- Is working from home with kids under quarantine even possible?
- Why working at home for quarantine is different, and we should treat it as such
- 18 Ways to keep your kids distracted while you work at home
- 11 home-related things to do to make working at home successful with kids
- 14 work-related things to do to make working at home possible with kids
- Final thoughts
Is working from home with kids under quarantine even possible?
You probably heard rumors at work that you may up teleworking or working from home.
You think, yes! This is going to be like a little vacation, I can sleep in, I do not have to drive – you know all the positives come to mind.
Then you realize your kids are at home too.
So not only do you have to work, but you also have to parent too. Suddenly you know you are going to have to work twice as hard.
Yes, it is possible to work at home with kids, but it is going to take the cooperation of everyone around you to make it work.
Why working at home for quarantine is different, and we should treat it as such
There is a difference between people working from home for a living and people doing it because of the coronavirus.
If your office is doing this because of quarantine, then the rules were probably written in a hurry. Policies and guidelines are being made up as you go.
This entire situation is very unprecedented, so there are going to be bumps in the road.
Some people who work from home have more flexibilities like the hours they work. Or what they are expected to accomplish and their job may not be one that depends on others.
This is different from people teleworking for quarantine reasons, companies and organizations are going to expect we keep to their routines and stick as closely to their hours of operation as possible. They will expect business as usual as if changing the working environment is not a big deal.
At least for now, I suspect companies will begin to realize the struggles people are going through as they transition to working at home and will update to suit – but it may take a while.
Keep open communication with your boss about the entire situation. Understanding that he or she is trying to figure things out too.
You know your boss best (and we know not all bosses are created equal), so you know how things may go down when you mention that your kids are at home too.
All I am saying is keep your messaging to your boss tactful. You want the opportunity to work from home, so you keep getting paid, right? Handle the situation with confidence (you got this anyway). If they ask how you will handle working with kids at home – you can use some of the tips from this article.
Try to minimize your nervousness, your lack of confidence, your whining, and other emotions around your boss and coworkers about teleworking- you do not want them to doubt your abilities. Give it a try first, and if it does not work out, then have that conversation with your boss.
If there was ever a time where we need to keep providing and supporting our family, it is now. It will get exhausting, but we can do it!
You may be wondering if I have experience in working from home, I do. I worked from home for a few years, and I was able to make it work. I currently have an office job (with a two-hour-long daily commute), but I still work on this blog from home.
The tips I have below are ones that I have used myself in some capacity.
Hopefully, this guide will help you get through some of the rough bumps and give you the confidence to go into working at home like a superstar!
18 Ways to keep your kids distracted while you work at home
These are “in case of emergency” ways to distract your kids and most are short term distractions. I wanted to give you these ideas upfront, so you had to look no further.
Some of these things may seem more like for little kids but you can do some of them with older kids too.
Just get creative and adjust to your child’s liking.
1. Snacks galore
You can let your kids chose a very special snack (something you may not ordinarily let them eat) that you can use during an important meeting or when you really need to focus. You can also have a snack area you give them access to at all times, so they do not come to you every time they need one.
Depending on their age – you can also have a snack area with bread, peanut butter, jelly, and other things so they can make their own creations.
2. Throw them in the bathtub
Kids love the tub, and for some reason, they can play on their own in there. I have literally sat on a stool working in front of the tub while my daughter plays, never leave your kids unattended while they bathe.
3. Water activities
I call them water activities to make it sound better, but really it’s just letting your child play with water at the sink. To give yourself even more time, you can allow your child to play with a toy you usually would not let them get wet it reinvigorates their interest.
4. Give up the boob while you work
If you have a baby or toddler that is fussing and you still nurse them, you can let them breastfeed while you work.
I lay in bed with the laptop on my lap and let my daughter rest on my arm as she nurses. I am even a pro at typing with one hand (I am doing this right now). Yes, my arms get tired, but I can get a lot done. Then she usually falls asleep, and I can roll her off of me and continue working.
5. Play with your phone
Your child may have an iPad or their own phone, but for some reason, they still want your phone. As if it has magical features! If you are not using your phone and not expecting a phone call, let them use it for a change.
6. Hide a toy and have them go look for it
This is a version of Hide-and-Go-Seek you can use to your advantage. You hide something and make them look for it. To make the game last even longer, you can hide multiple items, and they are not allowed to bother you until they found all of them.
7. Reward them for being quiet or playing alone
Say you have an important meeting (primarily if it’s via Facetime or a webcam where everyone can see what you are doing) ask them to be extra quiet. You can play the quiet game and if they are good during that time, celebrate them with a dance party or special treat! Once they learn that being quiet gets them rewards, they might do it automatically. Make it so when they hear that FaceTime ring tone the all get quiet/excited and know the game has started.
8. Work from your bed with them
If you do not have a television in your room, move one in there and have it set up for streaming. You can work on your laptop from the bed and have the kids around you. It feels more like family time rather than working. Let them bring some toys too. Make your bed as comfy as possible for them.
9. Open up Amazon
You let them browse through Amazon or a toy website to pick a toy. They take a while to choose the perfect toy (you can give them a price limit), and you buy it only if they behave and stay quiet.
10. Bust out the slime, play-dough, or paint
If you resort to giving them access to the messy toys that drive you crazy, just set the ground rules. For instance, if we allow our daughter to play with slime, she has to keep it on her little table. She can’t play with it on the floor, carpet, bed, etc. I keep an eye on her to make sure she sticks the rules – she usually does. If it’s extra messy, we also change her into clothes that can get ruined. Just be prepared for a mess afterward.
11. Bust out kitchen items
If your kids like getting creative in the kitchen, you can let them play with things like flour, cornstarch, and water, so they can make their own dough. You can also let them play with other food items to keep them distracted.
12. Let them decorate cookies, a cake, or cupcakes
If you make batches of desserts in the evenings, you can allow them to decorate them the next day.
13. Play bedtime with their stuffed animals
You ask your child to put all of her stuffed animals to sleep. Make sure to tell her “sshhh” and then this turns into a very quiet activity. Lay down a blanket and have another blanket to cover them up and put them to bed. If you put the blankets far, then your child has to walk to put each stuffed animal to bed, which takes more time.
14. Give them tasks to do
Have your little ones look for birds through the window, or have them count the number of vehicles that pass by, or have them be on the lookout for the neighborhood cat. Having them go out and do tasks away from you can also mean they will get distracted on their way back, allowing you for some a few extra minutes of concentration or quiet. Of course, if your child is older, the tasks can be different, like making get-well cards for people.
15. Let them play with an old laptop
If your little one is obsessed with your laptop, then let them play with an old one if you have one. They can pretend to work too or just mess with whatever software you have on it. I find my daughter thinks the keys and mouse are hysterical because she is used to touchscreens.
16. Let them play with your makeup
Kids seem to enjoy drawing all over themselves, and if you do not want to get stuck cleaning pen or marker off of them, you can let them play with some makeup. I have extra Halloween makeup that I will let her play with very rarely. That seems to do the trick, though. Sometimes I let her play with my real makeup but only select products.
17. Favorite shows
Let’s face it, sometimes you just need to let them watch something on your television. Disney Plus released Frozen 2 for kids, and Netflix has added a ton of shows while people stay home.
18. Video games
Yup, let them do their thing with the video games and the screens and all the things you try to keep them from normally doing. But remember, this is not normal.
If you are pregnant and getting ready for a baby in your life, here are more posts you may enjoy:
1. Standard parenting rules may not apply
First things first, when you are stuck against a deadline or really need to get something out – parenting rules and your normal discipline does not apply.
Surely you have realized this after reviewing the ideas given on distracting your kids in case of an emergency. They may be a bit extreme, but they can work if you have a needy child around you while you are trying to get things done.
As mentioned, this is not normal, we are still getting used to the way things are shifting. You must be flexible in your parenting for you and your children.
Keep in mind, you are not the only one going through this, the situation is new for your kids and your partner too.
2. Standard couple rules do not apply
Speaking of your partner, whether you live with your husband, sibling, parents, etc. having the kids at home will affect everyone. You also need to work these things out too.
For example, if your husband (or wife) still has to go into work and comes home tired, are you going to let him relax when he gets home? Or are you (realistically) going to ask him to take over parenting duties so you can get some work done?
Of course, you are going to want him to take over! You did two jobs vs. his one – but then he throws in his commute, the fact that he woke up hours before you, the stress of going in person, etc.
You both have good reasons why you need a break from the kids and household duties.
It is the same situation if you both have to work from home. Do you take turns working in a secluded room? Who has more web conferences?
You need to talk about splitting up the responsibilities ahead of time, so it does not turn into a fight when you are both exhausted and wanting the other to handle dinner and entertaining the kids. Or when you both need quiet time due to a meeting, you have to dial into.
3. Work irregular hours
If you already know that it is going to be hard getting anything done during your children’s peak energy hours, then get a game plan together.
Sometimes working a few hours in the early morning and a few hours in the late evening might be more beneficial for you. When you come up with your schedule, keep your kids’ school routine in mind, like the time they start class, when they eat, when they have physical education. This can help you come up with a schedule for them and you.
Irregular work hours sample schedule with kids
- 6:00 am to 8:00 am – Two work hours to start the day
- 8:00 to 9:00 am – Get breakfast and kids ready for the day
- 9:00 am to 11:00 am – Two work hours to squeeze conference calls and meetings in with coworkers (basically get any communication done)
- 11:00 am to 1:00 pm – Lunchtime, entertaining, and giving attention to the kids
- 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm – Two hours to get last-minute communication efforts for the day, checking emails, and submitting work
- 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm – Spending time with your family
- 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm – Two hours completing your workday and getting ready for tomorrow
Things that can alter it is if your partner gets home in the evening and allows you to get the bulk of your work done.
It can change if your kids are early birds and you can work all evening. Or if they are like mine and wake up late, I can squeeze in four working hours before she wakes up if needed.
Think about it and talk to your boss about it. If you work on a team, you also need to be available when they need you, so that can also sway the kind of schedule you come up with.
4. Wake up early
Let’s say your boss wants everyone to work “normal” hours like 9 am to 5 pm (does anyone work hours like this?). If that is the case, then you may want to wake up extra early to prep for your kids’ day at home.
- Make snacks and lunch in advance
- Set up activities you planned for your kids to do
- Fill up the pet bowls with water and food
- Clean up a bit
- Get ready for the day or create a to-do list
- Ensure phones, laptops, iPads and all other electronic devices are charged up
- Throw a laundry load in – just do not forget to put it in the dryer
- Set up your work area
- Set up your kids outfits (let them chill in pajamas every once in a while)
- Set up things your kids may need for the day
The bottom line is to get anything and everything ready for the day in advance. The less you have to hassle over tasks during the day, the more you can stay productive.
You know how you get into the groove of working?
Everything seems to be going great, and your brain is finally operating at capacity. You do not want that moment interrupted because one of your kids can’t find his favorite blanket. Try to have everything out and accessible for the kids.
5. Virtual Playdates
You know how kids like to play with other kids? Take your normal playdate online. For instance you can FaceTime your playdate parent and let the kids interact a bit. If they like it let them keep playing this way.
This may change in the future.
As of March 15, 2020:
“organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.”
6. Get a sitter
Another way to get some work done is to have a sitter come to watch your kids for a few hours while you work. Many local community colleges have shut down schools, so if you know someone who typically goes to class during the day, they may be available.
If you feel uneasy about letting someone in your house, you can do a mini-screening to ease your mind. Ask them questions like:
- When was the last time you were at a large event or gathering?
- When was the last time you traveled?
- Have you been around someone who is at high risk?
- Do you mind following my home hygiene guidelines?
7. Virtual work dates
If you have a coworker who you get along with, you can invite them to work with you virtually at a certain time during the day.
You can use Facetime easily and just prop them up somewhere near your computer.
Or you can use Skype.
On Skype you can
- Share photos
- Share files
- Share your screen
- Make audio calls to each other
- Make video calls to each other
- Conference call with multiple people
It is easier than stopping what you are doing and getting on your phone. It works well when you are working on the same assignment too. You can tag team and figure things out faster with a variety of tools to communicate.
8. Set up a working area (no-kids zone)
Setting up a designated place to work can help with your productivity.
Whether it is your entire in-home office or a space in your living area, design it to your liking. If you work best with sunlight set up by a window or at least a room with some natural light in it.
If it needs to become a no-kid zone, then you need it to be in a room with a door.
Make sure you have plenty of outlets where you set up your headquarters.
If you have older kids to help you take care of the younger ones, you can do more with your no-kid zone policy. Unfortunately, younger kids need constant supervision, and you may only be able to have a kid-free zone when someone else is in the house to help you.
I recently bought this desk Ameriwood Home Haven Retro Desk with Riser (affiliate link)
I love it! My daughter already got slime all over it and it wiped off easily. It is small enough to fit in my bedroom, yet has enough space for my monitor, laptop with docking station, keyboard and mouse. My daughter can play next to me while I work. The bonus is my husband said it was easy to put together.
So far it has been a good buy and I have more productive having some space for myself.
9. Wear your kids out
By law, we all get breaks and lunch breaks while working, so use those to your advantage. Get your kids outside and have them run around. Make this time their physical education time. You can get them to:
- Race each other
- Play tag
- Do jumping jacks
- Bear walk
- Crab walk
- A really active version of Simon Says
Let them get all of their energy out when you can, so when you are all inside, they are not running around screaming. It is also beneficial for you to get some fresh air.
10. See if you can limit work phone calls
If you have really loud kids, you may want to take as few calls as possible.
While people should be understanding of your situation, all the background noise and dogs barking may be too much to conduct business over the phone. Opt for email, or if you have access to chat, that is a great way to do business fast.
Again, Skype has chatting, phone calls, and video conferencing. You can also share files and screenshots.
Talk to your boss about not having so many conference calls, sure you can put yourself on mute, but what about when you have to talk?
11. Go for a ride
Sometimes taking the little ones out for a drive can calm them down and put their mind in another place. If they have been whiny and unruly all day, a trip can make them feel better.
Can you get someone to drive while you work? I find that I am incredibly productive during our road trips because my daughter is not on top of me the entire time. She knows that she has to be strapped in and chills in her car seat.
If you do not have someone to drive you guys around, you can drive yourself and see if it helps. A 15 or 20-minute ride to get a snack or everyone a toy can change the environment of your home.
Extra bonus, the car also puts little ones to sleep if they need a nap.
Attention new dads! Find more in-depth advice here:
1. Remember this is unprecedented
I mentioned it up above, something like this has never happened in our lifetime, so we are all learning how to adjust.
If you do not accomplish what you want on those first few days working home, do not be too hard on yourself, and work it through with your boss.
If you work with a lot of people who do not have kids, they might outperform you at first, but that’s okay. Once you get the hang of things, you will catch up. You can make it work. Just remember we are going through this, and we all have barriers in our way.
Your coworker may not have kids, but maybe they have an elderly parent in their home. That can be just as distracting. Or they could have nightmare pets which are as needy as kids.
2. Work with the boss on expectations
One way to get a grasp of what you need to accomplish working from home is to talk to your boss about it. Understand what she is expecting of you.
There are going to be all sorts of problems that arise for everyone, just make sure you let your boss know that you will do your best to work through them.
3. Get clear guidance on what to do
When everyone is in the same office together, it makes it easier not to work on the same product or project. When you have a question, you just walk over and ask.
If your environment is very collaborative, make sure you are not doing duplicate work as your coworker.
Have your boss be clear in what she wants you to do and get her confirmation via email. You always want to get at least six pieces of information when you get assigned something.
These are the things you want to reiterate in your email:
- The full assignment with details
- Include the final due date
- The date due for an early draft
- Who should be copied on the assignment when you send it out
- Who can be your POC if you get stuck on the assignment
- Who else is working on it and what their duties are
4. Take your training seriously
If you get any training on how to work from home or telework, really pay attention to it. Yes, training is dull, and sometimes you know the person who created it did not have the end-user in mind – but you need to focus.
It may not seem important in the moment, but when you are at home trying to figure out what to do or how to VPN, you are going to wish you paid attention to your training.
The training may also cover how you are supposed to fill out your time card, which is very important. Remember, the people who can help out with this technical stuff may working from home or are hard to track down.
Make sure you have all of the equipment you may need, beyond chargers. For instance, if you need printing capabilities, make sure you get issued a printer or ask if the requirement to print something will not be required while you work from home.
5. Cyber awareness
As a nation, we are vulnerable right now, there is all sorts of misinformation when it comes to the coronavirus.
This is the perfect time for cyber villains and hackers to work their ways into our computers. Follow all the technical guidelines your company or organization gives you.
You might feel like you are being productive by installing different productivity or work-from-home software. But unapproved downloading of software can be dangerous for your entire organization’s technical infrastructure.
It can also be hazardous for your clients or other organizations you work with.
Do not do work on your personal computer if it is not allowed. Follow the rules as carefully as you can, some of them are put in place for everyone’s protection.
6. Take materials home
Gather up all the supplies and materials you may need. Do not rush going over your supplies list because you do not know the next time you will be able to go to your office. You also do not want to pay for something you need out of pocket.
While paperwork and printed manuals are heavy, take things like that if you think you will need them.
7. Get updated contact information from everyone
If you do not have everyone’s personal cell phone numbers, now is the time to get them. Also, get an idea of how to contact everyone based on their preferences. Some people like email or text while some prefer a call.
Knowing how people prefer to be contacted will help you get what you need from them sooner.
Make sure everyone has your contact information too.
8. Create a game plan for each day with goals
Depending on your job, you can create a plan for the entire week or you can focus on what you need to get done daily. You can include priorities, deadlines, ideas and all sorts of other things to help you complete your tasks.
As your boss asks you to do other things, you can just add them to the list.
Include goals, for instance, if your research project is due on Friday, your goal may be to finish it by Wednesday.
Creating this road map ahead of time for yourself will make your life easier when it comes to actually doing the work. The last thing you want is to sit at your computer not knowing what to do or where to begin.
9. Block the news and social media or distractions
We all know about the never-ending deep hole we can get into on our social media feeds. Or how every news story leads to ten more.
Anything distracting can cost you valuable work time. At the end of the day, you do not want to have to spend an extra hour working on something you could have quickly finished because you did not have the focus to do it earlier.
If you must get some news or social media in, do it during your breaks.
This goes for in-person distractions too. Being at home all day will make you notice things. Do not start rearranging furniture during your work time – put it on your to-do list for later.
While we are talking about distractions in the house, you can also make some rules to keep you on task during the day – like no chores and no online shopping. You can post your rules somewhere to remind you.
10. Take advantage of your alone time
If you ever get alone time or someone takes the kids off of your hands, use that time wisely.
Those moments are rare, so you do not want to waste them on searching for pointless things and reading articles that do not contribute to your productivity.
Stuff like that can suck up your time, and before you know it, your kids are back, and you are back to working harder to get stuff done.
11. Stay in touch
Working at home is equivalent to working in a little bubble.
You can stay in your little bubble forever and forget all about what is going on beyond it. But you must keep in touch with all of your coworkers to be successful, especially if you are a part of a specific project or team.
You never know if you are falling behind or if you are doing better than expected. Some coworkers might be experiencing a bump in the road that you already went through, and you can give them advice or vice versa.
For social reasons, it is also good to keep in touch with people. After working at home, you can start to feel cabin fever, and this is one way to make things feel a bit more normal.
12. Get ready from the waist up for webcams
If you are using your webcam or an application like FaceTime to communicate with your office mates, you only have to dress from the waist up.
However, if you are a time crunch due to your kids – fix your hair and throw on a decent shirt. Unless it is a significant meeting or with leadership, then you may want to dress up a bit.
Speaking of dressing up, it can be easy to work in pajamas and not take care of your personal appearance. If you have time, spend a few minutes taking care of yourself, this will help you with your morale.
It will also make things feel a little more official, and sometimes you need that.
13. Ask for a break from the mundane
When you are working at home and having a hard time, the last thing you want to do is busy work or work that nobody ever reviews or work that is not useful due to everyone teleworking.
If you have a task that weighs heavy on you and is going to stress you out, see if that assignment can be put on hold.
Or you can ask if that assignment has more leeway like instead of being due daily, you turn it in every other day.
See what you can do to lighten your workload and make your time and efforts efficient.
14. Remember to take breaks
When you get stuck on an assignment or can’t figure things out, it is good to take a mental break. While at the office, I am sure you get up and stretch, or go have conversations with people throughout the day.
These brain breaks can increase your productivity over time. Your brain is probably still working in the background, and it may help solve some of the issues you may be having.
With your kids around, make these breaks count. As mentioned above, go outside and wear them out. Give your kids the attention they are craving from you.
Who knows? Maybe having your kiddos around you while you work can spark some imagination?
During this uncertain time, you may feel entitled to work from home and keep earning money, but in reality, it is a benefit. Since it is a benefit, just remind yourself to do your best and keep trying to work.
Kids are a handful and can hinder your working ability, so figure a way to work with them around. Whether it’s you all stay in one room together or you can work away from them for a certain amount of time, every minute you can squeeze good quality work in is beneficial.
Over time you may learn to work around loud noises and distractions. Similar to how you can figure out how to work with a lot of people in your office, you can do the same at home.
We are all trying to figure things out one day at a time, your work, your kids, and you, so things may feel chaotic at first. However, the more you do it, the more you get the hang of it.
Your work may become more cooperative about your situation, your kids may begin to understand that you have to work do, and you will get more productive day by day.