Working from home is a true test for your self discipline. Working from home with kids can be a test of your sanity.
How do you actually get any work done? It’s a challenge that more parents are facing with today with more companies open to remote work at home.
I’ve been working at home with my wife for the past 10 years. We started our own design and film company called Infinitum and we’ve certainly enjoyed the benefits of the flexibility that it has allowed us. Some of the random places that we’ve setup for our workspace include a camper van in New Zealand, an ocean-view resort at the edge of a cliff in Bali, and a remote vehicle-less island in Brazil called Isla Grande.
When our child came into our lives, we had to make some adjustments. We still try to live a similar lifestyle, but with more structure. We still work at home but our priorities have shifted more to him now.
We love that we’re both at-home parents and we can watch our child grow in person. And through it all, I’ve been able to stay productive with work, for the most part.
Read on to see my suggestions on how I’ve managed to be successful as a work-at-home dad.
You have to face the reality that you will not be as productive as you normally would with kids around, and that’s ok. The main benefit for working at home is to have the flexibility to spend time with your children. That has to be the priority and work is really secondary. Once you get that concept mastered, you can set up realistic work goals. I can usually count on roughly 20 hours a week dedicated to work and 30 for a good week.
Be honest about the situation with your team and your clients so they know that you’re potentially at a reduced capacity. You might be able to handle more, but let that be a surprise to them. It’s better to not take on too much and over achieve than to let them down. Basically, you can only count on sporadic part-time hours, but that can still be very productive and worth while for you to do.
Set Up Your Workspace
Setting up some boundaries is key to making this work. This starts with a dedicated workspace that should be a kid-free zone if possible. Explain to them that daddy has to work sometimes and this is where you will do it. If they are still a baby, you can set up shop near their play mat so that you can oversee them at the same time.
It’s also important to take it seriously when you are working. Get properly dressed, have a regular lunch, and separate your house chores from your work. You can take breaks to do the laundry, but don’t try to fold your clothes while having a zoom call. I know it saves time and you probably do chores when watching over your kids, but you need to show commitment to your job when you’re actually working.
Create a schedule that works for you and for your children. But keep it flexible. You will be more productive If you have routines that you can rely on. Having some structure in the day will also make kids feel more comfortable as they know what to expect. It works well in school and it can at home as well.
What’s really effective for most remote workers is setting strict working hours to avoid the never-ending work day. Of course, having kids at home is a different situation but you should still set limits for yourself and take breaks.
This is roughly the schedule that I try to base my days on. It works well for me and my partner.
|Wake up until 11am||Breakfast and set up the day||Breakfast and free play|
|11am to 1 pm||Outdoor play or playground||Outdoor play or playground|
|1pm to 2pm||Lunch at home or picnic outdoors||Lunch at home or picnic outdoors|
|2pm to 6pm||Bulk of my work||Nap. quality screen time, free play|
|6pm to 8pm||Dinner and family time||Dinner and free play|
|8pm to 9pm||Bedtime routine||Bedtime routine|
|After 9pm||Finish up any work and relax||Asleep|
This takes advantage of his nap time in the afternoon, where I can fully concentrate on work. But it allows me to spend a lot of time with my son, while getting in 4 to 6 hours a day of work. If the weather is nice, we might spend more time outside and I work in the evening. If I know that there is something important to work on that day, I could wake up earlier to get a head start before breakfast. Some weeks I would only get in a couple of hours of work in a day, but I’d work on Saturday as well. And other weeks I may take 1 or 2 days off entirely. This is the beauty of managing your own hours.
Work Smarter Not Harder
Try to plan your work and be as organized as you can. Go over the day with your family during breakfast and run a production meeting to discuss what everyone wants to accomplish that day. You can almost treat your kids like a team that you’re managing by assigning them tasks and overseeing them. Don’t forget to produce your own to-do list and the break your day up into time slots to get these done. You’ll find that you can focus better like this. But also plan for interruptions because those will be constant.
And make sure to plan your home tasks as well. Make a weekly meal schedule for your lunches and dinners. You can use a white board on your fridge or a recipe app like Paprika, which can help you create grocery lists also. If you’re taking your kids to the playground, you can combine it with your grocery shopping or other errands. Just make sure to have your diaper bag prepacked and ready to go.
Keep The Kids Entertained
Getting your kids to play on their own is what will allow you to work properly. So you have to keep them entertained. One way the do this is to have their play areas setup already. My wife arranges the toys differently every night before she goes to sleep. When my son wakes up, his attention is drawn to it right away and he will play for at least hour on his. Have an arts and crafts box around for him to explore his creativity with at anytime.
Remember to take breaks and play with them also. You need to get some exercise too, so chasing them around outside for 15 mins. And yes, allow them to have screen time. Television and electronic devices can be beneficial if you manage their use in that way. This will be your best opportunity for doing work tasks that require your full concentration. If you keep your children satisfied, you’ll have some quite time.
If it all gets to be too much, then don’t be afraid of asking for help. Don’t let your male ego get in the way because you’re not super dad. Grandparents are the obvious choice if it’s an option. But a babysitter for a half day can also make things much easier. Maybe your partner can take a day off if you need a full day of work. Since both my wife and I work from home we just share the parenting responsibilities. She usually takes on the parent role in the afternoons from me after lunch. You’ll have to see what works for your situation, but ensure that your children have the attention that they need. And don’t be afraid to sign them up for daycare a few times a week also. It shouldn’t affect the bond you have with them.
Love Working From Home With Kids
Try some of these suggestions out and let me know if they work for you as well. And enjoy it all. For me, I’m very lucky to have a great support system to fall back on if push comes to shove, so I probably have it easier than most. But by being prepared and able to adjust, you’ll do just fine.
If you’re working from home for the first time, take advantage of this opportunity as it can be a rewarding one. Now take a break your screens and play with your kids.