4 tips on how to work from home with kids on the loose


HR Company Solutions' Laura Potgieter offers advice on how to manage work and family simultaneously.

Our company follows the ethics of incorporating and helping Mom’s to have the luxury of working remotely when needed – especially if they have sick children or need to spend more time with their families.  So many of our recruiters have worked from home and worked from the office for some time now.  Everyone understands the expectations from an organisational perspective and a personal perspective.  But there are some of you out there who have never had to work from home and believe me, there is a way to work from home successfully.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, many organisations had already begun to incorporate working from home into the lives of their employees with remote working and hot-desking.  But so many more organisations and schools have now been forced into action, regardless of whether they were adequately prepared or not.  This made people feel scared and fearful but also unsure of what to expect – some were not set up with access to the internet and didn’t have time to do so, while others had many children to entertain, teach, feed and keep quiet while they attempted to concentrate and work.  

As a result, the reality of working from home has been drastically intensified. Add to that the looming fear of the children and their needs still creeps up on many of us – how do we deal with this?  Many of us are more productive in the morning – so are children.  They wake up full of energy, even if we don’t.  So, finding moments of peace in the mornings with kids is going to be rare, let’s be honest.  Try and give them things to do in the morning and then wear them out in the garden before lunch so that they can eat and nap and give you the quiet that you need to accomplish more and then get to work.

1 Set weekly goals instead

Understand that being on lockdown while having children at home comes with many added pressures. Find a way to create balance by focussing on weekly goals instead of daily to-do lists and understand that these times are unprecedented for everyone.  

The only consistency with working with kids in the house is inconsistency. Days can get away from you. Fast. But just because you lost a battle, don’t allow that to stop you from winning the war. If you are still speaking to customers and need quiet, you can implement a system that everyone understands – like putting a yellow sticky note on the door, that lets the kids know they can’t come in or interrupt you because you are talking to a client or facilitating a skype session.  Boundaries are very important during this time. 

Sit down and look at what needs to get done each week. Break them down into quick tasks that don’t involve a lot of brainpower, perhaps things that will take 15 minutes and then you get up and check on a child or feed a baby and then longer ones that demand an hour or two of work and this can be done at night or during nap time. Maybe you can’t get to what you would ordinarily do on a Monday, but you can knock out some paperwork or shoot off some emails you’ve been putting off.  

Reconnect with clients and find a way to share during the lockdown stress that we are all facing.  Find out where they are in all of this – are they working from home or the office, do they have kids and similar stresses?  Small actions still move you forward and throughout the week pockets of time will present themselves that allow you to knock out your larger tasks.

2 Think like your boss or an entrepreneur

As the Corona Virus pandemic affects the global economy, we believe it is up to each of us to look at how we add value to our organisations, teams, clients and suppliers.  Think out of the box, find new ways to be the leading company that your clients want to work with after all of this.  

If your management team is approachable, spend some time thinking about what you can do to define the problems and seek out the solutions to help your company to stay above water. It is on all of us to go over and above, to rally together to make sure the business survives.  The future of your company is on the line and it’s important to make sure that you have played a role in building it up somehow to survive this pandemic.

3 Share the load and try not to break your routine

According to a study of 185 million workers, the average person is productive for 2 hours and 48 minutes each day. If you schedule your day well, you can increase your output while you’re at home with the kids by carving out 2 sets of time for your work.

If you have a partner and they are working from home now also, taking shifts is a no-brainer. They can help with schoolwork or keeping kids busy and away from your desk or office area to allow you to concentrate.  

Try not to break your usual routine, yes you might have some more time in bed or in front of the tv for your favourite shows as a result of a reduction in your daily commute. But it is important to get up, get ready for work and set up a space that you can work from comfortably and hopefully ergonomically. That means, not setting up your laptop in your bed or from your couch but sitting at a table to ensure that you have good posture to avoid bad back pain later.

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Structure your day, when you are working from home, you must be your own manager and therefore you must manage your productivity (and potentially those in your team if you must manage others).  You also need to set boundaries and if you are working with a team, be mindful that each of you is working on different things at different times – it will take some adjustment to understand this.  In the office, you could verbally let people know what you were busy with, but now you need to find a way to communicate and ensure everyone is on board and understands so that they don’t disrupt your workflow and vice versa.

At the end of each day, write your to-do list and goals for the next day so that you have clarity/ focus and you do not have to waste time in the morning putting this together.  This also helps you plan the next day.  Without office-based distractions, you may even be more productive.

4 Give yourself a break

What’s happening right now in the world is terrible. But thanks to technology some of us can work from home with our children. Kids thrive on spending time with their parents and they don’t know that it is hard on you, that you have tasks to fulfil and that things are in a state of total disruption right now.  It does demand some organisation, routines and yes, some days will be frustrating. But go easy on yourself. Some of your work may not get the attention you think it deserves. That’s okay. The important thing is being there for your loved ones and doing what we can to make the most out of it.

Find a way to get some exercise, sunlight, and fresh air.  If you are working from home and struggling with the feeling of isolation, remember to reach out to others. I am sure they are feeling the same.

Why not try throwing yourself into some schoolwork with the kids, drawing or painting with them before you begin calling your clients or dealing with your paperwork?  During these uncertain times, you may find that by leaning on your kids for energy, you’re able to bring more energy to your work.

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