Learn the 7 rules of working remotely with a child on board to be used not only during a coronavirus pandemic!
I’ve been working from home for 13 years. And I know what dangers await „teleworkers”. I know what challenges we can face every day and how satisfying it is to save time you’d normally waste on commuting. ? And since working remotely has now become one of the most popular forms of work, maybe you could use a few tips?
EDIT: Working with a child up to about 2 years old is an obstacle course, it’s possible, of course, but only in 15 or 20 minute time slots and that’s not always the case. Knowing your child helps here, just as the assistance of another adult or an older sibling… In short, hang in there!
1. Create a „contract” or an „agreement”
I know that every child is different, but try it even with a two-year-old. In my case, the verbal „contract” with a child for a certain period of time has worked well from the time my child turned three or so. We made a deal: „I do my thing, and you do yours.” Of course, 2.5 year-old will stay busy for about 15 minutes, but that’s something!
The older the child, the longer the time he/she can entertain themselves. We agree beforehand what each of us has to do. For example, I have to write an offer for a client, and what could you do in the meantime? Or I’ll suggest something for you to do by sneaking a peek at my long „rescue list”!
Read also: How to work with a child at home?
2. Prepare a rescue list
I’m not a fan of lists. Oh, no. But I love these, and we start each holiday or other remote-work sessions with children with these. But this time I’ll limit myself to what we can do at home. After all: #stayathome!
Together with the children and my husband, we write down all the ideas for doing things at home: Legos, games, remember all the other toys that are stuck at the bottom of boxes and cabinets. Colouring books, pick-a-sticks, dominoes. In short, everything may be on the list. What for? Because when the moment comes that a child has to stay busy, sometimes there is no window to think. The idea must be here and now. So there it is!
Which of course doesn’t mean that I don’t like boredom! I love it, though my kids a bit less, because when they’re bored and tell me about it, I always say „That’s great! You have a chance to come up with some fun on your own or discover something new.” But let’s be honest, I can say that to my 6-year-old and he will really come up with something. When he was younger, he would eventually come back to me – after 5 minutes… ?
Such a list can also come in handy during those long afternoons, when everyone is already tired and running on fumes! But that’s why we have a daily schedule!
3. Establish a daily schedule
Does your child start the weekend by asking „What are our plans for today?” Mine does. Especially the younger two. And when I don’t work at the weekend, we can plan together, come up with fun things to do or just go wild. However, when I have work to do, deadlines are looming and the schools are closed, the schedule really helps.
That’s why we agree on a daily plan, so that it’s easier for everyone. If your child is smaller, then this schedule is more for you, although it is equally important in order to avoid frustration. PS.: Yes, I know, daily life writes its own plans sometimes, but it is good to start with something.
Example daily schedule? 9:00. I sit down to work, and you have 1.5 hours to do something you want. Then we meet for lunch, and I’ll have coffee. My kids are big enough for this to actually work. They take turns taking care of the younger one. Seriously.
Although, when they were younger, the schedule had to fit their routine. A moment of playing with Legos together, then you play alone and I have to work… Then, for example, we play a game for a while, or we go for a walk, and then I go back to work. Time for dinner, then again some fun and then work again.
We’re all happier that way. Children find it easier to cope with daily routine find and know what will happen. And me too, because I allow myself to close the computer and take care of them without feeling guilty that work is still waiting to be finished.
4. Divide chores and responsibilities
Depending on age, everyone can get something done; I always say that these tasks have to be completed „for the common good.”
The quality level achieved in performing these tasks is a separate topic, but I reckon that at least it’s done.
Depending on the age. Maybe older siblings will come up with games for the younger one? Of course, if it’s feasible: I don’t expect 1.5 year-old to keep a 2-month-old sister entertained. ?
This, of course, does not protect us from a perpetual mess. ? I just make sure there’s safe passage through every room. ?
5. Try working in intervals
This is the key to working remotely with children! What does that mean?
I divide the day and tasks into smaller parts, depending on the age of the children. Because I know that if I take on a big task and someone interrupts me every now and then, I will certainly do nothing, and I will be angry with myself and with the children.
Depending on the tasks, the need for phone calls and meetings, I divide the day according to the priorities of the tasks on my list. If, for example, I have time (relatively) for work from 9:00 till 10:00 a.m., I can only write back to the most important e-mails of my clients and my team. If possible, I can also prepare the work for later. I take a break and I spend time with my children. Then I go back to work again… and so on and so forth.
This did not work with small children, of course, but with the daily schedule and the list of ideas, I managed to cut out some 2 hours or so (in intervals)… Well, maybe more, adding a walk with the phone in my hand while the baby was falling asleep in the stroller. ?
6. Use a support system
That should have been the first point. Because if your husband/partner also works from home, the whole jigsaw puzzle also applies to him. If he goes out to work, maybe he can change his working hours a little? So that you can do some of your work in the morning, e.g. until 10 or 11 a.m.? Then both of you have time to work.
Sharing can do wonders. My husband works a lot remotely and we have learned with time that we have to share. Children can’t just be my responsibility. Sometimes it works better, sometimes worse. But if one person is serving dinner or making breakfast, then the other one can work in peace. Even if my work is more flexible, we agree an engagement where we are both committed. As much as each of us we can.
If you have someone else to help you with your children, that’s great! Maybe a sister or brother could come over for a while and take care of the kids… Though in the times of the coronavirus maybe they’d better not. Grandmothers are also out of the question right now.
7. Find your „lifeline” or even two
Working with children is demanding. It’s easy to get frustrated. A lot is happening and not always according to plan. That’s why it’s super important to have a few lifelines at hand that will allow you to get back into relative balance. What works for me?
A phone call to a friend to vent for a moment or just talk to some fun adult.
One earplug. I know it’s pretty controversial, but one earplug won’t keep you from hearing things happen and at least some of your thoughts will stay with you, try it!
A little pleasure just for myself. For example, music, when I feel it’s a little too much, my mood-improving playlist doesn’t disappoint me. Do you have one?