How to work from home with kids around
With 4.2 million people in the UK working from home, many parents are trying to juggle careers with family commitments. But it's even more challenging come the school holidays when the kids are at home.
Running a business from home can help parents to cater to the demands of family life as it often provides far greater flexibility than a traditional 9-5 office job and allows you to work when you're at your best.
Outside of term time, though, the impact of school holidays on home businesses can make it tough to stay productive.
So, here are some of our top tips for working from home to help mums and dads keep their business ticking over when the kids are around.
Working from home with a baby
A baby crying obviously makes it difficult to concentrate on work. Lack of sleep won't help either, and some parents get luckier than others when it comes to their baby's sleep patterns.
Here are a few tips to help you and your business stay productive with a baby around:
- Get an early start - If your baby sleeps late when you're working from home, consider getting up early to get a solid couple of hours of work done
- Or work a little later - Working after they've gone to bed can also be good way to stay on top of your business commitments. Of course, this will depend on how smoothly the bedtime routine goes
- Fit your working schedule to their needs - If neither of these options are suitable, try working around them. For example, if they're better behaved in the morning, make sure you use that time to your advantage
What do I need to work from home
Working from home requires discipline, regardless of your family situation.
But if you've got children, managing a home business demands even more organisation.
- Treat working from home like working in an office - This means, where possible, a routine with a regular start and finish, with an appropriate lunchtime and breaks
- Create a professional workspace - Mums and dads working from the sofa, in their pyjamas, with a laptop balanced on them aren't going to be in the right mind-set for work. Your children may not appreciate that you have something important to do either
Make time for children during your working day
Healthcare provider Bupa recommends that you take a break of up to ten minutes for every hour of work.
Not only does this have a range of benefits for your health, it also allows mums and dads working from home to spend more time with their kids. Which could help to make you feel more present to them throughout the day, while also allowing you to get important work done for your business.
Working from home during the school holidays
During the holidays you're going to be working differently, so your work schedule will need to adapt as well.
When your children are off of school, boredom is going to be your biggest enemy. So keeping the kids occupied will be key to making sure your home business stays productive during this time.
Here are just a few things that you can do to help keep your children's focus
- Give kids structured activities they can do by themselves - There are a range of options available that will fit the bill including online learning games or educational tablet devices. They may also want to emulate mum or dad with their own desk-based activity, like colouring or crafts.
- Encourage them to get some fresh air - If you have a garden or other outside space, during the summer months they can keep themselves amused with a wide range of activities such as water play or outdoor games. And if they're old enough, you could also suggest that they go out for a few hours on their bikes. Just make sure that they wear a crash helmet!
- Try assigning them chores - If your kids are old enough and responsible, that is. While they're working through their list of tasks, you'll get an opportunity to get work done. Of course, you'll need to reward them with some quality time afterwards.
How to prioritise work
When it comes to working from home with the children around, prioritising your work will be crucial to ensuring that your business stays on track.
By breaking down each task you need to do into smaller chunks and then prioritising each section of work that needs to be completed, you'll be able to tackle your workload much more effectively.
Here are a few tips to help you get your workload under control.
Set realistic deadlines
When trying to juggle parenting while running a home business, it's important you set goals you can realistically achieve.
If you've promised to deliver a big project by a deadline, make sure you can manage it as well as the needs of your children.
Being upfront about when you can get something completed could save you stress at a later date.
Work across more day
If you can't get enough done during the week, you can always get extra hours in at the weekend.
No one wants to sacrifice their weekend, but if you're working from home with your family around, it's a compromise that you'll simply have to make from time to time. Just make sure you also give yourself quality time off for yourself and for your partner.
Don't feel guilty about TV and e-babysitters
Sometimes you have two hours to complete a whole day's work.
At these (and less extreme) moments, you shouldn't feel guilty about putting your kids down in front of the TV or computer games.
When you need it, these can be great ways for you to carve out time for yourself to get crucial work done.
Advice for mums working from home
Over half term you could find other parents in a similar situation and share child-minding duties, perhaps even other mums working from home.
Get most of your work out of the way on a free day, and when it comes to your turn have a great day with all the kids.
- If you're lucky enough to have grandparents to hand, you probably already know how invaluable their help is. Ask if they can babysit your toddlers when you need time to get work done.
- If you have a partner who works full time away from home, you may want to ask them to use some of their annual leave to support you in getting a project completed.
- A neighbourhood youngster also on their school holiday may be looking to fill some time and earn a bit of money while they're at it. Asking if they'd like to babysit for a while could buy you a precious few hours.
Turn off the computer and give them your full attention
While it's true that you're unlikely to get much work done if you are working at home with a toddler and they need you.
But by giving them the attention they need – be it reading a story or playing a game – it might just get them to behave, improve their mood or help set them up with an activity they can do on their own.
Spending 20 minutes where the focus is entirely on them could well work out better for you than an hour trying to work while they whine.
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