How to Work From Home With Kids
Without the right strategies, working from home with kids can turn a career many can only dream of into a nightmare. Today’s article gives 11 tips to help today’s stay-at-home parents stay productive, even with kids around the house.
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In this article:
- Work From Home Tips for Managing Yourself
- Work from Home Tips for Managing the Kids
- Work from Home Tips for Managing Work
Working from Home with Kids: Tips for the Stay-at-Home Dad or Stay-at-Home Mom
Work from Home Tips for Managing Yourself
1. Set Realistic Expectations of Children
The first thing work-from-home parents need to accept is that your kids, especially if they’re younger, will disturb you. After all, they’re kids, and their parents are their primary source of attention and care.
By accepting this reality, you can find effective solutions and prepare ahead of time. Continuing to set unrealistic expectations (e.g. they can behave perfectly and be left alone) just impedes productivity.
2. Plan Strategically
If you don’t plan your work-from-home workdays, it’s easy to fall prey to curveballs and unproductivity.
Curveballs are inevitable. The only question is their frequency and impact.
If you have young kids, they’re the first curveball you’ll have to deal with (and more often than not, deal with frequently). That’s why any sound work-from-home plan needs to include how to manage them.
Another thing to consider when planning work days is time margin, such as if you’ll need extra time to complete a certain task. It’s not a good idea to give just enough time to finish a task because curveballs delay subsequent tasks, too.
Instead, allow extra time for completing a task just to ensure curveballs won’t affect other tasks in the pipeline. If a task can be finished in one hour, for example, allot an hour and a half as margin.
Finally, consider strategically scheduling similar or related tasks within the same time block. This can help keep the momentum going and maximize your productivity.
For example, schedule groceries right before picking up the kids from school in the afternoon instead of before lunch. That way, work disruption can be minimized.
3. Be Flexible
Being disciplined and focused is different from being stubborn and foolish. While people who are disciplined and focused on working from home sticks to what they need to do, they don’t force situations that are unproductive, inefficient, or worse, dangerous.
For example, a person working from home with kids can persevere and focus on work the entire day. But when one of the kids get sick, he or she takes a break from work to take care of the sick child and compensate by moving their work schedule accordingly by:
- Staying up late that night to compensate for lost productivity during the day;
- Wake up earlier the next day to deal with unfinished tasks because of a sick child that needed care; or
- Work on the weekend to catch up on unfinished business.
On the other hand, a foolish and stubborn person will most likely focus on finishing a task first. He or she lets the sick child wait unattended because of extreme focus, discipline, and dedication to work.
Just remember: Flexibility should be used as a fire extinguisher — only under extremely important situations. Being too flexible results in procrastinating, lack of discipline, unproductivity, and becoming unfocused.
4. Outsource Child Care
The best way to be optimally productive while working from home with kids is to enlist the help of other people. The best people to ask for help are retired parents, siblings, and relatives.
If they’re not available to help and the budget allows for it, consider getting a nanny or a babysitter.
One way to find out if it’s feasible or practical is by comparing the babysitter or nanny’s hourly rate with your estimated hourly income. If the hourly income is greater than the nanny’s or sitter’s hourly rate, hiring them makes financial sense.
5. Reward Yourself
Working hard and smart is crucial for successfully working from home with kids. However, doing so for a long period without something to look forward to can lead to burnout.
Rewarding yourself motivates you to power through those difficult working-from-home days. More than providing a push, rewards motivate and make a person want to accomplish goals instead of forcing them to do it.
“Want” is a better sustainer of personal productivity than “forced.” Self-rewards are the best way to “want” to continue being productive while working at home with kids.
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Work from Home Tips for Managing the Kids
6. Talk to Them
If the children are old enough to understand, try to talk to them about the work-from-home situation. Tell them about the need for their cooperation, particularly about giving mom or dad enough leeway while working at home.
In any work-from-home setup, the ideal scenario is when the kids cooperate with the parent. This eliminates the need for outside help and minimizes the working parent’s need to make significant adjustments to his or her working schedule.
7. Practice With Them
More is caught than taught. This is especially true of young children.
To help young children learn to behave accordingly during working hours, the stay-at-home working parent must practice ideal situations with them, which may include:
- When the child enters the parent’s working room while the mom or dad’s typing work on the computer;
- While the parent is talking to a client or prospect via Skype or Viber and the toddler enters the workspace; or
- When the child wants milk while mom or dad is working on an important task.
As the saying goes, practice doesn’t make perfect, but it helps develop mastery. Practicing the ideal working from home scenarios can eventually help work from home parents teach their young kids to cooperate.
8. Reward Them for Cooperating
In general, children do things out of pleasure. With this in mind, one of the best ways to get them to cooperate is giving rewards.
To get an idea of what may work for your kids, it’s best to look at their interests. Rewarding them with tickets to see a Harry Potter movie won’t work if they’re big Star Wars fans.
9. Spend Regular Quality Time with Them
Kids will be kids. One way they live this out is by trying to seek or vie for their parents’ attention.
When kids don’t get enough attention or quality time from their parents, it will be hard to keep them at bay while working from home. If you want your kids to cooperate while working from home, make sure to spend lots of quality time with them outside of working hours.
When parents do that, the chances are high that their kids feel emotionally full. When they always feel that way, it’s less likely they’ll pester you during “office” hours.
Work from Home Tips for Managing Work
10. Dedicate a Specific Area of the House for Work
Your working environment is a big work productivity factor. This is especially true for those who are working-from-home with kids.
Some of the most important characteristics of a work area that’s conducive for work productivity include:
- Ample lighting
- Ergonomically-optimal table and chair
The most important among these factors is privacy. You can’t guarantee productivity if you can’t focus, and a lack of privacy makes it hard to do just that.
That’s why it’s important to dedicate a particular area of the house for work. The dining table or the living room are some of the worst places to work because those are open to everyone.
For those working from home with kids, it may be impractical to work in isolation, especially if you don’t have childcare help.
For this, a good compromise is to dedicate a specific area for work that provides enough privacy, but at the same time, allows you to keep an eye on the young children.
For example, your dedicated workspace can be in the corner of one of the rooms in the house. You can set-up a playpen for a toddler in the same room.
11. Go Offline During Work Hours
This is one of the best personal productivity tactics best-selling author Cal Newport taught in his book Deep Focus. Sometimes, the biggest work distractions faced by those working from home with kids don’t come from the children, but from social media, emails, and personal messaging apps.
To strike a good balance, consider using the Pomodoro Technique when working from home. The Pomodoro Technique involves working in 30-minute cycles.
- In the Pomodoro Technique, a 25-minute work period is followed by a mandatory five-minute break. This makes one Pomodoro work cycle.
- On every fourth cycle, the break extends to 10 minutes.
The purpose of taking mandatory breaks after every 25 minutes of work is to delay the onset of mental fatigue. If one rests only after feeling mentally fatigued, full recovery is highly unlikely, and productive working times are shortened.
You can go online during breaks. Doing so can help rejuvenate your mind and spirit without impeding personal productivity.
Working from home with kids is a two-edged sword. With these 11 tips, you can do it right and reap the financial and emotional rewards of a work-from-home career.
Do you have kids and work from home and if so, how do you stay productive without neglecting them? Let us know in the comments section below!