WFH with kids? Here’s our 10 top tips to stay sane!

May 12, 2020 by Christine Frith
WFH with kids? Here’s our 10 top tips to stay sane!

Many parents are currently working from home while looking after their children, and for some families this will continue for many months. Even for those used to the discipline of home working, adding childcare and home schooling into mix makes everything more challenging. How do you find a way to get your work done while keeping your children safe, fed and happy, with a modicum of education along the way?   

Hour Hands was born from the realisation that combining a successful work and home life is tough. Working as a virtual team from day one, we’ve faced pretty much every issue in juggling home working and childcare so we wanted to share some of the tips and techniques that work for us. 

We wish you all the best in your personal WFH challenges, and if we can help with any home admin tasks please do get in touch.

1. Adjust expectations

Before you go any further, take a reality check. It’s impossible to simultaneously excel at your job, nurture your children’s wellbeing and deliver an education that Ofsted would be proud of, however hard you try. Set out what you think is reasonable – then take it down a notch – and you’ll have something to aim for. Some days, you’ll meet that with no trouble. Other days, crisps for breakfast and yesterday’s clothes might be the best you can hope for. Don’t worry about it. 

2. Be honest about your situation

If you’re juggling work with childcare, be honest with your employer. All organisations are experiencing these issues at the moment so they will understand (and if they don’t, maybe that tells you something). The same goes for your team – if there’s going to be times when you’re not available then make these clear upfront, so they don’t worry about interrupting you at an awkward moment.

3. Be kind to your staff

If you’re an employer, make sure you understand the situation of each of your team members. If they don’t have children at home, they might be supporting other family members or dealing with feelings of isolation if they live alone. Don’t make any assumptions, be clear that expectations have changed, and check in regularly to see how they are coping. 

4. Divide and conquer

Ruthlessly portion your day into the different roles you need to play:

  • Working
  • Parenting
  • Helping with home learning
  • Self care

There’s almost zero chance these roles will be done within their designated times, but a framework will help you to keep things on track as much as possible. And don’t be tempted to miss out on self-care. Obviously nobody on Zoom knows whether you’ve taken a shower this week or cleaned your teeth, but you’ll feel better if you do. Plus if you don’t schedule it in then it won’t get done.

5. Form a tag team

If you have a partner who is also working from home, try to arrange alternative schedules so that you both get some uninterrupted work time. Maybe one of you can work a weekend day instead? If you have important calls then definitely try to book these at different times – otherwise your children will decide they desperately need something right at that moment.

6. Make a daily list

Each day, write down a list of what you’d like to achieve in priority order. Then cut it in half. Literally. If doesn’t even make the top half of your list, it’s just not going to happen. Take the top three items on the remaining list and if you achieve them by the end of the day, you’re winning.

7. Working 9-5….or 5-9?

Embrace flexibility and work while your children are asleep. That could mean splitting your working day into two shifts – early morning and late evening – with a nap during the day (nap with the kids if they’re tiny or get your partner to take over for a while). Be creative and find a schedule that works for your family, but without neglecting your own health. 

8. Use electronics to your advantage

Unusual times call for unusual measures and many families are finding that they can’t stick to their previous screentime rules. Try not to worry about it – this is about doing the best you can in the circumstances. But do make it work with your schedule – if you can time it right, you can get a lot done during a Disney film. Even more during the whole box set of Harry Potter…

9. Set ground rules

Everyone will find things easier if you set out some basic rules around what should happen when you’re working. What you include here depends very much on the age of the children. Little ones might need some help understanding that other people have demands on your time as well, and that you can’t always respond to them immediately. Try to explain as best you can and consider signs to show them how to behave at key times. Get them to help you make an ‘I’m in a meeting’ sign for the door or choose a special hat for you to wear when you don’t want to be disturbed. These ideas may not work in practice but are worth trying, and will get them used to the idea that you need time to finish what you’re doing before you can respond. 

10. Don’t give yourself a hard time

Everyone is out of their comfort zone at the moment, finding new ways of dealing with almost all aspects of our daily lives. Please remember, you can only do your best. You will be interrupted. Some things will be done late. Others won’t get done at all. Getting through the day is the priority here.

We hope you find these tips useful. For more details on our home and business PA services, please do get in touch.