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How to work at home…with children. Tips from a mother of three

With the current global COVID-19 pandemic everyone’s working lives are being impacted with more and more organisations moving their work force to home working, that in itself is a big change for many individuals who will take some time to adjust to their new working day. 

There are already many different articles around that focus on good practice for working from home, but I wanted to approach it from a slightly different angle.  One that considers how we manage working from home if we end up with all our children at home at the same time!

This is something that I already have experience of, I have worked with ScotlandIS for more than 7 years and during that time I have predominately worked from home whilst raising three children.

I started working from home when my oldest was 18 months old and I won’t lie it can be challenging, but I have really found that these key points have helped my sanity over the years.

  1. Routine is key

As with all aspects of a child’s life routine is key – set a plan of your day in place and stick to it as best you can, explain it at the start of the day in detail to your children (write it down if they are old enough to read it) so they know exactly what to expect.  Make it fun, if you write a check list let your little one’s check off the items as you complete them.

  • Organise your children before you organise yourself

Set up everything your children will need in order to undertake whatever task it is you have set them.  Make sure they have a snack and a drink and that they have all been to the toilet, if you don’t, I promise you will literally get two lines of an email started before someone needs something

  • Set a timer

It’s easy to say to children Mummy just needs ten minutes, but let’s be honest no child has any concept of how long that actually is!  Make a game of it – in my house if you don’t ask for something before the timer goes off you get to choose the next activity.  If you all manage it then we get a star on our reward chart and once we get a certain number of stars on our chart we get reward at the weekend (trip to the zoo or something else of their choosing)

  • Don’t break promises

If you say you will do something then do it, if you promise to play a game once the timer has gone off, play the game! Children will remember the one time you said you would do something and did not, rather than all the other good things they have done that day. 

  • When the weather allows get them outside

Use your lunch break wisely get them outside, go to the park let them burn off some energy.   

  • Be honest to your clients

If you have to make phone calls be honest and let them know that you have kids at home – I guarantee you (even with bribery of a sweet treat reward) that one of them will say something inappropriate whilst you are on an important telephone call.  (Just think back to the BBC interview where the poor mum is seen quickly removing the children from the room).

  • Be honest with your employer

Be realistic with your timescales don’t over promise and under deliver – you can absolutely be productive when you have little ones at home, but you need to know what used to take you ten minutes might now take twice as long. So be honest if you think there is a deadline that you might miss or something that you will need more time on. 

  • You will need an area to work in that might not be what you are used to

I have a home office (as many of us do now) but when the kids are home, I work in the dining room as it allows me to see what the kids are doing and what they are up to at all times, it’s noisier than the office, but it has everything I need.  Don’t get stuck sitting on the couch trying to reply to emails etc, in order to be productive you need to focussed.  In my house I set the children up with most of their activities at the dining table next to me so that they feel involved in what I am doing.

  •  Let the kids get involved

Honestly there are very few things that they will actually be able to help with, I sometimes let them hit the send key on my e-mails, but for example when they ask me what I am doing and I say writing a report, they will always ask if I they can help, my response is that I had to have a lot of practice before I was allowed to write them so if they want to help I need them to practice, set them a challenge to read a short book and then write a report on it.  Actually, they are learning but they have no idea.  For younger ones’ scrap paper is key – get them to write their reports on that!

  1. Don’t lose your cool – always take time for a cuddle.

Children don’t want you to be working from home as much as you don’t want them to be at home when you are working.  It’s not always easy, but try and not lose your cool with them, if you can set a good routine form the outset then this step actually takes care of itself.  Take time for a cuddle no email is that important that it can’t wait a minute.

We can all get through this!

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