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Hoxby’s top tips for working from home with children


April 20, 2020

With schools and nurseries currently closed, many of us have recently found ourselves working from home with children in tow for the first time. Even for those used to remote working, it can still be a challenging set-up. Juggling your daily to-do list while trying to amuse or homeschool little ones is not just tricky, but flat-out exhausting. Not to mention awkward if one of them interrupts your team Zoom meeting to announce their latest ‘accident’.

Our community is filled with people who, for years, have been perfecting the art of remote working – a great opportunity to pick our collective brain and bring you the best ways to juggle parenting and professionalism.

Here are our top tips on working from home with kids:

Readjust expectations – yours and your clients’

In these exceptional circumstances, most of us are having to adapt quickly to a whole new way of working. But it’s also important to readjust your expectations of yourself and your output. ‘I think it’s outrageous to hear some employers are expecting parents to still work a 7.5 hour day while looking after their kids - it’s not productive nor is it good for the parents’ mental health’ says our co-founder and joint CEO Lizzie Penny.

Be clear with clients and colleagues that they should adjust their expectations of you throughout this period. Given they're also adapting to new circumstances, it’s highly likely they’ll be understanding.

Keep to a (flexible) routine

Having regular times for meals, outdoor play or walks will stop things getting too chaotic. But drawing up set hours for work may prove tricky, so you need to be flexible. It might be tempting to try and save all your work for the evenings when the kids are asleep, but our marketing specialist Sascha Dutta doesn’t agree, noting ‘your brain will be fried.’ Instead, she suggests using the times children are occupied or napping as opportunities to work.

Make your workspace sacred

It may be an easy option to open your laptop at the dining room table, but setting up a dedicated workspace that’s out of the way of family activities will help you to stay fully focused with minimal interruptions. Of course, the kids will probably climb all over it at some point, but establishing your own area for work rather than one they’re accustomed to using for activities will help create a sense of this being your sacred space.

Enlist some help

If you’re living with a partner who’s also working from home, a solution is to take it in turns to look after the children while the other cracks on with some work, either in shift patterns or on alternate days. ‘If they’re still going into the office, ask them to do mornings or come home early so you know you have a handful of guaranteed child-free hours,’ suggests Sascha.

Other members of our freelance community have been drafting in grandparents to deliver lessons over Skype or FaceTime. ‘My in-laws run maths every morning and my mum does music and art.’ says e-commerce analyst Anna Henebäck. ‘They’ve jumped at the chance to interact with the kids, as my in-laws are based in Sweden and my mum lives alone.’

Burn off energy

The lack of work and school commutes mean it’s likely that both you and your children will find yourselves with excess energy in the evenings. To expel some of this energy, it’s a good idea to use your one hour exercise slot each day. Take advantage of parks and other open spaces during weekdays, when they will be less full. And if they still need tiring out, there are plenty of child-friendly exercise videos on YouTube, like Joe Wicks’, or put on some music for an impromptu dance party.

Keep the activities interesting

‘Give them the illusion of control,’ says client services specialist Punam Sanghrajka-Patel. ‘My son has to do some writing for his handwriting lesson, but instead of dictating what he should write about, I let him choose a subject.’

Crafts and jigsaw puzzles are easy go-tos, but for something educational try asking them to do virtual tours on Google culture or a zoo’s live feed, and then report back. Cooking helps with science and maths skills – The Epsom Bakehouse has great online bakealongs for kids.

Enjoy it!

Working from home with children around is undoubtedly stressful and tiring, but it’s also an opportunity to spend more time with them than normal. So try and grab those moments of fun and enjoy it as best as you can.

If you want to be part of our supportive community, why not join us?

Jessica Bateman is a freelance journalist, editor and copywriter; she’s part of the Hoxby community.

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