It wasn’t so long ago that we all longed to have a work from home job. It was the holy grail of flexible employment. What we didn’t expect was having to it with kids … and possibly home schooling.
Welcome to life in a pandemic.
Gone are the notions of sipping coffee from the comfort of home while you work through your emails before hanging out the washing. Instead, it’s a precarious balance between caring for your kids (possibly educating them), keeping your boss happy and retaining a semblance of sanity.
I’ve worked from home for a long time. From when my kids were young and cute but needy, through to juggling teens and lockdown (no mean feat), all whilst running my business from the corner of my bedroom.
For this reason, I’m going to share five of my top tips that you may not have thought of to successfully manage this work from home gig.
And, in case you’re wondering who I am …
I’m Lucy, a single mum and the founder of the website you are on. I spend my time helping other single mums embrace independence, redefine their paths and be the best they can be, all whilst being brilliant single mums.
You can get more in-depth, personalised support from my “You’ve Got This” Single Mum eCourse, which has already been downloaded by 2k+ single mums.
WORKING FROM HOME WITH KIDS
EASE INTO A ROUTINE
Yes, we all know how important a routine is, and whilst I agree, I recommend not being too regimented … at first.
If you have been thrust into lockdown suddenly, don’t start laying down new house rules immediately. Check-in on your kids, make sure they are ok. Check-in on yourself and give yourself space to take it all in.
For a three-day lockdown, we don’t have a routine and it’s a nice break from the norm. If lockdown extends, then it’s time to consider what you need to do to make this work longer term.
Our lives are usually governed by routines, so use this time to take a break from them. Not only that, if you’ve had few days of brekkie in front of the telly, late dinners and movie marathons, your family might be more open to the structure of a new routine.
REARRANGE YOUR HOME … A LITTLE
If home is no longer just a home but needs to function as a school (or daycare facility) and workplace, change will be needed.
The two most important factors are safety for younger kids and productivity for yourself and older kids.
Beds are for sleeping in, not for schoolwork or for doing your 9 to 5.
Everyone needs a “space” for education, work, or play for younger kids. Think kitchen worktop or dining table. Pull a camping table out of the garage or even buy a cheap desk online, you can sell it later when it’s served its purpose.
To fit everything in may require moving a bit of furniture. Please be careful and don’t do your back in.
This effort will pay off practically as everyone has their own “work” place. You might also find that the visual difference marks this new phase.
QUALITY KID TIME = QUALITY WORK TIME
However many children you have and whatever their ages, having quality time together is beneficial to everyone. Yes, even teens.
Don’t lock yourself away in your work room and hope the kids will be ok. Spending time with them affords you better quality work time.
With young children it’s like a “get what you give” scheme. For example, if you spend 30-minutes giving them your undivided attention, they will feel loved and content enough to allow you to do a couple of hours work.
For older kids, make sure you get them out of their room for mealtimes and aim for a conversation or just be with them. This will break up the monotony of their day and, although they may not show it, make them feel cared for in troubled times.
I don’t need to tell a nation of lockdowners, the importance of social interactions. Most kids live for their social worlds, so it’s extremely hard when they are whipped away.
For your youngsters, getting them socialising online can have it’s bonuses.
Set them up with an appropriate video calling app and arrange times for them to talk to family members and their friends. Think of it like online childcare
They can play online games together and have fun with filters. It’s enjoyable, it’s social and, most importantly, it’s stress-free work time for you.
Yet, another added bonus of this is that it can really help other people who are in lockdown and need the company.
Further reading: 10 Parental control apps to keep your child safe online.
THE “BUTTERFLY” RULE
Working from home can get tricky when you have lots to do and you need to concentrate. And then there’s the team video calls where you need to look engaged and professional.
Fear not, I have a plan.
For years, when I can simply not be interrupted from my work, I have a little glittery butterfly that I Blu-Tack onto my bedroom door. If the butterfly is on the door, my kids know never to come in.
The trick with this is not to abuse it! Only do it when you really can’t be disturbed. Your kids will get used to it and respect your privacy at that time.
Another tip around work from home and video calling: Make sure you check your camera before connecting to your meeting. I once had a Zoom meeting and suddenly realised my oldest granny bra was in-view hanging over a door handle. The shame of it …