The COVID-19 pandemic has turned many of our homes into our office, gym, conference room and break room. If you have children, your home might also now be a classroom as well. Virtual learning has become a reality for many households, which can pose a challenge for parents and guardians who have their own work to do.
Fortunately, virtual instruction will keep children occupied for several hours during the day, but what happens when school’s out and there’s still time left in your workday? Or if you have younger children who aren’t in school yet? Don’t worry, there are ways to manage—here are five ways to handle working from home with children.
Find Activities Your Children Can Do On Their Own
What are some things your children currently do that don’t require you to be in the same room with them? Encourage these activities to keep them occupied while you’re finishing your work. Turn on their favorite music and let them have a dance party. Have them start a game of hide and seek (your work area being off limits of course!), use items around the house to build an obstacle course or blow up a balloon so they can play volleyball without the fear of breaking anything.
Your older children should be able to entertain themselves. If they need a nudge however, encourage them to read a non-school book that interests them, write a story or take part in an online game that lets them connect with their friends.
If it’s safe to do so, you can also send your children outside to get some fresh air. They can play some sort of sport or just run around the yard.
Interruptions can easily derail your workday. Let your children know that you’re not to be disturbed when you’re working. There always exceptions like emergencies, but for the most part you need to stick to whatever ground rules you’ve set when it comes to your availability when you’re working. Some ways to set this boundary are to announce that no one’s to come in when your office door is shut or post an “I’m working” sign outside of whatever part of the house you’re conducting business. Let your children know that you’ll check in with them after you complete a task, but they have to wait until then or solve their issue on their own.
Manage Your Expectations
You likely won’t get as much work done during the day as you would at the office, even if your children are in school and you set boundaries. If you realize that sooner than later, it will decrease the amount of frustration you feel if or when tasks aren’t completed in a timely manner. Be upfront with your supervisors and colleagues (who might be going through the same thing) and let them know your productivity might not match your in-office levels. You should also warn co-workers that you cannot guarantee interruption-free conference calls on your end.
Your home situation might also not allow you to work the traditional 9-to-5. Figure out and share what part of the day you’ll be most available. Making this determination will help set your supervisors’ expectations, allow colleagues to determine when are the best times to schedule meetings and let your team gauge how much work you can realistically complete at any given time.
Consider Relaxing Screen-Time Rules
It’s healthy to limit how much screen time your children have each day—under normal circumstances. These aren’t normal circumstances however, so it’s probably not the end of the world to let you children play an extra game or watch another show if you’re trying to meet a deadline. That’s not to say your children should be allowed to use their devices every free moment they have. Just a 30-minute to one-hour extension could be all you need to finish your work for the day uninterrupted. If you’re concerned your child might take advantage of this extra screen time, look for mobile applications that you can install to restrict what apps they can use and for how long.
Ask For Help
Think of who’s available to help you keep your children entertained while you’re working. If you’re part of a two-parent or -guardian household, you and your partner can take turns working and helping out your children when needed. Is there a significant age gap between your children? You could also ask the older ones to help their younger siblings with their homework or to make snacks for them.
This could also be a good time for children to connect via virtual visit with those they haven’t seen in a while. A video chat with grandparents, aunts, uncles or even friends is another way to keep the kids occupied while you’re finishing your work. Videoconferencing platforms are also a great place to set up virtual play dates for your younger children and their friends.
Trying to work with your children in the house might seem like the most challenging task in the world. It can be done as long as you have a solid strategy in hand. If you explain what you expect of your children during this time, be honest with your colleagues about how much you can get done during the day and you are willing to be flexible, you will have a good chance of making this situation work.
By Joe Dyton