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Parents see an advantage to spending more time at home. But they also find it challenging to stay focused on their tasks. It leads to chaos during dedicated working hours. And it can also be tough for some to “turn off” the office mindset when it’s time to hang out with family.
Working from home with kids is both an advantage and a challenge. Here’s how to balance spending time with your kids and getting your work done.
How to Work from Home With Kids
Set Up a Separate Office Space
A dedicated office space can be beneficial for pretty much anyone who telecommutes. But it’s absolutely essential if you’re going to be working from home with kids. Ideally, your space should be a separate room with a door that is not especially close to the parts of your home where your kids hang out.
Gina Horkey, founder of Horkey HandBook, an online training resource for virtual assistants, said in an email to Small Business Trends, “If your kids can see you, it’s natural for them to want to interact with you — talk to you, ask for your help or just stop for some snuggles. While that’s AH-MAZING, it can also make it hard to concentrate and stay focused on the task at hand. Research shows it takes a hot minute to get back into the swing of things after being disrupted.”
Many parents who work from home with kids think they can juggle both parenting and working at once by multitasking. But Horkey doesn’t believe this is a good strategy. And the research backs her up.
You’ll get more done if you outline times that are specifically for work and times that are specifically for family. If you can, create an actual calendar that separates what you focus on during which parts of the day. And if something comes up that needs your attention during the workday, just focus on that until the problem is solved, rather than trying to juggle multiple things at once.
Get Up Early
A big part of learning how to work from home with kids is finding a schedule that works for you. To avoid kid-related distractions during work, it can be beneficial for you to carve out times during the day when your kids are not actually around. For example, if they usually get up around 7 a.m., you can get a significant amount of work done by getting up at 5:30 a.m. It may not sound especially appealing, but those early hours can lead to prime productivity for parents.
Work During Naps and After Bedtime
It may also be beneficial for you to keep some non-traditional work hours later in the day. Allowing yourself to work after your kids go to bed can give you some distraction-free time to focus. And this allows you to really focus on family time without guilt earlier in the day.
If your kids take naps mid-day, you can also use that as an opportunity to get more work done. So avoid using that time to fold laundry or tackle household tasks that don’t require as much focus. You may be able to handle those while your kids eat or watch a movie instead.
Batch Tasks Strategically
Of course, if you’re finding small pockets of time to work throughout the day, you’ll need a good system for getting as much done during those periods as possible. Batching tasks can be beneficial in this area, because it requires less little switches in focus that can draw your attention away from the task at hand.
For example, if you have a two-hour period to work during nap time, use that to write all of your reports for the week. Then you can handle photo editing or another task after the kids go to bed so you’re only focused on one thing during each work period.
Create Specific Work Boundaries
On the other end of the spectrum, it can also be easy for parents to get distracted by work opportunities during times when they should be hanging with the family. To avoid this, choose specific times or occasions where work is strictly off limits. For example, Horkey says she has a rule about finishing work before dinner time. This allows her to sit with the family and enjoy some quality time. Then she can always pick it back up after bed time.
She says, “As a self-employed individual with a virtual business that serves customers worldwide, it’s hard not to work all of the time – the work is certainly there! But as we all know, it can severely cut into precious family time. And those little people grow up pretty fast!”
Turn Off Phone Notifications
One of the biggest roadblocks that entrepreneurs face today when attempting to separate work and home life is constant connection. Your phone can notify you right away when you get an email or a text from a colleague, even after-hours. If you want to spend quality time with your kids and save the work for actual work hours, turn those notifications off or put your phone on Do Not Disturb mode during dinner or family events.
Have Someone Around to Help
Every family has a different caregiver situation. In Horkey’s family, her husband stays home and takes care of the kids while she works from home. Of course, this doesn’t eliminate distractions completely, but it is important to have someone else around to provide care for young kids if you’re supposed to be working. This is especially important for those who are employees of outside businesses or those who charge hourly rates to clients — it’s not exactly fair to be charging someone for time when you’re also juggling your kids and not getting the optimal amount of work done.
If you don’t have a partner who is able to provide care during the day, then investing in day care or a nanny may be an option. You could also ask family or friends for help on occasion, or even trade child care with a friend or neighbor.
Set Up Playdates With Other Parents
In fact, you can carve out some extra work hours by connecting with other parents in your area to set up playdates. If they can watch your kid during working hours on occasion, that gives you some extra time to get things done without distractions. And you could pay them back later when they want to go out on a date night or something.
Horkey says, “This way one mom has a few hours per week to get some focused work done and the other has friends for their child to play with, disrupting their daily routine in the best way.”
Communicate Clearly with Your Kids
As your kids get older, you can also rely on them to keep your working boundaries secure. Sit them down and explain to them what you expect. If you need to work during certain hours, tell them they’re not to come into your office during that time unless it’s an emergency. If they need to keep noise levels down during conference calls, have them quietly work on homework during those times. Explain to them why it’s important for you to have that time to work so they understand.