A busy parents' guide to working from home with small kids
Struggling to work from home without childcare? Juggling the responsibilities of both work and parenting simultaneously can make it feel like you have two full-time jobs.. probably because that’s exactly what you have.
Can you work from home and watch your kids at the same time? For so many of us, getting back to work is vital to regain a sense of ourselves and our identity. For me, my career had been such a focus for my whole adult life that I wasn't ready to give that up, but between a certain world event and a shortage of childcare in Vancouver, the kids were going to be home for a lot of it. Besides, I *shock* really love spending time with my mini-bosses.
We're out of that season now, but for those of you in the midst of it, here are some ideas to make working from home with a toddler or baby a little more doable:
Establish a schedule: Create a daily routine that includes dedicated work hours and breaks. This helps set expectations for both you and your children, providing structure to your day, and lightening the mental load of ‘what happens next?’
Coordinate with your partner: If you have a partner or spouse, establish a system for sharing childcare and work responsibilities. Alternate shifts or designate specific times for each person to focus on work while the other cares for the children.
If you are employed, communicate with your employer: Have open and honest conversations with your employer about your situation. Discuss flexible work arrangements, such as adjusted schedules or reduced hours, if feasible. The last 3 years really changed the whole structure of working from home - use that to your benefit. If you work for yourself, do you have to work specific hours? The 9-5 was constructed under very different circumstances from those we live in today.
Create a designated workspace: If possible, set up a separate area in your home as your workspace. This will get you in ‘work mode’ as soon as you sit down. Ideally, choose a quiet location away from distractions and interruptions, although understandably that’s tricky with a child of an age that needs constant supervision. Plus in Vancouver, even finding a corner in a room can be a challenge! Maybe your home office has now become your kids' room, or your desk is set up in the nursery. Visually delineating your ‘work’ area with different decor is a great idea. Try one of our removable peel and stick wallpapers! They're designed to appeal to both adults and kids, so look just as good in a home office as nursery decor. Both wallpapers and decals are quick and easily applied and just as easily removed once your situation inevitably changes.
Childproof your workspace: If your workspace is in a shared area, make sure it's safe for your children. Use baby gates or playpens to create boundaries, secure cords and cables, and remove any hazardous objects.
Invest in child-friendly activities: Stock up on toys, games, books, and puzzles that can keep your children entertained and engaged while you work. Putting these in a special ‘work time’ box that only comes out when you are working adds an extra element of interest. You might even keep a different basket for each day of the week if you're that kind of organiser!
Create a designated play area near your workspace so they can play independently. I used to spread out a mat near my desk - yet another use for one of our blankets - that was their ‘safe zone’
Use technology wisely (and without guilt): Leverage technology to entertain and engage your children when needed, for designated periods of time. Educational apps, age-appropriate videos, and interactive toys can provide entertainment while you focus on work (we love the Crayola app - it’s really just drawing!). All screen-time is not created equally and a little quite focus here and there is sometimes the best choice all round.
Take advantage of nap times: If you are out of the up-all-night stage and can afford not to nap yourself, structure your work tasks around your child's nap times. Utilize those quiet moments to tackle important or focused work that requires your undivided attention.
Collaborate with other parents: This is a biggy that we’ve used for Pro-D days and holidays. Connect with other parents in similar situations and explore possibilities for shared childcare or cooperative playdates, an afternoon here, a morning there. This can give you dedicated blocks of uninterrupted work time.
Be flexible and patient with yourself: Understand that balancing work and childcare can be challenging, and some days may be more difficult than others. Be patient with yourself, adjust expectations, and find a rhythm that works for you and your family.