How to work from home when you have children

Lydia SmithWriter, Yahoo Finance UK
Yahoo Finance UK
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Working from home isn’t always easy, particularly when there are so many temptations to procrastinate.  

For parents, however, there is nothing more distracting than trying to work alongside bored children who aren’t able to go to school, leave the house or see friends. 

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People across the UK are now working from home as part of a series of stringent measures to help stop the spread of coronavirus. For people with kids, this means juggling work and childcare at the same time, in the same place - which can seem impossible. 

So is there anything you can do to make things a little easier? 

Speak to other parents 

“Firstly, remember that a huge number of people are in the same boat as you,” says Jackie Mordue, regional managing director at the recruitment and HR company Hays

“Reaching out to friends, family or co-workers could be hugely beneficial not only for emotional support but also in terms of practicalities.”

Read more: How to handle communications overload at work

Even if you can’t help each other out with childcare, you may be able to share home education tips and practices. It’s also important to be able to offload to other people who are feeling as frustrated and tired as you - and remember that you aren’t alone. 

Be honest with your employer 

“If you are struggling to juggle your responsibilities while your children are around, then do speak to your employer or your recruiter,” Mordue says. “Being honest about your problems will take a weight off your shoulders and the transparency should make it easier for them to rearrange your priorities and help you find a solution.” 

Prioritise your health 

There has never been a more important time to prioritise your physical and mental health. “Having children around means that you may have a lot of demands placed on you, so getting plenty of sleep and eating well is even more important than usual,” Mordue says. 

“Resist the temptation to stay glued to the news if it’s’ making you anxious and as hard as it may seem, any amount of time you can spend on stress management practices will pay off.” 

Don’t worry about rigid schedules 

Sticking to a routine can help maintain a sense of normality when everything is up in the air, such as getting up at the same time and keeping to regular mealtimes. Your child may find it difficult to adjust from the normality of the school day, and the lack of peer support to keep them engaged and motivated - and a schedule can help. 

Read more: How to forget about work when the workday is finished

However, if you have strict rules around your children’s schedules, now might be the time to relax them a little. 

“If you are able to settle them with something distracting like a game, tv show or activity, it may provide you with the uninterrupted time you need to focus for a sustained period of time until you are able to give them more attention,” Mordue says. 

“Finally, remember not to panic when things don’t go to plan or if you get disrupted by having children around. Everyone understands that this is a unique situation and it is very unlikely to damage your success in the long run. Adapting your schedule and sticking to it as far as possible will be vital to keeping things as normal as possible.” 

Organise your time 

If you can, share the childcare duties with your partner and allocate certain times of the day when you need to focus solely on your work. This might mean having two-hour slots of your “own time” to get things done, while the other person looks after the kids.

Read more: Five apps that can help you work from home

For single parents who don’t have that option, it may help to work out a schedule where you spend half an hour with the children, before spending an hour on your work - depending on how much supervision they need. Set them tasks to do and try to help them understand that you need time and quiet to focus on work.

Prioritise your work 

When you are juggling work and childcare, it’s important to prioritise your work into what needs to be done and what can wait. It’s likely that a few things will fall by the wayside - the housework, for example - and that is OK. 

These are exceptional circumstances and people are having to navigate challenges of all kinds, whether it is working from home, making sure cupboards are stocked, or caring for vulnerable relatives. 

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