As an entrepreneur, I’ve been working from home for the last six years in addition to running our household, kiddos, and circus of animals. Then about a year ago, my husband also made the switch and began working from home as well. So if you find yourself in a new situation working from home and wondering how the heck you are supposed to get anything done with kids around, you are not alone! This is a valid question and concern! However, through our trial and errors, we have compiled a list of ways in which you can make working from home with kids a great experience and not only reap the benefits of it, but actually be productive!
With my husband working remotely for a large company in California, his workdays are full of conference calls, team collaboration, and meetings. All of which require a lot of focus and quiet (go ahead and laugh;) on our end. And while he is busy with his software development, I work remotely running my business as well as our household and family. So as you can imagine it has taken quite a bit of adjustment to figure out what works when trying to maintain a balance between a “mama” and your job.
So maybe you are someone who is already a parent working from home and are looking for new ideas on how to be more efficient? Or maybe this is a new experience for you? Regardless, I’ve compiled a list of our favorite tips on how to stay sane working from home with kids around and be productive!
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Set an agenda for the day
I can’t say it enough; Plan, Plan, and Plan. That’s not to say it will go perfectly according to how you would like. However, if you take 10 minutes each morning and set an outline of what the day will look like for both you and the kiddos, it sets everyone up for success.
If you enter any school classroom, you will see a daily agenda up on the board for a reason. Kids do well with structure and knowing what comes next and when they can expect something.
By setting this daily schedule, you are letting them know what and when they can expect something, therefore, reducing the number of interruptions to your work asking “when.”
That schedule will also help you to organize your thoughts and tasks for the day to help you accomplish what is most important on your to-do list. There often will be days that you don’t make it through everything you thought. But this daily agenda will help you tackle the most important on that list helping you finish the day feeling productive. Then whatever is left at the end of the day, rollover to your list for the following day.
This is the printout that we use at home and find it extremely helpful in balancing the home/work schedule. No, it doesn’t mean its set in stone, but the days I follow this; I end the day feeling accomplished and more relaxed 🙂
Use the mute button
If you find yourself working from conference calls there are going to be times that an extra noise or two just can’t be helped. Get in the habit now of any time you are on a conference call to hit the mute button as soon as you greet everyone until you are ready to talk. Finished, great, hit that mute button again! This will save you numerous embarrassing interruptions 🙂
If your kids are older than three, now is the time to sit down with them and set boundaries for everyone right away. To them, you will always be mom or dad first. With clear boundaries, you will help them to understand when you are available as a mom, and when they need to wait.
To help children understand when you need to be left alone, use a visual cue such a STOP, I’m in a meeting sign on the door. Or alternatively, a Go sign when you are available to be interrupted.
A physical barrier can help both the adult and children understand the difference between work time and when you are available to them. For example; a shut door = in a meeting. Let them know they can knock once. If you don’t answer, it means I’m busy. Or a baby gate for younger children will help create that barrier while allowing you to still keep an eye on them.
Communication goes along with setting boundaries. Communicate even more than you think is necessary. This is key to making sure you have boundaries in place that everyone can stick to as well as make necessary adjustments as you go along. This will be a learning curve. Efficient communication will help make this work for everyone.
Communicate with your co-workers and be transparent about the fact that you are also juggling the needs of your children so your co-workers aren’t caught by surprise if you need to step away for a minute or answer a child.
Good communication is key to any relationship. So whether just one of you or both of you find yourselves working from home, now is the time to up those communication skills.
And when I say communicate, I mean the real, blunt, honest but loving communication. In order to make this work, you need to both be able to be honest about your needs and what will and won’t work for each of you.
Any time you are communicating with kids, remember, keep it simple and do it often. Pick your most important guidelines for when mama is working, and go over them with kids every morning before you sit down to work. And keep in mind, they are kids so there will be slip-ups. Remind them gently and go back to work.
Take advantage of sleep times
If you haven’t joined the early bedtime wagon yet, then you don’t know what you are missing 🙂 But now, more than ever, if you find yourself working from home, move bedtime earlier. First kids tend to sleep better with an early bedtime. Second, that gives you a large chunk of time to get some work in or to get caught up on house responsibilities that don’t disappear just because you are working from home ;). Third, it will help you keep your sanity with some alone time. Just give it a try and see for yourself.
To improve focus and reduce distraction, utilize a baby monitor. This will help you distinguish a child that needs you vs a child that is just fighting sleep. Thus, in turn, saving you precious productive minutes.
Utilize downtime and screen time
Every parent and family is different in regards to their thoughts on screen time. However, when it comes to the work/mama balance of working from home, there will be days that you need to utilize more screen time in order to be effective in your job. And mama, that is OK!
Help kids understand the extra screen time by letting them know that this is a temporary thing and is not going to last forever. Set the expectation from the beginning. Not only will it make the extra time special and more likely to occupy them, but the communication will set them up with the right expectations for when it changes.
I’ve found it best to schedule that screen time for when I’m on video calls or when I need to focus with less distraction.
Block the noise
Now is the time to invest in a good pair of wireless or USB headsets that have excellent noise-canceling microphones and easy-to-access mute buttons to block unwanted sounds. You can’t control 100% of the noise when you are trying to concentrate, but you can help by reducing what you hear!
Another thing we have found helpful was using a white noise machine like this one or a fan. This covers some of the unwanted background noise and will help you to concentrate better!
Free your hands
Need I really explain this? We all know free hands are a commodity as a parent. So when trying to balance working at home with kids, you need to utilize any and all methods that allow you to be hands-free. These are a few of my favorites.
If you have babies or toddlers at home, then this one is for you. I found babywearing whether I was trying to work or do things around the house super helpful! Is it my preferred way to get anything done? Absolutely not 🙂 However, kids will be kids and there will be days they just want to be held. This will help you avoid the fussing and crying while simultaneously allowing you to get your to-do list done.
A standing desk can be extremely helpful if you have a child that wants to be held. Have you ever noticed that fussy kids want to be held but also rocked/ and standing up? Any time my littlest is fussy and wanting to be held, the second I sit is when she starts screaming.
The standing desk allows you to babywear and hold your child or rock them while continuing to work. It also is a great way to switch up your workday.
Mamas, if you are pumping at all, you need to buy a pumping bra now. We all know how time-consuming pumping is. This single product is not only inexpensive but will allow you to multi-task and make the most of your time/day which is vital to working from home.
Agree with me or not on this one….but once you have used one, you won’t go back! This is hands down the most beneficial product you could possibly have if you are going to balance mama life and working from home.
It allows you to create a safe kids area where you don’t need to keep a constant eye on whether little hands are moving towards unsafe things.
I loved using foam floor mats like these to create a fun and comfortable floor, add some toys that you can rotate out to keep them entertained, and then set up your work area right outside the playpen!
Baby or toddler gets supervised while having safe playtime and mama gets to work! Win, Win!
Using a Pac n’ Play has similar effects for a baby. However, I like the playpen idea better because it works from little babies up to walking toddlers. More versatile and larger, a playpen will give you more time!
Baby gates are right up there with a playpen for me! It allows you to block off areas, or keep kids in a certain part of your house so you can keep an eye and ear on them but also be able to work.
I love these baby gates because they are a little taller, allow you to walk through with a swinging gate. But the best part, they don’t require any tools or holes to install making them secure but easy to move around if needed!
“Do Not Disturb” mode
This idea of “Do Not Disturb” mode is a vital part of the communication and boundaries you need to establish with your child. Sit down with them and explain what this is and when you will need this. Keep in mind, this is to be used when you absolutely can’t be interrupted; think conference call, meeting, etc. The rest of the time, even though you will still be working, they need to have access to you if needed.
Try this: Using a visual cue
Have them create a Stop and Go sign for you. Or use an electronical version such as this one.
Explain that when the Stop sign is up, they don’t get to come in. However, if it is a Go sign, they can come right in.
Or door closed = do not disturb and door open = available.
Figure out what works for you and your family and re-iterate that daily.
Take breaks WITH your kids
Get in the habit early of taking consistent breaks. Set alarms on your phone and when that alarm goes off, time to get up! Grab a drink, snack, sit down with your kids and check-in, or go take a quick walk with them.
You might be surprised to see what those 10 minutes of intentional time with your kids does for their behavior and ability to play independently or work through conflict with their siblings later.
Make sure this time is for their needs and not you checking your emails, texts or social media.
Alternate shifts with your partner
If you find yourself in the position where both you and your partner are working from home, alternating shifts can make working remotely a lot easier.
By switching off, each partner gets uninterrupted work time. You might actually be surprised by what you can accomplish in shorter amounts of time when you are faced with a ticking clock.
If one of you is a morning person, beginning the workday earlier while kiddos are still sleeping is a great way to squeeze in some extra uninterrupted time. If you are a night owl and your work schedule will allow, take the later work shift! Again all about communication and working together!
Get outside (if you can)
Kids have numerous recesses at school for a reason; cooped up kids become crazy kids 😉 Not only will that outside time get their wiggles out, but you will also be surprised what that quick walk outside will do for your mood!
- yard play
- trampoline play
- jump rope
- scooter or bike ride
- walk the dog
- chalk on the driveway
Give yourself a break
The most important thing you can do when working from home with kids is to give yourself a break. This is a new scenario, and no one is going to be perfect. Things will happen. How you deal with the bumps along the way is what is important 🙂 Keep calm and remember, it will get easier and smoother!
In the meantime, silence your phone (or even better shove it in a drawer while you work), make your daily list and do your best! Most likely you won’t get everything on that list done, and that’s Ok mama! And likely your house will be messier than it has been in the past…and that’s ok too! Its the reality of working two jobs; work and being a mama!
So take a deep breath, write down your priorities and learn to laugh off the crazy moments 🙂 It is an adjustment, but I’m certain you will find the joys and laughs that also come along with working from home with kids!
Products that will help:
For a complete list of what we use in our house to help be successful with the balance needed for working from home with kids, click here!
You got this mama! Make sure to share your favorite tips for working from home with kids in the comments below!