While there is some excellent advice out there at the moment about remote working during this unsettling time, one aspect is noticeably missing.
What if you’re trying to work from home alongside children? If schools begin to close and childminders, grandparents and other backup options are not available, you and your people could well find themselves in an unprecedented situation – working remotely while caring for children and potentially educating them at home too.
As a single mum who has been home educating my daughter for the last 3 years while running my coaching and speaking business, I’ve learnt the hard way what works and what doesn’t when it comes to remote working with kids at home.
Allow the house to be a little messier than normal. Make the most of TV and streaming video if it keeps your kids distracted.
But with a few simple tweaks it doesn’t have to be as impossible as it might seem. Here are my tips:
1. Do the maths
Children aren’t learning the whole time they are at school. In fact, some estimates suggest they do as little as 90 minutes of actual learning per day. Equally, you’re not productive all day. Being at home means you get those commuting hours back, plus there are fewer inessential meetings, waste of time conversations and even queuing for lunch.
Base your expectations of a productive day on how much actual uninterrupted working time and learning time you get in a typical day.
2. Understand the different types of work
Not all work needs to be done in a locked and soundproofed room. If your children need your presence but not your full attention there is work you can do in the same room as them.
Equally there is work that can’t be interrupted. Although the famous example of South Korea expert Robert Kelly, who was rudely and hilariously interrupted while doing a BBC interview, demonstrates children don’t always respect these distinctions. Organise your work and your children so that you can be occasionally present with them during the day even with your laptop on your knee.
3. Rethink the timings of the day
There is no need to get the children up at 7am. In fact, I intentionally allow my daughter to stay up late so that she will sleep until at least 9am. This gives me two golden hours in the morning before she wakes up. You may not relish getting up at 5am to get some work done but remember this is temporary, and you may find you like it.
4. Don’t try to teach your children
No one wants their mum or dad to become Miss or Sir. Instead, work alongside the children searching up the answers together.
There are some fantastic websites you can explore together including Khan Academy for maths, BBC Bitesize and Twinkl for worksheets and fun activities. If your school holds lessons online this is also a great opportunity to catch up on work that requires more focus.
5. Remember this isn’t a permanent situation
Allow the house to be a little messier than normal. Make the most of TV and streaming video if it keeps your kids distracted. Remember that many, many people are going to be in this situation so contracting with your boss or managing client expectations is going to be a bit easier.
And try to enjoy the company of your children. Giving my own daughter some space to dive deep into topics that interested her because she wasn’t conforming to a school timetable and to get bored and find a way out of that boredom, helped me get to know her better than I had before. You never know, you could come out of this stronger as a family and with lessons that stay with you forever.