For those who remote work normally and those new to the game, these are challenging times. Thanks to social distancing and quarantine protocols put into place as a result of the COVD-19 pandemic, many workers now find themselves with the challenges of remote working with kids at home. It can be difficult to navigate remote work on its own, especially if it’s new to you. Add kids to the mix and productivity can feel nearly impossible.
Create and stick to designated office hours.
Though it can be difficult to make children understand, explain to them that your remote work is just as important as work done out of the home and in a traditional office. Just as you would be away from the house from 9 AM to 5 PM if you worked elsewhere, tell your kids that you will be unavailable between designated office hours while you are working from home. This, of course, works best if you have a second adult to supervise your kids while you work, or if your children are old enough to generally look after themselves.
If you’ll be the only caregiver at home and your children require supervision, you can still create designated work times. Commit to working, say, from 9 AM to 11 AM. During that time, provide your kids with educational television shows, homework or other remotely assigned projects, games, and crafts. Be available in the event of an emergency, but make it clear that you will be working and should not be disturbed otherwise.
Work in one place.
To support your kids’ understanding of your need for space, set up a designated office area and use it solely for working. No matter if this is a formal work desk or a TV tray in the corner of your bedroom, this area is for your business-related tasks only. Children should be told not to touch your computer or any papers in this space, and if they see you here, they should not bother you (except, again, in the event of an emergency).
If you are fortunate enough to have a second caregiver available at home, swap supervisory hours with them. During the time that is designated for you to work, close the door to your office space. Ask your children and the other caregiver to imagine that you are not home when you are in that space and during those times.
Swap hours with another caregiver.
All of these suggestions are even more efficient, as noted, if you are privileged enough to have another caregiver available for your kids. Many spouses, partners, and adults who live with their parents have found themselves with more than one adult on hand to watch and care for their kids while quarantined or socially distanced.
Though it may be difficult for you both to work at the same times, arrange with your supervisors that you will work, say, from 5 AM to 3 PM. Perhaps your counterpart’s supervisor will agree to let them work from 3 PM to 11 PM. Alternatively, you could take turns, each working one four-hour chunk during normal business hours to ensure availability to coworkers and clients. Then, finish the rest of your work once the kids have gone to bed or during off-hours. Most people are navigating the same tricky waters at this difficult time, so it’s very likely that your clients and colleagues will understand.
Keep things neat and organized.
Be sure to keep your space clean and in good order. Don’t allow your kids to leave their toys, books, or craft supplies in your work space. Keep up the good example by putting away your coffee mugs, snack wrappers, and notepad when you’re done working. By staying organized, you will help yourself focus and remove some of the stress that comes from developing entirely new work processes at the drop of a hat.
Commit to family time.
If you’ve committed to set office hours while remote working with kids, know that it’s equally important to commit to family time. Whether that means ensuring you get a solid three hours together each evening before bedtime or that you’ll spend two hours in the middle of the day playing outside, it’s critical during these stressful times that you put family first. Your kids may be feeling the effects of changed routines in more ways than you know, so be there for them. Listen to their concerns, encourage healthy discourse, and, most importantly, be present to help them feel comfortable during a confusing period.
Use noise-cancelling headphones.
With children at home, it can be difficult to focus on your work. This is true even when the kids are quiet with their eyes glued to an episode of Sesame Street. Let’s face it–hearing Elmo sing the alphabet for the 100th time can be a bit grating.
If you don’t already have noise-cancelling headphones, buy some. They can mean the difference between a distracted afternoon of half-focus and low efficiency, and a productive work session where you knock everything off your to-do list. Worried you won’t be able to hear your children if they need you? Tell your little ones to tap you on the shoulder if there is an emergency, just in case you don’t hear them call.
If you are able to accomplish your work from the comfort of your patio or porch, do so. Give your kids some chalk, a ball to throw, or set them up on their bikes. Keep a watchful eye on the fun while you get down to business. The sun and fresh air will work wonders for a cluttered mind and help you all remember that this, too, shall pass.
For both you and your kids, staying healthy while socially distancing is essential. Meal plan and pre-portion healthy snacks, if possible, to ensure it’s easy to get nutrient-rich foods quickly at all points during the day. Fill water bottles for yourself and your kids each morning, and carry them with you wherever the day takes you, too, to be sure you stay hydrated. Plan a walk or to play outside on nice days. It’s important to stretch, get the blood flowing, and get fresh air every day, even as a remote worker.
Another way to stay healthy is to schedule nap or rest time for your kids. If they are too old for naps, request that they read a book and sit on the couch during quiet time. This can be a great window for you to get things done.
Create a time-blocking schedule.
To maximize your efficiency, use a time-blocking schedule. Batch similar tasks together for a more productive day, and plan to only answer emails or phone calls during set windows. Along the same lines, set aside time designated for helping your kids with homework or feeding them meals. It will ease your stress (and theirs) to know what’s coming at different points in the day. As you become more accustomed to your new normal, this schedule will be comforting for you all.
Use an activity list.
It’s no secret that kids easily get bored. Have them help you come up with a list of non-screen-time activities ahead of time, and point them to it the next time they’re bored. These activities can include listening to music and dancing, drawing, journaling feelings or daydreaming, reading books, cleaning a room, helping cook/bake, playing with specific toys (Legos, dolls, puzzles, etc.), playing board games, outside play (sports, tag, a walk, bikes, etc.). Ask your children to refer to their activity list before coming to you to say they’re bored.
When you do finally have quiet time to work, be sure to avoid distractions. Resist the temptation to text, check social media, or watch videos. After all, you never know how long your kids will be distracted by their homework or the craft project you’ve given them. Set a website blocker or turn your browser off, if need be, to help you avoid distractions. Convince yourself to keep going by committing to frequent breaks (say, 15 minutes every hour).
Work after bedtime.
No matter your best-laid plans, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with work to finish at the end of the day. Some days, your plans and schedules will pay off in a major way, but children are unpredictable, and there are bound to be days where things just don’t work out the way you hoped. Be flexible and prepared to deal with the unexpected. Work ahead if you can so that an efficient day doesn’t throw you off your deadlines completely.
When all else fails, plan to work after you’ve put your children to bed. Set a timer so that you don’t stay up all night working and risk exhaustion the next day. Get as much done as you can in whatever window you give yourself, and then call it a day. Turn off your laptop and don’t check your email until the morning.
Though remote working with kids can be challenging, it is very doable, and you may even find that you enjoy it. We hope you find these tips useful as you settle into your new normal.
Galileo Tech Media believes in a flexible, remote workforce. Our team interacts seamlessly amongst itself from all over the world under normal circumstances, and are adept at helping clients with SEO needs. We use a variety of remote working tools and are in constant communication to ensure the highest quality work product. We are committed to maintaining this commitment to quality and to flexible, remote work during this time of social distancing and quarantine. We will continue to be available to our clients in the same way as we are normally, and we look forward to assisting with their SEO needs. We expect no interruptions in service to our clients during this time, as our business model is fully remote already.