Tips for working from home if you have children

With schools closed, working from home with children around is a reality for many parents in these unprecedented times. Many are juggling their own jobs with home learning or full-time childcare which can mean it’s a struggle to know how to support your business and your colleagues in the same way.

As a mother of three myself, I have put together some tips which I hope will help other working professionals ensure that children remain happy and occupied at home while you are able to fulfil your responsibilities at work.

Stick to a family schedule

As a first step, create a schedule for the whole family. Ideally this will outline your full day from when you wake up to going to bed, and be structured according to your set office hours, mealtimes and breaks. You might want to have separate columns for each member of the family but keeping one schedule overall allows everyone to have visibility. 

If possible, try to line up your work plan with your children’s typical routines. For example, parents of young ones may find it easier to schedule calls during naptime or when older children are doing schoolwork. If there are multiple working adults in the household, you might also want to allocate who will ‘own’ each chunk of time, thereby helping ensure everyone is able to have some distraction-free work time.

Agree your working hours

Depending on the age of your children, you may want to explore the possibility of altering your hours slightly. Most employers will want as much business continuity as possible but the unprecedented nature of this situation means that they will be understanding of your situation. Have an honest and transparent conversation with your line manager who will more than likely be accommodating of any reasonable requests. 

Follow a routine

Once your agreed hours and schedule are in place, try to stick to this. Maintaining a routine is important for your own wellbeing by keeping things as normal as possible and also helps your children adjust to the circumstances quickly.

Sticking to a family schedule is also a useful exercise in helping your children understand that there are set times where they should try not to disturb any working adults and enjoy activities independently or with each other. 

Prepare child-friendly activities

Your children are more likely to use their initiative and keep themselves occupied if they know what options there are. Therefore try to preplan games and activities for the week ahead to ensure your children aren’t bored. Consider occupying them with things like art projects, learning and research tasks, gardening or exercise.

Give older kids some extra responsibilities, such as looking after their younger siblings or maybe ‘owning’ certain mealtimes. Of course, it’s important to reward them for this behaviour, so consider pushing their usual bedtime back, increasing their pocket money or whatever other perks you see fit.

Set up a dedicated workspace

For many parents the thought of creating a distraction-free workspace in your home may be wishful thinking. Although it may be more achievable with older children, try to carve out a space to work in that is free from children’s paraphernalia as this also goes a long way towards your own productivity. It will help you keep your work and parenting roles separate, giving each your full concentration for a set amount of time without feeling like you aren’t doing either well.

Expect the unexpected

Finally, remember not to worry when things don’t go to plan. There is no point being too stressed about your child suddenly interrupting a conference call or needing to rearrange a pre-planned video-meeting at short notice because one of your toddlers has hurt themselves. These things happen, and under the circumstances, most of your colleagues, or customers should be understanding.

Try to enjoy this time together – even if you have the occasional stressful moment. It is important to try to notice the silver lining wherever you may find it because chances are, your kids will really enjoy spending more time with you. 

Gaelle joined Hays in 1999 and in her time with the business she has led dedicated teams providing expert recruitment services for a wide range of sectors and professions, with a particular focus on construction and property. In 2018 she was appointed the Director for Permanent Recruitment, working across Hays UK and Ireland to improve business performance, drive best practice and shape Hays’ value proposition to both clients and candidates.