We’ve all seen the frankly brilliant moment when Professor Robert Kelly’s BBC News interview about South Korea was gate-crashed by his kids.
If you have children and you’ve worked from home for any length of time recently, you’ll sympathise with Professor Kelly. Be it a remote Zoom meeting, client demonstration, webinar, or just a quick catch up call, a surprise appearance by one of your little bundles of joy is practically guaranteed.
The good news? You’re not alone, and there are several strategies you can employ to ensure both you and your kids work and play at home without disrupting each other’s days.
Is it possible to plan for unexpected interruptions?
To a point, yes, it is. If you have a partner you can take turns to watch the children and cover each other’s important online meetings. But you can’t plan for every interruption.
Every parent knows that kids are kids. As smart as they may be, they don’t always fully appreciate the importance of mum or dad delivering those vital numbers on customer churn over the last fiscal quarter.
So, the first step is to remove any feelings of guilt or anxiety about unexpected visits from your kids while on conference calls. If it happens, it happens, and it’d take an incredibly hard-nosed, miserable person on the other end of the line not to be completely fine with it all. With so many people working from home now, it’s expected rather than unusual!
The importance of the daily routine
If your kids are off school, it’s understandable for them to prefer a slightly relaxed routine. That’s fine, but what you don’t have to tell them is that the way in which you suggest they spend their days is actually cunningly strategic.
A regular, consistent routine is good for all of us – particularly kids. Sure, that routine is somewhat different when they’re not at school, but that doesn’t mean it can’t follow the same pattern each day.
Make sure you have each meal at the same time every day, keep screen time periods consistent for when they start and end, and allocate ‘me time’ for everyone.
Think of it like a family diary. If everyone knows what they’re doing each day, you can start to build your work schedule around the times you can almost guarantee you’ll be uninterrupted.
But I have a little one…!
If you have considerably young ones to look after, there’s no escaping the fact that you might have to take a conference call with the baby or toddler sat on your lap.
This goes back to our previous point: most people will be pretty accommodating if you have to mix meeting time with rocking the little one to sleep (or preventing her from continually smashing your laptop with that plastic toy).
Don’t beat yourself up about it; your child’s health and security always come first, so bring them along for the ride if that’s the best thing to do as a parent.
Learning resources for kids
Keeping the kids occupied while you make important calls or need to get your head into gear for a big report writing session isn’t easy.
They may have been given school work. You should be aware that they’re probably not expected to do all of it, and that it’s important to achieve a balance between work and play.
There are also some great online educational resources that will keep them entertained while learning. Here’s the pick of the bunch:
- Twinkl – usually a paid service, but if you move quickly now, you might find that they have some free access available to their awesome learning resources
- BBC Bitesize – an oldie but a goodie, and full of brilliant content that’s both educational and fun
- First News – a brilliant, free online newspaper for 7-14 year olds.
- There’s also PE with Joe Wicks at 9am every week day on YouTube, and there’s a reading app called Reading Eggs which is popular with little ones. Audible are also offering hundreds of audiobooks completely free, with titles curated by age groups.
4 tips to keep your kids occupied
The resources above are great for learning, but while the kids are off school, it’s important to offer a balance of learning and fun.
Here are four great ideas for keeping them occupied and happy while you work.
- Create a gratitude paper chain
A great, crafty task that encourages your kids to create links for each day, inside of which they write about something that makes them happy or for which they’re particularly grateful.
Buy a journal, some coloured pens and stickers and set your kids the task of documenting their days with pictures and words.
If they’re off school for something that’s particularly unusual or era-defining, this is a great way for them to offload their thoughts creatively, and it will give them something to look back on in future.
- Go all ‘Blue Peter’
Remember when the Blue Peter team built Tracy Island out of a washing-up liquid bottle, sandpaper and PVA glue?
Awesome, wasn’t it?
So, why not create your own Blue Peter challenge, or go old school and give the kids this to work from? And yes, it’s fine for you to have a go at Tracy Island again, too.
If you need more inspiration or would like something more up-to-date, try looking on Facebook for groups with creative ideas.
- Get them gardening
If the weather’s nice and the gardening season has arrived, you can do a lot worse than put your kids to work planting their own seeds. This will keep them occupied and ensure they have something to focus on long-term as their creations grow. It’s also great for them to experience first hand where fresh food comes from.
If you’re still struggling…
You’re not alone.
Remember to reach out to the network of people you have in front of you, thanks to your smartphone. LinkedIn, friends, family, and co-workers can offer vital emotional support and reassurance that working from home with children around isn’t easy. (Unless you have a teenager who sleeps all morning, which gives you a headstart!)
Balance the amount of online time you have, although it’s great to enjoy virtual chats with family and friends in your downtime.
Be honest and realistic with your employer, too. If you’re really struggling to juggle work and childcare while working from home, speak to your boss. It’ll take the weight off your mind.
The Chandlers team has been there and done it, too, so if you need any guidance on how to work on your finances from home, with kids, just get in touch!