A parent’s survival guide to working from home: 10 essential tips you need to read

Written by on 31st March 2020
Category: Business

In these unprecedented days as the Coronavirus spreads, permanent home working has suddenly become the reality for many professionals.  On Monday 23rd March, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the UK advised: “From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home.” Many offices had already begun to action home working, and combining this with UK schools closing, we now see entire families at home, together, constantly.  It can be quite a daunting prospect for many parents working from home with the kids around but as this may be our new normal for a while, we have put together our top tips and survival guide to help us get through the weeks ahead.

The right support and set up

SilverDoor HR team working from home
The right technology and the right support make working from home much easier!

At SilverDoor we are lucky to have an amazing technology team who have worked all hours over the past few weeks ensuring the whole company can access all the files and platforms needed to make the transition to home working as smooth as possible. We also have a supportive HR team who are always on hand to give advice and help; we’ve written this guide with their input – as well as our own personal experience on the challenges of juggling a career and parenthood!

Children studying at home
Giving the kids their own workspace helps everyone focus.

It’s great for your mental health to have a designated workspace when working from home with or without children there. Whether it be in your home office or at the kitchen table, if you set a specific space aside for work then your children will associate it with work and hopefully quiet time too.   This can help children understand that when you are in the home office/bedroom/sitting at the computer desk you are working and will hopefully minimise disruptions. 

Working from home with kids a neat and tidy desk
A neat and tidy work area helps minimise distractions – for both kids and adults

Office values

It can be beneficial to bring some of your office values to your workspace – ideally, keep desks neat and tidy and create a pleasant working area where you can focus away from distractions.  Keep to your usual morning routine as much as possible and although it’s probably not necessary to don a full suit it can help keep you in the right frame of mind if you get ready as you usually would and resist the temptation to stay in pyjamas all day -that goes for you and the kids!

Timings & communication

There is no denying it can be quite challenging working from home, full time, with the children in tow too.  It helps to be realistic; you might not be as productive as you usually are, you might have to tweak your working hours so you can fit around the kids (early mornings before the rest of the house wakes can be a really productive time for some people).  Be honest with your employers and talk to them.  If you need your hours to be more flexible most companies will usually try to support this – especially if they have children too!  If you have a partner try to balance the childcare it so you can both benefit from quality work time.  It can help planning your week ahead sharing key times and scheduled meetings so you can work around each other.

Working from home with kids video calling
You may have to accept that distractions are inevitable and that you aren’t as productive as normal.

Establish a routine

We are living through unprecedented times which can understandably be quite unsettling for both children and parents. It is important to continue with some structure and balance, especially for the working day.  Establishing a routine can help with this. It can help create stability for kids at home and aids adults in organising their day.  There are some great examples of homeschooling schedules doing the rounds on social media at the moment which can be useful to give some ideas but it is important to focus on what is best for your family.  Sometimes just a rough plan can help and by no means feel guilty if your schedule happens to go out the window sometimes – we all have days like that and it is important to remember you are doing your best in unforeseen circumstances.

Working from home with kids playing with letters
This counts as phonics, right?

Prioritise, and manage expectations

In terms of your own workload, prioritising is key!  Make a list of the most important tasks you need to do and if necessary break them down into smaller points.  Set specific (and realistic) goals and anything else you manage to achieve is a bonus! For your kids, and depending on their ages, this could be as simple as read one book a day and write a review; spend one-hour doing maths; do one chore; spend one hour outside.

Working from home with kids bike ride daily exercise
Heading out for an early bike ride like Wes and George is a great way to start the day.

Plan ahead, and set small goals

Whether you chose to stick to a schedule or not it can still be worth planning a few tasks for the children for the week ahead – particularly if you’re trying to home school on top of your own workload.  Many schools have been supportive and sent out worksheets, task ideas and documents to use.  There’s also a great range of online learning resources available which are great for homeschooling.

One of our planned tasks this week was planting some cress seeds. Both my five-year-old Phoebe and my two-year-old Seren enjoyed this activity.  Phoebe then wrote some instructions about how to grow cress, drew a picture of them, and she now checks and reports on them daily – science –art and English all from one pack of seeds! Other things you can do to keep your kids occupied include: writing letters to their friends; helping you prepare meals; measuring out ingredients; writing out a shopping list or using the groceries app; simple chores like hanging out washing or tidying their rooms can help them earn pocket money; reading a book and writing a book review. Getting through the day with your sanity intact can be considered an achievement in itself!

Two little girls stay at kitchen and  learning maths with cress seeds
Phoebe and Seren learning with cress seeds

Technology is your friend

As a parent to young children, I do have quite strict limits on their technology and screen time.  However, these are unforeseen circumstances and if I need some quiet time to work on a project or I have a digital meeting scheduled then sitting them on the sofa with a movie never fails!   With the children being off school there are so many websites online that are offering free registrations at the moment. Take advantage of free downloads of children’s audiobooks on Audible and the teaching websites such as Twinkl and Purple Mash.

Child sitting on the sofa with tablet and headphones
There are lots of online resources, apps, stories and games that will keep them occupied.

It can also be worth downloading some apps for them.  There are so many great educational ones that can support their learning as well as being fun for them to play.

Keep in touch

Another bonus of living in a digital age is the benefit of using technology to communicate.  It is so important to keep in touch with family and friends at this time, and video calls are a great way to do this involving all ages. The JusTalk Kids app is a great way for them to stay in touch with their friends. The same goes for work colleagues,  as social interaction is limited for most of us at the moment a video call to your team and colleagues is so rewarding! 

The SilverDoor Marketing Team have a digital video meeting every morning to discuss our day ahead and it is so beneficial to keep us all communicating and in the loop.

Digital team meeting from home
The marketing team meeting keeps us all updated

Make time for exercise and fresh air

When working from home it is just as important to be able to switch off as it is to be productive, and exercise is a great way to do this.  Set clear time aside when you can go for a walk, run or workout at home.  You can even involve the children too.  Joe Wicks has a great You Tube channel and is doing live workouts suitable for all the family daily at 9am.  It is also acceptable to leave the house for exercise once a day,  just make sure you avoid busy areas and other people!

Kids exercising at home
At-home workouts can be enjoyed by all the family

Be realistic, celebrate small wins, and remember, no-one needs you to be perfect!

Working from home with the children around is a whole new world for many of us.  It’s a learning curve and as the weeks go on we will all no doubt settle into a routine that works best for us and our families.  Try to be realistic with yourself: if your rainbow colour-coded schedule has been abandoned by 10:30am then it really doesn’t matter, don’t put too much pressure on you or the children –it’s a new situation for everyone and it might not always go to plan. 

Even on the BBC – Children can be so unpredictable

It can help to focus on the small positives in your day, stop measuring success in the way you might previously have done and appreciate the small things. Enjoy having more time to cook together, eat lunch in the garden, read a book, sit and watch a movie with your kids or use what would have been your commute time for exercise or even a lie-in in the morning!

Your kids will not remember how many times tables they learnt during this period, they will remember how safe they felt, how much fun you had, and the weird and wonderful ways you found to get through this crazy time.