There may be times when you sit behind your office desk thinking that working from home would be the ideal solution, and for many people that really is the case. Flexible working hours, the comfort of your own tea and coffee, a fridge full of food and wearing your comfy clothes. What’s not to love? Well, for those of us who have little bundles of joy running around the house, it can be a little trickier to balance work with your duties as a parent.
At Viking, we want to do all we can to make your working from home experience as straightforward as possible for you, your children and your employer. Here are some top tips to help it run smoothly.
1. Be Flexible with Working Hours
Before getting started, speak to your manager and discuss how flexible you can be with your working hours. It may be that you’re up with your child from 6am and want to get some work in as they watch their morning television, or you might want to jump back on and do a couple of hours after they’re tucked up in bed. This will help take the pressure off you during the day, whether you’re thrown off track by an impromptu colouring in session or need to deal with a tantrum.
2. Set Your Expectations
Children are hard work, they demand a lot of attention (and quite rightly), so don’t go into working from home with children in the house thinking it’s all going to be smooth sailing. If you set your expectations and go into it at peace with the fact that you’re going to be disturbed, then it’ll make it a lot easier to take when you are. Similarly, set your child’s expectations. This might not be possible if they’re very younger but try to sit older children down and explain that you have a job to do and they should try to remember that.
3. Plan the Day
The point above might say to expect the unexpected, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to plan your day. If you’re home schooling with your children, try to get their work prepared the night before and have an area for them to work in. Split their lesson time out into hours, with breaks included, so they know what the plan is. That way you can set them down to a task and you’ll know how much time you’ve got. With babies and toddlers, try to plan meetings around naps.
You can also get lunches prepared and in the fridge before starting work to make it quick and easy and prepare your evening meal in advance or at lunch time, making sure you’re never rushing.
Your work colleagues may not have children, so you can’t expect them to understand the pressure you’re under at home. The best thing you can do for everyone is to communicate. If you’re worried about a deadline, or making a call, let people know and explain. You might be surprised how understanding they are once you’ve explained how much you have to balance work and parent life. Communicating effectively with clients and colleagues is the most important thing that’ll help get you through.
Communicating isn’t just about sorting the boring work admin, it’s also about speaking to your friends at work and touching base. Try to have a bit of fun, arrange a daily call to blow off some steam and have a chat. This kind of interaction can be especially important if you don’t have a partner working from home with you.
5. Be Kind to Yourself
Being a parent is not easy at the best of times, never mind when you’re also trying to be a good employee. When you’re working from home you might find yourself crushed with guilt from all sides, “am I neglecting my children?”, “am I doing a good enough job?”. Remember that the only person inflicting this guilt on you is you. Always remember that you’re doing your best and that’s all you can do, your children, employers and colleagues will all appreciate that.
6. Every Day is Different
Unlike going into the office and slipping into your familiar routine, every day spent working from home with children is different. Some days they may entertain themselves for hours and you can work without distraction, others you may find yourself constantly henpecked with an ever-growing pile of work to get through. On the tough days, remember that it’s just one day and put your efforts into planning how you can bounce back the next day.
7. Be Patient with Your Partner
If your partner is also working from home, you’re adding a completely new element into the mix. The number one rule must be working as a team (something all parents will already know!). You can’t allow yourselves to bicker about whose turn it is to change the nappy or prepare a snack. Try to set up a rota for those little jobs, otherwise you’ll quickly find yourselves having the “my job is more important argument” and there’s no going back from there.
Remember to show that little bit of patience, some days you might be feeling stressed, others it might be your partner. Try to support them through those days and avoid the temptation to vent your frustration on each other.
Working from home with children can be an extremely difficult and tiring task, it involves a lot of patience and a lot of organisation, but it can work. Plus, you still get to wear your comfy clothes and not do your hair!