Whether you have a full-time home office or are working from home temporarily while the kids are out of school for the summer, it’s likely you’re juggling competing demands. Between making snacks and refereeing arguments, it’s still possible to be productive while working with young kids at home.
Here are some tips from those who have done it on how to work from home and maintain your productivity and your sanity:
Batch your work activities
It’s unrealistic to think you’ll be able to get in a solid eight-hour workday when you’re working with kids at home. You likely won’t have an hour straight at any point during the kids’ waking hours to concentrate on a task. Katelyn Patton, a “chaos management coach” with Yellow Rose Management and mom to three kids under the age of six, organizes her workday into 10- to 30-minute chunks, since that’s the amount of time her children can be entertained by a single activity.
“This is a quick and easy place to look at when you have a pocket of time and will keep you from wasting your time trying to figure out what to do,” says Patton. Her 10-minute list includes things such as writing a social media post, while her 30-minute list includes writing a weekly newsletter.
Work around kids’ activity patterns
When creating a schedule for the day, consider when your kids have the most energy and plan your work in accordance with their activity levels. Violette de Ayala, founder & CEO of FemCity and mom of three, does most of her work during the morning hours, when her kids are calmer and content reading or watching videos while she works. “In the afternoon they would turn into wild beasts with energy,” she says. Adjusting her routine to get all of her work done in the morning means she can take the afternoons off to spend with the kids.
Keep expectations in check
Having a plan for work is only great if you let your clients and coworkers know about your work schedule. To avoid clients getting upset if she doesn’t respond to an email within 10 minutes in the middle of the day when her kids are most active, Patton created a “How I Work” document that she sends to every client describing her office hours, turnaround and response times, and priorities.
“I’m open about why I build my business. I’m building this so I can be home with my kids while supporting my family. It’s on my website and in a lot of my social media posts, videos, and conversations,” says Patton. She says explaining this means her clients aren’t surprised when a kid pops up on the screen during a video call.
Kids get bored easily. Do you ever notice that a new toy can suddenly capture their attention? You don’t need to buy new toys every day to accomplish this feeling. Pull out some of their old toys when you have a work activity scheduled, such as a conference call or something that requires your full attention.
Create a parent co-op
For days when you just have too much on your plate to balance kids and work activities, de Ayala recommends creating a working-parents co-op. A parenting co-op typically consists of two to five parents who take turns watching each others’ kids while the others get some child-free time to work. To make the most of this situation, try to find parents who have kids around the same ages as yours. The kids get a playdate, and you get a child-free block of time to work.
Involve your kids in work
Work and kids can coexist. “My son was the mail guy at my business for years,” says Shaunda Necole, a business coach and founder of Get Your Name Out There Magic Marketing. If they’re old enough, find small tasks for your kids to help you with, whether that’s packaging a client gift or putting stamps on envelopes. Involving your kids in day-to-day tasks not only helps prevent boredom but teaches them about responsibility too.