Working from home…. With the added twist of home schooling

So, here we go…..

If the thought of working from home with your child seems frightening, you aren’t alone. Kids demand around-the-clock attention and parenting while juggling conference calls, the never-ending emails, tight deadlines… And not to mention the added task of home schooling can almost seem like a minefield.

This unwelcome distraction has struck a chord with many parents all around the world. Juggling work commitments with a hectic family life is tricky to say the least.

I am well versed in working from home with two boys, ages 3 and 6. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned so far, it’s that some days run like clockwork, while others are full of minor disasters. So, don’t be fooled by the glossy images of serenity plastered all across social media platforms, working at home with kids is great but It’s also a lot of hard work……… kind of like juggling 20 bananas or building the Burj Khalifa, single-handedly out of pasta, whilst blindfolded.

So how do we cope?

While most parents have worked from home with their kids for the occasional sick day, the prospect of doing so for weeks on end amid the long-term school closures is especially daunting.

Here at MacKenzie King we are lucky enough to have a great team (see our previous blog – The Importance of Team which makes these difficult times bearable, it can feel lonely working remotely, especially if you are not used to it – so here are our top tips for survival:

Set realistic expectations.

Start the day with a care plan – getting dressed, having breakfast, getting outside for a bit. Then move on to a work plan for the day, which includes schoolwork as well as breaks.

Invest a little time

This goes a long way when it comes to kids. If you can give them 20 or 30 minutes of quality attention in the morning, you’re more likely to get an hour or two of quality work time afterward. So, cuddle up and read some stories before you start working, give them your full attention, and you’ll likely find that they play/study happily by themselves allowing you to get that much needed quiet time to work.

Be flexible with your routine

In my experience, setting a fixed routine doesn’t always work, especially if you have children. Having a rigid routine might feel like a good thing for one’s mental health but failing to stick to it can be quite devastating.

Look at your work agenda and if possible, spread out meetings etc to allow for some downtime in between, back to back meetings may work in an office but realistically at home with children this may be a logistical nightmare.

There are endless strategies you can use to build a successful work-at-home routine that includes your kids. Some of these strategies will work great for you, while others won’t be a good fit. Every family is different…….. Don’t forget to take a look at some of online activities that are temporarily waiving subscription fees, there are some great resources out there!

Boredom box

These can be a lifesaver on those days when you absolutely must finish a task and every other strategy to keep your kids occupied has failed. In simple terms, a boredom box is a box of crafts or activities that help direct your kids to play a specific way or create a specific project.

There are many different ways to make a boredom box. For example, a craft boredom box might contain the following items:

  • Construction paper
  • Pom poms
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Glitter
  • Straws
  • Pipe cleaners
  • A stamp set
  • Plastic jewels
  • Googly eyes
  • Foam circles
  • Watercolour paints
  • Felt
  • Plastic cups
  • Buttons
  • Stickers
  • Bubble wrap
  • Beads
  • Paper towel rolls
  • Cupcake liners
  • Masking tape
  • Balloons
  • Feathers
  • bags
  • Various clean boxes and containers from the recycling bin

Once you’ve assembled these items, come up with a list of potential projects and write each one down on an index card. You might instruct your child to build a robot out of the materials, for example, or create their favourite zoo animal.

Practice makes perfect

Your children somehow know when you’re on an important conference call, and they’ll likely choose that moment to burst into your office wanting a snack, screaming about a sibling or generally wanting attention. When this happens, your colleagues might assume that someone is being murdered in your house. Sure, you laugh now, but just wait till it happens…

Believe it or not, it is possible to teach your children not to do this. All it takes is some practice.

Children learn through repetition, you can use the power of repetition to teach your children what to do and, more importantly, what not to do. How? By playing pretend, of course. Think of scenarios that may occur in your working day and act them out, it may even count towards a drama lesson.

Be realistic

People tend to work differently at home than they do in the office. Some might be more productive at home while others struggle to maintain a balanced schedule. If you are used to working with your team face-to-face, make sure to schedule regular virtual meetings, we currently use Microsoft Teams which works brilliantly in our office. Also don’t forget those all-important to-do lists for each day; they will also help to ensure you can keep on track.