Well I have good news and bad news. First off you will get through this, and second, you will dearly miss this when it’s over. You might ask how I can address this issue for you. Well I have the unique prospective of working from home for the last 20 years, and I also homeschooled my kids all through high school. Both are now adults. One of them currently works for me from his home, and he is raising my grandkids while working at home. My other son graduated college with his master’s degree and currently works for the Colorado Symphony. In other words, we have lots of experience working from home, and understand what you are going through, too. Although this was a choice I made, I was not thrust on into it by circumstance line many new to working from home.
Successfully working from home with kids around all the time, really depends on their age. Most of it can be accomplished with a little planning and flexibility as the best way to keep your sanity. When you were working at an office or outside of your home, it was easy to plan your day. You knew you had to make sure everyone was dressed, fed and out of the door by a specific time or the kids would be late and so would you. You also had an agenda after getting to work, in other words, doing the things your boss wanted you to accomplish each day.
If you are still working for someone else but from home now, then you still have those items the boss wants you to accomplish, but now you get to choose how and most importantly, when you will get those things done. This gives you the flexibility that those of us who have worked from home for a while have come to depend on. I know it can seem scary, but here’s some things to consider, to make working from home a little less daunting.
I have three tips for working from home, three for how to work with children and three more specifically for working while homeschooling your kids.
The most important part of working from anywhere, whether it is from home or otherwise, is to have realistic goals and a schedule to match, which will allow you to get your work done, but also to get away from the “desk.” Even when working at the office, we tend to set our goals; or have them set for us; that are just not realistic. One of the best books I’ve come across for how to set up these goals and stick with them is the book The One Thing – there are also One Thing podcasts and other training to help you keep your goals in sight.
When most people first start working from home, they try to do the same things they’d do at the office. You know, that 9-5 with a half-hour lunch and that is it. Well, that is not going to work at home especially when the kids are also home – most people who work from home spend more time doing productive work activities, but they do it at different times. You might end up working 8 – 10 then 1 – 3 followed by 7 – 8 one day, and the next day you might get in a full 8 or even 10 hours straight. There is nothing wrong with that – you may also find that the work you normally do in 8 hours at work, you could complete in 4 hours from home, because your co-workers are not constantly interrupting you. I’m a morning person and am most productive from 7am until three in the afternoon, whereas my husband is a night owl, and gets more done into the night.
Here’s my top three tips for working from home:
Have designated space to work in – working from the couch or bed will not help your productivity no matter how disciplined you are. I‘ve had my office in the garage, in a large closet, and finally in a spare bedroom. The key is that not only you know that this is where work gets done but so does your family.
The last thing you should do each day is, check your calendar and your to-do list for the next day. Why? Well, I know times I’ve have not checked, and come in to work just to realize that I missed an important meeting or have to turn my web cam off because I didn’t give myself enough time in the morning to prepare.
Be aware of when you are at your peak each day – like I said, I work better in the morning, so I try not to schedule meetings, client calls or other things that do not require as much personal focus in the morning. On the other hand, I know that by three in the afternoon, I’m in a slump and easily distracted, so that is when I schedule doing things that do not require as much concentration, such as giving or taking on-line classes or grabbing a business book I’ve been trying to read. And since I make my own schedule, I can go lay in the hammock reading.
Three tips for working from home with kids or family:
Let you family know you are working and for how long – if there is a stopping point, they are more likely to let you work knowing they will have your full attention at a specific time. When my kids were little, I even gave them a timer that they knew when it went off, they could come see me.
Have special activities they can only do while you work – if they are school age then this is the time that they should be working on their own for school activities. If they are younger, then this is a time they can watch a movie, play games, even do something they love, such as an art project.
Learn to say NO, right now, this is not too hard because we are all at home, and not supposed to be going out, but when this is over and you decide that working from home was a good thing you will have to learn to say no – especially when the kids and their friends come over (or when your friends come over). Just because you are home all day, anyway, doesn’t mean you are not “at work.” If your friends have never worked from home, it will be hard for them to understand that they can’t just go to your house to hang out or run to the gym with them. Let them know that you will be available to have fun later.
On the flip side, if someone like your aging parents live with you, or are close by and you wouldn’t be jeopardizing their health, then let them help. My grandmother lived with us when my kids were little, and she was great at story telling – I think they learned more history from just sitting with her then anything I could have taught them.
Now three tips for working while homeschooling your kids:
They need a designated work area just as much as you do – the younger they are, the closer to your desk this should be – as they get older, they can work more independently.
Schedule at least two hours a day just for hands on schooling you need to be directly involved in, such as science experiments (so they don’t blow up the house). You know your child best. If they are struggling with reading, then read with them; if it is math, then you sit with them. The rest of the school day, should be things they can either do on their own, or require little direction from you. This is also your best time to get your work done because they won’t need your undivided attention.
Remember this is homeschooling. That means you can set your own schedule. You are no longer bound by the typical school day or school bus schedule. Both of my kids were better at concentrating in the afternoon, so I would work in the morning then do school with them later in the day for a couple of hours, then I would get back to work while they continued working independently.
Bonus tip: Don’t forget family time! That is especially important right now during the stay at home orders, because the kids are scared and need to know their family is still there for them. Set up time with their friends and their grandparents on Skype or Zoom. Drag out all the board games in the evening instead of turning on the TV, have dinner together. You might remember 2020 as a very stressful year but they are going to remember it as the time when they got to play games with mom and dad every evening and didn’t have to go to bed on time on a school night.