Most employees who are allowed to work remotely find that it’s the best way to get their tasks done while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. But while some people may have experienced the benefits of remote work, there’s no denying that this work arrangement also has its downsides, especially if you’ve got little kids at home.
According to a recent survey, half of remote workers with children under 18 found that it can be challenging to get through the workday without interruption. Moreover, mothers and fathers reported these difficulties equally, which goes to show that balancing work and parental responsibilities can be tough on anyone.
Indeed, it can be hard to focus on tasks when your child is clamoring for your attention. Thankfully, there are some things that you can do that will enable you to get the job done and have happy kids at the same time. If you’re a working parent, here’s how you can balance remote work and parenting.
Organize and Prepare
Every parent who works remotely knows that it’s only a matter of time before their child interrupts them to ask a question related to homework, to request a snack or a meal, or to find an object that they need, among many other things. If you can relate to this, try waking up early and prepare to meet your child’s needs.
Make some ready-to-eat meals that older kids can just heat in the microwave, or prepare food that can be eaten cold, like a summer pasta salad. If your child constantly asks you to find a toy or a game, organize their playthings in such a way so that they can find things easily. Try sorting toys into categories, such as blocks, dolls, and board games, then separate them into different bins.
Meanwhile, if your child has a habit of asking you for school supplies while doing a project or homework, create a homework station so they can get whatever it is they need by themselves. On the weekend, buy a kitchen caddy or a cart with wheels (you can check out Ikea or Walmart for this) and fill it with coloring materials, plain paper, construction paper, scissors, glue, sticker packs, and other things that they normally use for school. Place the cart in their room or wherever they usually do their homework so they can have easy access to it.
Doing these things may require some extra time and effort on your part. However, it’s all worth it since you’ll be able to work in peace, and your kids will be more independent.
Parents of preschoolers, or kids between the ages of 2 and 4, often have a tough time working from home since their children are at that stage where they’re curious about everything and have tons of energy. Instead of shushing them or trying to get them to stay still, consider enrolling them in a daycare center. Your child will get to play and interact with other kids, which will give them the chance to develop social and emotional skills. Moreover, getting high quality care can keep your child safe and healthy while you’re working from home. This allows you to focus more on what you need to do instead of worrying about what sort of shenanigans your child could get themselves into if you’re not constantly by their side.
When looking for a daycare, check to see if they have a stimulating environment, a low child-to-caregiver ratio, an interesting curriculum, expert and caring staff, and good reviews. Most of all, the daycare must have happy kids– that’s a sure sign that the staff is doing their job well, and your child will enjoy being there while you work.
Creating a dedicated space for work is one of the best ways to enhance productivity while working from home. Instead of working at your dining table or the living room, consider converting a spare room that has a door into a home office and do your tasks there. This allows you to get into work mode, and it reduces distractions while remote working. Although the door serves as your physical barrier against the world, you should also set boundaries and tell your kids about them.
Let your children know that unless it’s an emergency, they shouldn’t disturb you when you’re in the home office since you’re doing important things for work. Remind them that you’ll help them with homework and other things once you’re done, so they only need to be patient. To encourage good behavior, reward your kids for every uninterrupted workday. You can give out stickers, which they can exchange for a bigger prize, like a new plushy, board game, or a new book every month.
Use Your Breaks Wisely
It’s important to take breaks even when you’re working from home. That being said, make sure to take your breaks wisely. Instead of scrolling through social media or watching YouTube videos, use this time to make dinner preparations or to tidy up a little, then have a cup of coffee or tea while you rest.
You can also use your break time to check in on your little one and have a bit of bonding time. You can have a snack together and talk about your day. This lets your child know that you’ll make time for them, and more importantly, that you actually like spending time with them.
You can also go on a short walk outside, take the dog for a walk, play a quick game of catch in your backyard, or do some stretching exercises together while listening to music. These activities enable you and your child to get moving, which is important if you’re working remotely since you don’t want to spend all that time sitting down. Keep in mind that even a few minutes of exercise can make a difference in your physical and mental health, so aim to use your time wisely while working from home.
Parenting while remote working presents a host of challenges. But with some preparation, setting boundaries, and a little effort, you can get things done and have a happy and healthy child.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.