How to manage working at home with the kids?



I admit it.  We don’t have kids.  But I can tell you that after running my own business for many years from home and living with my husband, whose own separate business is also home based, I have learned a lesson or two about working and living in close quarters with a family member for an extended period of time.  

For the children aspect, I am glad to share my insights learned by observing young families in similar situations.

Here are my 5 tips for working at home with family membêrs

1) Designate purposes for rooms or shared spaces 

You’ve got to look at your home with a new perspective, especially if you have limited space and both partners need to work full or part-time from home.  Assess objectively what the requirements are for each person. 

For example, if one or both of you are often talking on the phone, then working in separate rooms is best.  No matter what rooms you use: Just do it!  However, it is feasible to work in the same room if both of you have work that involves only reading/writing tasks.

Two such compatible jobs could be accounting and web design work.  But if we consider a sales person and a teacher working in the same room, then no! Don’t!.  You’re going to need your separate work spaces and areas.  Resources, books and files should be easily accessible to those who need it and at the same time not create an eye sore for the other.

Keep in mind, a sensible solution could simply involve moving tables or bookshelves in and out of different rooms. Doing so can transform your space in ways you may have never thought of before.

Also consider storing items that you don’t regularly need into your storage room to gain extra space. Now is also a good time to do your spring-cleaning and take things to Hagenholz or a recycling center.  To remain hygienic and safe, donating your possessions may not be the wisest choice at this time.

Lastly, don’t feel bad if you start out working in the same room as your mate and realize afterwards it’s really best to separate.  Be pragmatic and make it clear why you’d like to try something different. Most likely they will see your point when the new working arrangement improves their ability to concentrate, too.

With children?

Where children are concerned, you may need to get very creative.  A friend of mine transformed part of their living room into a mini-school room/play area for their 2-year old.  They couldn’t use the living room as an office room but it seemed to be a magical area where her daughter could play hours on end

I’ve also just learned my neighbour who has 3 children must now also work from home. The solution he has found is to use the apartment building’s attic to work from so his 1-year old and 3-year old daughters think he’s away at work.  Otherwise, they just wouldn’t understand why he is not paying attention to them. Luckily, his wife is a stay-at-home mom and is taking care of the kids as she usually does.

Not everyone will need to take such drastic measures.  As previously mentioned, when it comes to working with kids at home, you may consider renting a hobby room.  If that’s not possible, you could come to agreement to decide that you’ll spend the morning taking care of the children while your partner works and then switch roles in the afternoon. 

2) Determine “time zones”

Now, this is a tough rule that I have for myself and wish my husband would follow, too.  I enjoy having a clear “end of a working day”.  So when I watch TV in the living room, i.e. “his sometimes office”, I am not reminded of work.  This is hard for me when I can see him sitting at his computer often until bedtime working against a deadline only he has set for himself.

The upside to working from home is that you may be able to take a longer break during the day and work more in the early morning or evening. You may want to retreat into the bedroom or kitchen to not disturb the other(s) when you need “alone time”. This isn’t your corporate office.  Doing a little cleaning or cooking makes for a great break. Then get straight back to work. Keeping a to do list helps to maintain discipline.

Decide for yourself when work time is and coordinate shared time with your partner.  This may change day to day. Remain flexible to work around a conference call or stressful deadlines to meet.

But in the end, you do need to shut off. And so, literally shut your office door, if you have one, when your work day is officially over.  Respecting a set time to stop will help you turn your office back into your home.

3) Relax and unwind together

These are special times: We are not allowed to gather in large groups and we may even feel anxious seeing 1 or 2 friends. Enjoying a walk in the fresh air with family or on our own will be some of the most cherished time of all – because it can offer a sense of freedom and hope. 

Being outdoors is where young children can release pent-up energy and give them a chance to run around and make some noise.  Take a walk in the woods, do a bit of yoga, stretching or running.  Keeping your body fit will keep your mind fit, too.  

In contrast, it may be difficult to get your older children to go outside with you.  They may even try to sneak out of the house to visit friends while you may be gone for a while. Each family will have their challenges. Make sure they clearly understand the consequences of their actions. Making it clear that it is a temporary solution should help and need to know that having them stay in their own room while work hours are on will also be important for them to get on board with.  Allowing them to spend more time on the phone or playing games could help, with parental controls set up

Of course for those families who may have all contracted the virus, going outside won’t be an option available to you.  Having meals together or enjoying a break together, even if it’s to just watch TV, does help reduce boredom and monotony of working all day and helps to keep the family bond strong. 

Take the time, too, to see what new hobbies or interests they may be able to develop while housebound. Encourage each other to cherish this special time given as a way to strengthen healthy habits and develop life skills they will find useful in the future. Teach your children how to cook, clean, sew, repair a bike or do some gardening.  You have been given now a gift of time with your loved ones.  Doing something active as a family will help you to remain positive.

4) Take turns 

As both of you will be at home now and no one will be able to go out to a restaurant for lunch where everything is planned. There will be meals that need to prepared.  We all know that sometimes at work, we work over lunchtime eating sandwiches or a salad in 15 minutes and sometimes at our desk.  

A change in eating habits is very likely to occur.  When it is difficult to know when you can break for lunch, think of easy meals that don’t take too long to prepare and allow each other to eat when they want. 

Others may feel keeping to a strict schedule is best.  Talk about what is important for you so that the other is aware of your needs and preferences.  Work out a meal time and solution that is convenient for all. 

This leads to the point of sharing tasks. Everyone of course is different. But I have to say that I am grateful when my husband can take over some cooking duties for me when I want to work when he wants to eat.  Be honest with yourself and your partner about what days you may need to help out with household duties. And that goes for taking care of the children, too. Work as a team so that resentment does not build up and arguing remains at a minimum.

5) Stay in touch with friends 

Not having to commute to work each day or having the chance to work without your make-up or wearing a suit may sound great at first.  But the concept of living and working 24/7 with your family members is a completely other challenge:  very similar to what people experience when they first retire

Stay in touch with friends and family outside of your home.  Share with one another your stories and advice. Keep connected with someone outside of your home will help you to.  Remember this situation too shall pass.  We will all hopefully learn something from it.  Let’s be there for one another in this time of need

In closing, I wish all of you to stay safe.  Wash your hands often.  Keep away from crowds and follow all the advice the experts are sharing.  May your family members and friends stay healthy: both mentally and physically.  And God bless.

Anything to share? Perhaps about your own experiences during this time?  

We’d be happy if you shared them with us in the comment box below.

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