giving yourself time to be successful as much as possible). Most of the time, teams are understanding as long as they feel you are communicating well and they’re not stuck wondering when you’re available.
Overall, as intimidating as it may seem, you can successfully work from home while your kids are there, as well, but make sure you give yourself room to explore what works for you. You may have to try a few different things, but when it clicks, you’ll be glad you did.