If you’re looking for tips to help you figure out how to work from home with kids, we’ve got you covered.
I am writing this post two weeks into the 2020 pandemic that has forced schools across the globe to close indefinitely and parents everywhere are scrambling to figure out how to WFM effectively while simultaneously entertaining and homeschooling their kids. It’s been nothing short of overwhelming. But as we slowly adjust to our new reality, I have been drawing from all of the tips and tricks I’ve learned in the 5+ years I’ve been a work-at-home mom.
Whether you’re in the trenches with me during the pandemic, or you’ve found this in easier, happier times and need tips for occasional school closures due to weather, sick days, and school holidays, I hope these hacks help.
How to Work From Home with Kids
1. ACCEPT THAT IT WON’T BE EASY
Before we dive into my best tips to help you work from home with kids, I wanted to take a moment to remind you to ditch the notion that this is going to be smooth sailing. While some days may be easier than others, the reality is that working from home with little kids running around is quite challenging. As much as I like to approach things with a positive attitude, I think it’s important to set realistic expectations so you can plan accordingly. It’s always better to underpromise and overdeliver, right?!
2. PLAN AND PREPARE
There are so many helpful tips and hacks to help you work from home with kids, and after 5+ years as a work-at-home mom, I’d say the most helpful thing you can do for yourself and your family is to ensure you start each day with a plan of action so you can be more intentional with your time. Whether you’re dealing with a sick day, snow day, or you’re reading this real time in the middle of the 2020 pandemic, sketching out a rough plan the night before can be incredibly helpful in giving your day a little structure. Identify times you need to focus on important calls and deadlines, and organize a few activities your children can do independently during this time. I find it helpful to write my plan on a chalkboard so that my daughter knows what to expect the day to look like, and find that the more upfront planning I do, the more organized and in control I feel.
3. MANAGE YOUR ENERGY PROPERLY
When I was first trying to figure out how to work from home with kids, one of the best tips I was given was to learn how to manage my energy effectively. The idea is to pinpoint when you are at your most productive, and then organize your schedule such that you can take advantage of that time to tackle your most important tasks. Pay attention to the times during the day when your kids are better able to entertain themselves, and try to organize your most pressing activities during that time. You may also find it helpful to get up before your kids to focus on items that require you to concentrate, and many people use the evening hours to catch up on mindless tasks like emails and administrative stuff.
4. SIMPLIFY YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE
As working parents, we all have ONE THING we struggle with most throughout the day. Whether it’s lack of time, tired children, or a dog that needs to be walked, there are almost always things we can do to make these issues easier. The challenge is finding the motivation to change! If you’re trying to figure out how to work from home with kids, make a note of the things that cause you the most stress throughout the day, and be honest with yourself about how you can streamline things to make your life smoother and more efficient. Commit to an earlier bedtime, delegate tasks to others, hire a dog walker…there are tons of options available if you’re willing to think outside the box!
5. RELAX ON RULES
While I’m a huge fan of consistency when it comes to enforcing the rules that govern our home, I think it’s important for parents to maintain perspective when they’re trying to figure out how to work from home with kids. This has been especially important to me during the 2020 pandemic, but even on school holidays I find myself allowing more screen time and picking and choosing my battles differently to help keep the peace. You will obviously need to do what works best for you and your family, but remember that desperate times call for desperate measures and don’t be afraid to relax on certain rules if it will make your life a little easier.
6. PRIORITIZE ONE-ON-ONE TIME
Before you decide I’ve completely lost my mind for recommending that you pencil in one-on-one time with your kids when you’re already holed up inside with them for an extended period of time, rest assured there’s a method to my madness. One of the best parenting hacks that makes it possible for me to work from home with kids is to set aside regular intervals throughout the day to spend time together. It can be so easy to get sucked into all of your work-related tasks, but if you proactively fill your little one’s bucket, he or she won’t have to act out in order to get your attention.
I find it especially helpful to set aside 15 minutes prior to an important phone call or work task to ensure I’m meeting my daughter’s need for connection, and since she’s older and can tell time, I set her up with an independent activity for however much time I need afterwards, with the promise that we will do something together at the end of that time block. Keep in mind that this doesn’t need to be complicated – it just needs to be deliberate. Play a game, read a book, grab a snack together, or just sit and talk for 20 minutes.
There are so many simple ways you can squeeze quality time into your day, and we have 75 ideas to inspire you right here!
7. GET YOUR KIDS MOVING!
Unless your kids are home because they aren’t feeling well, make sure you are providing them with ample time to move their body and get their wiggles out throughout the day. Whether it’s running around in the backyard, throwing an impromptu dance party in your kitchen, bouncing a balloon back and forth to each other, or doing a few yoga poses, providing your little one regular brain breaks will result in improved attention and focus, increased retention of material being learned (if you’re simultaneously trying to homeschool them), improved emotional regulation, reduced behavioral problems, improved gross motor skills, increased motivation, increased inclusion and cooperation, etc. CLICK HERE for some of our favorite brain breaks for kids!
8. WORK IN BATCHES
‘Batching’ involves grouping relevant tasks together and tackling them in one go, rather than splitting them up over the course of a few days, and it can do wonders for your productivity. Many people already work in batches in their working life, but it can be highly effective in your personal life as well. If you’re trying to figure out how to work from home with kids, set aside a block of time each evening to take care of mindless tasks – cleaning, laundry, organizing doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, meal prep, etc. – so you aren’t constantly borrowing time needed for more important tasks several times throughout the day.
As moms, we have a tendency to try and do everything ourselves. It’s just in our nature to do this, and as much as we love having control over every facet of our lives – and the lives of our children – learning how to let go and allow others to take care of the little things is essential to our well-being, especially when we’re struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance. If you constantly feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day and you’re trying to figure out how to work from home with kids, assign age-appropriate chores (we’ve written an entire post on this topic, which you can read HERE), outsource the things you don’t have time for, and don’t feel an ounce of guilt about it!
10. NEVER TOUCH ANYTHING TWICE
I read a productivity hack a while ago called the ‘Touch It Once’ technique and it has been a life-changer. The idea is that once you ‘touch’ a task, you deal with it then and there so it’s taken off your plate, rather than ‘touching’ it multiple times and allowing it to take up extra energy and mental space. Of course, you can’t always complete a task through to completion the moment you ‘touch’ it, in which case you should make a firm decision on next steps and act on them to keep things moving forward. If you’re looking for ways to work more efficiently with your kids at home, give this trick a try!
11. KEEP LISTS
Whether you find it difficult to stay on top of things and/or struggle with regular feelings of overwhelm with all that’s on your plate, keeping a running ‘to do’ list can make a huge difference in helping you feel in control, especially when you’re trying to work from home with kids running around. I have 3 lists I maintain on a daily basis – HOME, SCHOOL, and WORK – and I set a reminder in my calendar at the beginning and end of the day to consult each list so I can add anything new, cross off the items I’ve completed, and prioritize the ones that need my attention. Give it a try!
12. TURN OFF DISTRACTIONS
From checking social media, to catching up on the news, to responding to emails and text messages, and everything in between, there are tons of little things we do over and over again throughout the day that add up over time and get in the way of our productivity. If this sounds like you, consider cutting off access to these things when you need to focus. Close your email program and internet browser and put your phone on airplane mode to help you resist temptation.
13. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
My final tip for those who are trying to figure out how to work from home with kids is to give yourself grace. It isn’t easy juggling the demands of children, a household, and a full-time job, and some days will be better than others. During those moments when it feels like everything is falling apart and you are failing at all of it, go easy on yourself and remember that every day is a chance to start fresh!
If you are trying to work from home with kids, I hope this collection of tips proves useful to you. Remember to plan ahead, manage your energy properly, simplify your biggest challenges, relax on rules, keep lists, delegate, and never touch anything twice!