When it comes to adjusting to working from home with children in the house some workers have found it easier than others.
Not just that, having to juggle home-schooling with the many other tasks required can make working from home far more stressful than the daily commute to the office.
Michelle Tyson, founder and director of Tyson Wilson Recruitment, says with more and more of her clients giving employees the ability to continue working from home there’s going to have to be flexibility on both sides.
She added: “Whilst working from home might seem like a great chance to spend time with your children and get those odd jobs done around the house while saving time on the daily commute the reality is much different.
“Many households will be struggling to exist together in smaller, confined spaces. Both parents may require desk and work space as well as the children for their homework and some homes just simply will not have the luxury of space.
“Add to that the stress of being a present parent, home schooling, and the many other distractions that come from being a parent or guardian and it can be a recipe for disaster for some workers.
“The most important thing both employees and employers will need to recognise is that for some people productivity will go up and for others it will go down. This doesn’t mean one employee is better than another, it simply means they have different work environments.”
Michelle says becoming “adaptable and flexible” but “organised and focused” are vital qualities to master in order to successfully achieve a work/life balance during lockdown.
She added: “There are many ideas out there of what will make the perfect home working scenario but it’s not a one size fits all situation. It is absolutely imperative to understand that your children have their own personalities and their own individual needs which only you will know best how to deal with. Your space and logistical scenario may be unique, crowded or non-existent too.
“Taking advice is important but also, so is being flexible to create a situation that works for you and your family and ensuring your employer understands where you will be, when you will be there and how they can get in touch with you.”
Here are Michelle’s 12 top tips for working from home with children:
1. A flexible routine
That sounds odd, but the core of it is that while a routine is vital for you and your children, it will be disrupted simply because they are children… Ideally you can set out break times that reflect your normal working practices that the children can follow too, but just be prepared to change. It might be that you take more breaks and complete the tasks after they go to bed, or if they are teenagers before they get up.
Your boss needs to know that you are working at home with your tiny terrors. Ask for reasonable deadlines for work, update them when things will be ahead of schedule or slightly behind.
If your workplace has a joint working app or calendar this can help, but nothing beats a quick call, text or email. Try to stay off WhatsApp and their ilk as you will become easily distracted.
3. The 10-second rule
Every parent should know this but is worth reminding ourselves. Your lovely child will, at some point demand attention. Even if you are in the middle of a complex task or with a deadline looming. It is too easy to snap at them. You wouldn’t do that in the office, so don’t do it now. Count inside your head to 10, discuss it, or explain that mummy/daddy will be with them in five minutes or 10 minutes. Ask them to set a timer, set yourself one and hopefully any temptation to shout will be gone.
4. The magic of headphones
They really can be magic. Whether it is a conference call or just listening to some music make sure you explain to your children that when you have your headphones on you are not to be disturbed.
Whether it’s a bedroom, dining room, or the conservatory you need to have a space that you can set up all the equipment you need, including some extra areas if needed. Try to avoid spaces used by the rest of the family such as the living room or kitchen.
6. Homework/home schooling
Your children may or may not have been given tasks by their school. It is important that you treat it the same way you would if you are making sure they complete their homework by a set time, ready to be checked. If they have questions or are having difficulties, you can take a break to help, but just a short break.
7. Work buddies
There will be other people in your work that are going through the same experience. Keep in touch with them, exchange hints, moan to each other, laugh at the absurdity of home schooling and working at the same time, whatever it takes.
You will probably be sitting down for most of the day. So will your children. Make sure to get up, stretch, move around. You can’t usually do that in the office, but you’re at home. Make up some fun games with the children, look up some of the online resources for children’s exercise and join in. And, with them get out, walk the dog, jog around the park, just make sure that you all get fresh air and daylight, remembering to keep social distance from anyone also out.
9. Task allocation
At work you may have a routine that the various tasks in every project are allocated, with the timing understood. Can you do the same at home with children? Yes, but only by thinking it through. Can your youngest tidy away their toys in 30 minutes in an exchange for a treat? Can your stroppy teen earn goodwill points towards a gift by washing the dishes? The goodwill points are something all children can understand (smiley faces for younger children) and will eventually see them getting down to eagerly helping out with tasks.
10. Limit screen time
For you, your children and anyone else make sure you have limits on screen time. It will be difficult but worth it.
11. Time off
No weekend, evening or early morning work. If you don’t normally work outside office hours don’t start now.
12. End of day procedure
You’ve finished your tasks for the day, it’s five-to-five. Make a note of what you have completed and a note of tomorrow’s tasks. Close the laptop, pour yourself a cuppa and spend some time with your children. Perhaps once or twice a week have set activities: a movie night when the entire family agrees what to watch; a board games tournament across several evenings; or, learning something new such as chess or a craft – just as long as it isn’t members of the family learning a musical instrument – that way madness lies.
If you are in the position where you need to take a break from your current position or want to add to your income during these uncertain times Tyson Wilson Recruitment are currently recruiting a number of temporary and permanent roles.