Working remotely is a perk that many people seek when looking for job opportunities. Recently, there has been an upward trend in the number of people working from home. A Gallup survey showed that in 2016, 43 percent of Americans worked from home occasionally, up from 39 percent in 2012. Remote work gives employees flexibility, work satisfaction, and choice in their work environment. There are upsides for employers, too; the Harvard Business Review reported that one study showed working from home increases productivity by 4.4%.
With certain circumstances—such as a viral outbreak that closes local businesses and schools, bad weather days, or a sick child—you might suddenly be required to work remotely while also managing the other aspects of your life.
If you’re not prepared, figuring out how to work remotely with your child at home can feel difficult and overwhelming! In the event of an extended school closure or mandated remote work, it’s important to be intentional with your approach.
Here are some tips for how to work from home while having your child home with you, too:
- Set realistic and clear expectations and goals. Trying to do too much will cause more stress, so it’s important to take a realistic approach when figuring out how to balance work and family. Make a plan and try to formulate your expectations of how things will go each day. You’ll likely need to adjust your expectations of yourself and your family when trying to juggle everything. This might mean allowing electronics at a different time than normally fits into your routine. Be easy on yourself and your child during this transition. Finding new solutions takes time.
- Adjust your work schedule. One benefit of working remotely is sometimes being able to make your own schedule. You might consider waking up earlier than usual or working after your child goes to bed. If you can implement “quiet time” by having your child stay in their room for an hour or more finding their own things to do, this is a great time to focus on your own work. You’ll know your child is safely occupied in their room, maybe even having a nap if you’re lucky! Be sure to communicate with colleagues about potential challenges or schedule changes that may impact them.
- Make a family routine. A planned routine can help things run smoothly during your day. It does not need to be a strict minute-by-minute schedule of the day. Instead, consider creating a general plan for blocks or chunks of the day. Think of it as giving your child options for what they can do with their time at home while you may be occupied with emails or calls. Use this Simple Routines Checklist to inspire a plan that fits your child, schedule, and home. Some examples of activities include puzzles, reading time, arts and crafts, and online learning games.
- Take breaks. The beauty of remote work is your day allows for some flexibility, so utilize it by periodically unplugging. Step away from work to join your child in their activities, to guide them into a new activity, or to get some fresh air by taking a walk together outside. Small breaks will make your day more manageable and also give you the opportunity to connect and have some fun with your child.
- Encourage independent play. The reality is you still have to work even though you’re home with your child. Independent play has numerous benefits for children, such as teaching them to be self-reliant, confident, and creative. This is the perfect opportunity to give your child opportunities to play on their own. Browse through the collection of activities on Education.com to find something suitable for your child to complete independently based on their age, skill level, and the materials you have around your house.
- Invite your child to be helpful. Kids love to be helpers, so what jobs can you give your child to complete while you work? These jobs could include things that need to get done around the house or things that might help you with your work, such as shredding papers or organizing office supplies. Create a chore list for your child at the beginning of each day, and plan a reward or celebration at the end of the day if they have completed the chores. Be sure to emphasize how much they are helping out and showing responsibility by completing the tasks. If you have a pre-reader, support their independence by using images that help them know their responsibilities. Kids love to feel that the work they do is valued and important, so a little encouragement here will go a long way!
While your situation might feel like a juggling act, just remember that it’s important to roll with the punches. Keeping a good sense of humor to go along with your flexibility will help you manage your time, your work responsibilities, and your child!
By Caitlin Hardeman, former third through sixth grade teacher specializing in English Language Arts.