The big challenge:

Working from home with kids around

Working from home with kids around can be a big challenge. Parenting while answering an incoming call, responding to emails and at the same time watch the kids is not easy. But don't panic, I have some tips for staying productive while working from home. The last weeks I've already learned a lot and I can tell you upfront, there are good days and there are bad days, but with my insights you will get things done while your kids are around.

I would like to share with you the 8 steps that helped me survive the first two weeks of the confinement because of COVID-19. I also put together a survival pack which you can download for free. It includes a weekly planner for kids, a reward chart and a “Don't Disturb” sign.

1. Set-Up an office

Decide wisely where to set up your office. If the room has a door it’s a plus, but a dining table could work too. It need to be a space where you can work quietly and explain to your kids that you can’t be disturbed. Change the set-up if it doesn’t work out. Give your kids their own space to make their schoolwork, ideal in their room or nearby just in case they need help. Set boundaries so your kids know when they shouldn’t bother you. Only use the “Don’t Disturb” sign when you have an important call, don't put it all day on the door.

2. Create a Schedule

Make a detailed plan and include everything (from breakfast to dinner). Please be realistic about how long your kids can play alone and include quality time with you in the schedule. Start your day like a normal workday, shower, get dressed and have breakfast. Establish a routine and stick to it. Your kids need to know upfront what they need to do. I use a weekly planner which you can download for free. Schedule a couple of nights where you work late or get up earlier to get things back on track and most importantly to work quietly. Expect for the worst to happen and if it works out better than you thought you will be proud of yourself and grateful for what you have accomplished. Otherwise you could get frustrated.

3. Communicate & Explain

Be proactive and transparent. Communicate with your colleagues and superiors that you have kids at home, they need to be aware of your situation. The same applies to your children. Explain to them what working from home means and that you can't play during your working hours. Involve them in creating a daily schedule and print this “Don't Disturb – I'm Working” sign, so they know when to enter and when not.

4. Take advantage

While your kids play next door and make noise you should take advantage of today’s technology. Use headphones to block out the noise your kids make to better concentrate on your tasks. You can also use the mute button on your phone while having a conference and just unmute if you need to say something. When you attend a conference call explain in advance that you work from home and that your kids are next door. Like this you don’t feel bad if they make some background noise. You can also plan a video call with their grandparents or friends to keep them 20 to 30 minutes occupied. Working from home is a special situation and it’s ok to let them watch more TV as usual, you don’t need to feel bad. Internet and even Youtube offers lots of high-quality content to entertain your kids like, documentaries, educational videos, podcasts and apps. Only with a toddler at home you can take advantage of their nappy time, use it wisely.

5. Activities with less supervision

There is a wealth of activities you could plan to keep them busy while you work. You can fill up a surprise box with games the evening before. Fill the box with books, puzzles, Legos and games that require no or less supervision. After they did their schoolwork, allow them to spend 30 min. on the tablet or gaming console or find an educational show to watch. For the creative ones have them draw, sing, learn an instrument or let them build something with Play-Doh. The older ones can create a comic or a stop motion video.

6. Indoor Exercise

Even if you can’t get outside because of the coronavirus don't forget to keep them physically active. I let my kids run around the table, or we make a parkour from one room to another. Here are some more ideas from to get their energy level down:

  • Animal races
  • Balloon ball
  • Dance party
  • Clean-up race
  • Tickle tag
  • Hallway bowling
  • Sock skating
  • Bubble bashing

7. Split Work

If you have a partner you could split shifts, one can work in the morning while the other one is with the kids and vice versa. Domestic work also can be divided. Ask if your partner wants to cook or prefers to clean the dishes? If you have older kids give them more responsibilities, let them look after the younger ones and if you’re lucky – let them cook something or help to clean the house. This can help you enormously. Again, don't forget to include everything in the schedule!

Tip: If this is not an option you need to prepare meals in advance to save some time during the week. I tend to make easy meals like Tortellini, Pasta or something I just need to cut and heat up in the oven, like oven potatoes with vegetables for example. My kids usually help me with cutting, involve them whenever you can!

8. Reward good behavior

Reward your kids when they sat quietly during your meeting, completed their schoolwork, were tidying up their toys or just behaved well. Allow TV time, do a fun activity with them or create a reward chart with treats of your choice after they reach a certain target. A reward chart could also work for making sure the household jobs get done (washing the dishes, making their beds, cleaning up their room), just give it a try. At you can download printable rewards charts with funny designs for girls and boys.

Don't get to stressed, be flexible. Special times require special measures.

Be safe and good luck!