Tips for working from home with kids around
The one question that lands in my inbox more often is about how I manage 4 kids while working from home, so I thought to properly address it here, after having expanded a bit on Instagram.
Here are the foundational tips and ideas that work for us (my personal favorite being no6) and of course there are so many more details we could go into, but I’ll try to keep it simple here. Hope you find them useful:
1. Having a designated work space.
My partner in crime and in business, dear husband and I always have our own desks each and when we sit down kids know it’s work time and they cannot interrupt unless these is something really urgent going on. Also when I sit down to my office I get into a bubble where laundry/dishes/cooking do not exist. I zone these out or else I will never be able to focus.
2. Work zones.
Apart from a physical space, we design very specific time zones for working. If kids are to see us sitting down to our desks they absolutely MUST know for how long they need to keep it quite or they get impatient and that’s a recipe for trouble. Usually we keep two work zones of 4-hours each within the day. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. A program is always on the fridge and everyone knows what happens and when.
3. Lunch break.
In the middle of the day we always have lunch all together. We have tried to skip this bit many times but it just doesn’t work for us.
After working for all morning the kids need to sit down and reconnect with us. The best way to do this is getting them nurtured with healthy food and initiating meaningful dialogue while munching. Old fashioned? Very. However it does keep my children’s emotional cups filled, so I’m happy to keep it as is.
4. Specific tasks for kids.
So what are the kids doing while we work, you may ask. They have very specific tasks that we have agreed upon together beforehand and they are occupied with them. After the work zone ends we check in them and reassign new tasks. They are all pretty grown up now so they can handle independent homework in volumes respective to each ones age.
5. Home errands.
Laundry, ironing, cleaning are usually done before going to sleep and for me it’s a way to get some steam off any work stress might have piled up during the day. I am also happy to have a husband that is very willing to take over a good amount of these tasks so they are completed rather fast.
During the past years I have gone through phases of feeling extreme guilt for having kids around while working. I would go into ridiculous lengths to hash them down and prove to coworkers or clients that my productivity is not affected. That I can achieve and deliver.
I don’t do that any more. Now, when a meeting starts, I will make it very clear that kids are to be heard in the background because I am a mother. In the same way, when offices hours where negotiated I made it very clear that as a mother I couldn’t be at office past 2.30. I have lost opportunities with this tactic -indeed- but this also worked as a filter to clear away the people I wouldn’t be a good fit with. Because whoever can’t see that a mother of 4 (or any mother) is a person already used to working A LOT and a person really committed to work for making the world a better place, is not really a good match for me. Nor am I for them.