Working from home with children: Reduce stress on both sides

Working at home provides plenty of freedom and even more flexibility. Parents in particular, however, are often faced with the challenge of having to not only reconcile work and family life, but also keep them separate. When schools, kindergarten or day-care centres are closed, working from home with a child can become a challenge for everyone involved.

Younger kids often do not understand why home suddenly becomes a workplace and why mum and dad don’t have time to play, even though they’re at home. To avoid big fights and tantrums which cause additional stress, it is important to introduce clear structures and set boundaries in advance. We have put together a few tips and tricks to help you efficiently work from home with children.

A fixed time and place for your home office

Before you start working from home with your kids around, you should have a chat with all your family members about what to expect. You might think that working from home means a new way of communicating with just your employer, but you should also take the time to talk to your children. They should be informed about how you plan your time in a home office and when you will be available throughout the day.

Clear boundaries are best achieved by setting fixed working hours and setting up a home office space accordingly. Talk to your employer about whether you need to be available at all times when working from home.

It is not possible for everyone to have their own study when setting up a home office space. However, even establishing a temporary workplace, for example, in your bedroom, can provide the necessary distance for quiet and focused working. In addition, your child can learn that you are only available outside this work space, and that you do not want to be disturbed at work. Occasional ‘co-working’ can be a fun game. Set up a system so your child knows that a closed door means you’re working hard, and they should knock before entering. Return the favour and knock when entering their space too so they don’t feel like all these new rules are one-sided. It can be fun, even if it is hard work to set this up.

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Working remotely with kids: Share childcare responsibilities at home

If you live together with the child’s co-parent, and both of you are working from home, it can be a good idea to take childcare in turns. Especially when working at home with a baby or younger child who requires even more care, you will be able to alternate between short blocks of concentrated and efficient work. It is important to communicate clearly with your partner and employer to avoid misunderstandings and frustration.

You should also engage with your social community to relieve your everyday life and your relationship with your partner. Get grandparents, siblings, older children or neighbours and friends involved in childcare. In this way, even larger groups of children can be looked after at the same time, helping to entertain the kids and releasing responsibilities of multiple parents at the same time.

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Take deliberate breaks and allow for playtime

Working from home with children always means a touch more work. Both tasks require a high degree of attention, which can be very exhausting in the long run. For this reason, taking deliberate breaks is particularly important so that you don’t burn out. If possible, plan work breaks in a separate space from your workplace, and also from the kids so that you can relax for a short time on your own. Exercise can help to release tension and allow you to concentrate fully on the next task.

Generally speaking, having to juggle a home office with kids is the exception. Turn a blind eye if rules aren’t fully listened to, and let your kids get away with things you normally don’t allow. This will take the strain off of you, and mean your kids will feel like they’re getting a reward by being allowed to do things they’re not normally permitted to do. Longer TV times, a yummy snack, or a slightly later bedtime can reduce stress for all parties involved in difficult situations.

Keeping the kids busy and co-working with them

The possibilities of entertaining your child during your home office hours depend on the age and how happy your kid is to play by themselves. Older children may have to do homework or online schooling and are often happier to spend time occupying themselves. In addition, teenagers can be involved to a certain extent in looking after younger siblings and household tasks – think of a way to reward them for helping you out!

Working from home with younger children requires more supervision, although they can play independently at times. Do not underestimate your child's creativity and allow them to get bored, as this will stimulate their ability to be creative. Many kids enjoy spending more time with their parents by “working” alongside them in their own home office, and they can become your little co-workers for the day. By setting up a children's office close to your workplace, you are fulfilling your child's desire to be close to mum and dad, and giving them the exciting opportunity to play office games with pens, telephone, and home-made laptops (use a pizza box, for example). Creating boundaries and your own space are important, but allowing your kids to be around you is important too, as otherwise they could get stressed.

If you don’t work from home with children very often, the change of routine can be stressful for everyone involved. It doesn’t have to be though, and as long as everyone feels like they are being listened to and accommodated, they will be happy to compromise. You’ve got this!

Tip

Do you have more questions about working from home in general? Download our home office whitepaper on the home office for free - you will find lots of tips in one PDF file


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