Working from home with kids

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How to Work From Home With Kids

How to Work From Home With Kids

Rules for parents working remotely
Working from home with kids

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As schools close and companies implement social distancing policies in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, parents must navigate potentially difficult work-from-home situations. It isn’t always easy to get the necessary work done with your children present. Here’s what to do when housework and work-work collide and your home suddenly becomes an office.

First, assess alternative child care options

First, assess alternative child care options

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Depending on your situation, alternative child care may be the best way to lighten your load. Contact trusted neighbors and loved ones. See if anyone is available to lend a hand in your home or watch the children at theirs. If you have high-school-aged children at home, recruit them to help care for younger ones or keep the house in order. Finally, if you are really in a bind, consider employing a part-time nanny through sites like Care.com and Sittercity.com. Whoever the sitter, remember they are also living during the virus outbreak. Keep communication clear and the house disinfected, and monitor for potential symptoms.

Be candid with your boss

Be candid with your boss

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Offices may make you sick, so approach your supervisor about potential work-from-home opportunities should it be required you be in the office during a school closing. The Harvard Business Review suggests employees and employers approach these conversations with a mutual understanding of how unprecedented the current situation is. Parents, be candid about your home situation but don’t begin a conversation defensively. Seek to comprehend your boss’s expectations and reach a solution that works for everyone.

Communicate with your partner too

Communicate with your partner too

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Given the outbreak’s reach, more than one parent may be required to work from home at a time. Communicate effectively with your partner to make sure home responsibilities are evenly shared so you both can successfully complete all work duties. Tips include setting up separate work zones or working in alternating shifts.

Set realistic expectations

Set realistic expectations

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Understand that your office and home are different environments completely and your work will unquestionably be affected. While a walk to the office kitchen may be a nice reprieve from desk duties, a walk to the kitchen at home may just remind you that last night’s dishes aren’t done, lunch still needs to be cooked and the kitchen sink needs a wash. Expect your children to continue being just who they are regardless of whether you are on the clock or not. Overall, be realistic about how your day will likely unfold and plan accordingly.

Keep healthy boundaries

Keep healthy boundaries

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Depending on your child’s age and your living arrangements, physical or relational boundaries may be necessary for a remote working situation. Whether this means working in a space with a closable door, setting up a baby gate or hanging a “stop, mommy (or daddy) is working” sign is up to you. Whatever physical boundary you undertake, verbalize the rules for the workday to your child. This may mean saying, “go to your brother or other caretakers for help first” or “keep the TV volume below 10.” Whatever your expectations are for your kid’s behavior, make sure they are clear.

Make a workspace but be willing to switch it up

Make a workspace but be willing to switch it up

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Remain flexible about where in the home you are doing your work. However, as much as possible, create a designated workspace where you can focus on the task at hand without being too far out of reach from your children. Be it a spare bedroom or quiet corner in the living room or kitchen, choose a spot where you can minimize distractions or interruptions. For small children, it may also be best to have them near you. Keep little ones busy at makeshift workspaces set up near your own. Lay out coloring sheets or other fun activities.

Set and keep a routine for you and older kids

Set and keep a routine for you and older kids

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents keep a child’s day as routine and scheduled as possible. Use lunch or break time to play or read with your kid, something every parent should take time to do. Having a set routine will also do you some good as it organizes your day. Set internal deadlines for yourself with the intention to meet them. However, acknowledge life may get in the way and adjustments might be required.

Reassure your child

Reassure your child

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Children may be already frightened or confused by the coronavirus. They may also be questioning why their schools are closed and why you are home during hours you normally are not. Reassure your child that all these measures are preventative and that doctors are working to learn more about the virus and stop its spread. Remind them they can help too by washing their hands and covering their cough. During a difficult time, strive to make your presence a comfort, not a cause for added worry or stress.

Monitor screen time

Monitor screen time

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Social distancing may place a pause on upcoming playdates, making screens and other electronic devices the simplest remedy for fussy children while at work. The AAP recommends children ages 2 to 5 have just an hour of screen time a day. While there are no similar restrictions for children 6 and up, the AAP recommends parents set their own limits and designate media-free times and zones in the home. All this considered, and given the social distancing consequences of this highly contagious virus, parents should nevertheless expect to rely more on technology than ever before, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Know when to take a break

Know when to take a break

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When the work is at a standstill and your frustration is at a peak, take a break with your kids. Get some fresh air outside for a minute, have an impromptu dance party or do some jumping jacks around the living room. Step away from your work to ease the stress and wear down the kiddos a bit in hopes nap time will come soon.

Know when to take the day off

Know when to take the day off

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Should you or your child begin to display coronavirus symptoms, know it is time to take the workday off and focus on seeking proper medical attention. Otherwise, should working from home prove to be an impossible task, make the decision to put flexible time off to use.

Ultimately, stay focused and avoid distractions

Ultimately, stay focused and avoid distractions

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Power through the distractions and interruptions and do your best to get the necessary work done. When the day gets particularly rough, remember everything takes longer as a parent. That’s just one way life changes when you have children.

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