Working from Home

It’s about flexibility and boundaries

Working from home with children who are home learning is no walk in the park. Many of us are learning how to do it and with self-awareness, planning, communication and technology, it’s easier than you think. 

Here are six strategies to help you find your balance and make it work for everyone in your house.

  1. Be flexible

Your normal routine might not work while you’re all at home, working, studying and playing. Adopting a flexible approach to how you structure your day will help you all cope and cater for everyone’s needs. Your new normal is likely to involve combining greater flexibility with plans and schedules for non-standard working and family time.

To plan successfully, it’s helpful to know your own style and work preferences. Research shows some people are “integrators”, who cope well with multitasking and switching between work and personal tasks, while “segmenters” prefer to keep things separate and have strong boundaries.

  1. Make a plan

Make a daily work, home learning (and childcare) schedule that suits your family.

It’s useful to schedule things as it gives you a realistic understanding of what’s possible with the time available and it can help you evaluate the essentials you have to fit in your day. 

Have a family meeting and determine what you think is vital for the health of your family and your productivity at work. Use that understanding to identify ways to share the load around the house and to give everyone time to work on key tasks.

Try different scheduling for a week and meet as a family to discuss what’s working, what’s not working and what might work better. For example, try a two-hour work block for two days and see how children respond to it.

  1. Create a work space

Research shows working from home is less stressful when you have a dedicated work area. This helps you mentally and physically separate roles and boundaries. Here are some work space ideas to make things work smoothly:

  • Set up an ergonomically designed desk and table
  • Invest in a good noise-cancelling headset 
  • If you don’t have a separate room to work in, set up a physical boundary, such as a bookshelf or a room divider, so you can still see and hear younger children
  • Make small traffic-light signs to indicate to younger children when they can and cannot interrupt
  • Use alarms to give you 10-minute reminders before you need to change gear from work to parenting. When you’re about to transition, write a note on what you want to do when you come back. This will help reduce the spill over of those incomplete tasks into your next activity.
  1. Build a community

Stay connected with those who support you. You, your partner and your children will need social stimulation beyond each other. You could try:

  • Your school, parish, local communities, friends and neighbours
  • Virtual play dates through video chat
  • Parents of your child’s classmates to help share the load. Another parent doing a video music class or a virtual art class might free up precious time for you to do something else.
  1. Look after yourself

Self-care is as important now as ever. Let go of any guilt about your children’s learning. Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes and missed targets. You are working in a new world and it will take time to adjust.

  1. Have realistic expectations and be patient 

Learn from each day by taking note of what worked and what didn’t. With time you will find a rhythm that works for you, your partner, your colleagues and the children at home.

Dr Nikki Brunker, teacher educator and former classroom teacher and homeschooling mum, offers some great tips and resources.