Due to the Movement Control Order, a lot of us have been subjected to working from home, and for those of us with families, it means working from home with kids. I have some experience in the area – I usually work from home once a week, and even when I’m at the office I’ve had either Eesa or Hudaa with me on most days. So when our social media manager asked me to share my working from home with kids tips to make into MCO content, I was more than happy to depart my wisdom *cue eyeroll*
Disclaimer – this is just what works for me, and a lot of the time, I don’t even manage to do all these. Sometimes, you just have to forego taking a shower in order to beat that deadline. Or you are so worn out from juggling so many hats that the last thing you want to do is wake up in the wee hours of the morning to get a chunk of work-time. Life goes on.
The main thing I can advise people about working from home with kids is to be flexible. You will NOT get a solid 8 hours of work in like you do at the office. There is no 9-5. Of course you will try, but bear in mind that your working hours would more likely be spread out across the whole day and include so many more ‘breaks’ than you had planned. If you are working alone or are pretty independent from other departments in your company, this shouldn’t be much of a problem. However, if your work requires a lot of scheduled meetings/discussions/collaboration with others, it might be a bit harder for you. Tip 2 will address that issue.
Being flexible also means you are able to work from various locations in your house. Ideally, you would work at your dedicated workspace, whether it’s your dining table, or your home office space. But sometimes, your kids require (read: demand) your attention.
Some people may have kids who are older and understand boundaries better, but if you’re like me and have a baby, or a toddler, who have not developed enough self-restraint or comprehension of the phrase “mommy needs to do some work right now”, you will find that being flexible in the location of your workspace allows you to get more work done. Of course, this only works if you have a laptop or if you can work on your mobile phone. If your work is tethered to a PC, planning becomes even more crucial. As you go along, you can (hopefully) train your child to recognise boundaries better.
Have a plan
I find that having a plan for the day helps me arrange my schedule better. And planning doesn’t just include work – now that you’re working from home with kids, it also means planning for meals/cooking, planning for downtime with your kids, and planning for other home-related things like laundry, naptimes, cleaning, etc.
My method is quite loose (remember tip no.1!), and it involves listing down my work goals for the day or my work to-do list. Next, I identify tasks that have time constraints, namely deadlines and meetings/group discussion. Then I can make sure my day is geared towards setting myself up for as much success in achieving these highlighted tasks.
For example, if I have a conference call scheduled at 1pm, which is when we usually have lunch, I will make sure that the kids are fed and lunch is cleared up earlier, and that I spend at least 20 minutes entertaining the kids so they get their mommy time before I have to hole up in my room. The rest of the day is slipping in pockets of work in between so I can check them off the list.
Additionally, if you get derailed by the many, many breaks you are forced to take, having a plan or to-do list written down will make it easier to pick up where you left off and get right back on track as soon as your situation allows you to, instead of backtracking and wasting time gathering your work mojo.
If your spouse is also working from home, then you’re lucky, Alhamdulillah! After listing down your work tasks for the day, I will usually let Shafiq know about any uninterrupted time I might need and vice versa. This allows us to take turns in attending to the kids while we chase that deadline or attend to that meeting.
If you are alone working at home with kids (LDR couples, single mothers, HUGE salute to you!), identify an activity that your child engages most in, and save that activity for when you really need it. And of course, when all else fails, Paw Patrol is hopefully just a click away.
While those would be my top three tips, some other tips I find useful are:
- Getting up earlier than your kids to get solid uninterrupted work time in
- Try to make sure you get ready for the day – getting ready physically also helps you get into the work mindset. Take a shower and put on something other than your pyjamas. Make yourself a nice mug of coffee just like you would at the office
- If you find yourself getting distracted by your phone, social media, etc, maybe use a timer or the Pomodoro method to break your work up into smaller chunks. The timer can also help train your kids to know when it’s working time and when you are allowed to take a break.
- Make time for your kids – there’s only so much time they can leave you alone for. And really invest in that time – enjoy connecting with them and make it quality time. It might just help you destress from work too
Although to me working from home with kids seem like second nature, I hope these tips can give the bewildered and frustrated parent who is new to working from home some tools to make it through these strange times <3