Remote work is on the rise. If you are also a parent, follow this advice for a successful work-life balance.
One of the most unexpected work trends in recent years has been the surge in workers who are interested in working remotely. And though it might be tempting to believe that this phenomenon is solely the result of the economy's response to Covid-19 in 2020 and 2021, the reality is that interest in remote work began to rise even before the pandemic. In fact, at least one analysis suggests that online searches for work-from-home opportunities increased by 460 percent in the two years prior to June 2021.
If you are one of the millions of Americans considering a move to remote work, congratulations! However, if you are thinking about working from home with kids, it is vital to have a plan to deal with all the challenges that go along with it. In this post, we will help you develop that plan with nine tips that can ensure you find the right balance between your parental responsibilities and your remote job.
The benefits of working from home with kids
Before we dive into the challenges working parents face when they work from home, it is important to note that remote work offers many benefits for those parents as well. Those benefits may include any of the following (depending on your family circumstances):
You could avoid costly childcare expenses.
You are always at home and available if your kids need you.
If your kids are being schooled remotely, you can be there to check in and monitor their progress.
You won't look back later in life and feel like you missed your kids' special moments!
Remote work can often allow more flexibility in your schedule. In many instances, you may not have to take time off to attend parent-teacher conferences and award ceremonies, care for your kids when they are sick, or show up for your kids' soccer games. With a little effort, you can often rearrange your work schedule to ensure that you achieve the right work-life balance.
The challenges of remote work when you have children
Despite those benefits, remote work can also be challenging for parents—especially when they have young children in the home. In many ways, remote work is the ultimate test in finding work-life balance, if only because it can be difficult to properly separate those two parts of your life. In the end, how you achieve that balance will determine just how successful you can be in your remote work adventure.
So, what are those challenges? Well, where to begin? The first thing most remote workers with children often notice is just how easy it is to get distracted when they are trying to work. Kids often get confused when mommy or daddy is suddenly no longer leaving for work every day. In their minds, if you are in the house, then you are off work—and theirs to interact with throughout the day.
Smaller children can be especially demanding of your time when you are working from home. They are the least likely to understand that you are working, and thus more inclined to expect that you will be as attentive as you are during your off hours. Even older kids can struggle with this new dynamic and may seek your attention more frequently. The challenge for you will be to figure out how to manage everyone's expectations in a way that brings balance to your home and work life.
You may also experience difficulties with managing schedules, securing respect for your workspace and time, and creating a sense of normalcy for your family. Most of us have been told throughout our lives to leave work at work and home at home. That separation of the two was promoted as a strategy for creating better work-life balance and avoiding unnecessary stress. Now, millions of people are not only bringing work home, but making home their workplace. Without a plan, that choice can lead to disaster.
Below, we will examine nine tips that you can use to help you more successfully work from home even when you have kids in the house. Depending on your situation, some may be more relevant than others, of course, so feel free to mix and match solutions—or just use them as template ideas that you can modify as needed. The goal here is to help you begin to think about how you can more effectively create the work-life balance you need in a remote work environment.
3 tips for remote workers with infants
If you have a baby in the house, you might think that you have it made. After all, they spend a good part of their days sleeping, so it should be simple to get all your work done without interference. Or so it would seem. The reality is that babies require a great deal of care. There are feedings to be done, diapers to be changed, and other needs that must be addressed. These three tips can help:
Do not try to do everything on your own
Taking care of a baby can be hard work, and it is even harder when you are trying to juggle those duties while you are working. If you relied on family assistance or some other form of childcare before you started remote work, there is no real reason to stop getting that help. Whether it is a relative who comes over to help take care of your baby or a part-time babysitter, that assistance can enable you to focus on your job. So, if help is available, do not be afraid to accept it.
Take advantage of baby's naps
One of the best things about babies is that they do tend to have their own established routines. Fortunately, those routines include napping at certain times of the day. The good news is that you can schedule phone calls, video conferences, and other activities that require your full attention to coincide with baby's downtime.
Split childcare time with your partner
If you have a partner, you should work to align your schedules in a way that splits childcare responsibilities. Of course, that may be easier when you both work remotely, but it can still be managed even if your partner works outside the home. Just take the time to sit down and figure out the changes you can both make to your schedules to ensure that your job can be done without avoidable distractions.
3 tips for remote workers with toddlers
The toddler years are a different set of challenges. Once your child reaches the toddler stage, they will be more mobile, more inquisitive, and even more in need of proper boundaries. But do not be alarmed. Since toddlers are more capable of understanding, you may find them even less of a distraction. Still, you should consider these three tips as you determine the best way to manage your remote work with a toddler in the home:
Properly define work and play areas
This is an absolute necessity. From an early age, you should be teaching your child to recognize the boundaries between your work area and their play areas. Hopefully, you will be able to designate a specific room as your office, complete with a door that you can shut when you do not want to be disturbed. At the same time, however, you should also make sure that your toddler has a designated play area. That can provide an easy way for you to contrast work and play.
At that point, you will also need to train your little one to know when you cannot be disturbed. For example, teach them that they cannot come into the office when you have the door shut. Obviously, the other side of that rule is that they can enter when the door is open. You will also have to adhere to that rule too, parent! Do not scold them if they enter an open door while you are on the phone or otherwise occupied, since that could confuse them.
Schedule breaks to interact with them
Obviously, a two or three-year-old should not be left alone for any length of time on their own. Kids that age can get into serious trouble without supervision, so it is assumed that you have either put your child's play area close to your office or have arranged for at least a part-time babysitter. Regardless of which option you choose, it is important to make time each day to interact with your little one. Schedule regular breaks that you can spend with your toddler to play with them, get them a snack, or take care of other needs.
Train them, using positive reinforcement
Toddlers can learn many things. It is your job as a parent to teach them, but how you teach them is just as important as what you teach them. To get the best results when you are training your toddler to respect your remote work environment and schedule, always use positive reinforcement. Reinforce the idea that they are helping you with your job when they follow your rules and teach them how to act when you receive a call or have an email to send out.
Reward them for good results and behavior, but never punish when they fail. Instead, continue to teach and have them practice good behavior. Eventually, your toddler will get in the habit of respecting your workspace and routine. Even so, you should expect some aberrant behavior from time to time and have diversions on hand to redirect your young one's attention. Building blocks, toy cars, and puzzles can all be great diversions for any young mind. Just try to avoid electronic devices that involve an unhealthy amount of screen time. There are better ways to occupy your child's mind.
3 tips for remote workers with school-age kids
While school-age kids may not need to be watched every minute of the day, they do present their own challenges for remote work. From homework or remote learning to extracurricular activities, they too have needs that can prove distracting for any work-from-home parent. These three tips can help you plan ways to overcome those challenges:
Make sure your schedule is flexible
Parenting school-age children comes with a new set of responsibilities that include everything from after-school activities and parent-teacher meetings to driving them to and from school. You should be prepared to adjust your work schedule as needed to ensure that you can manage all those extra duties while still maintaining productivity during your working hours.
Encourage your kids to hang out with friends
One way to occupy your school-age children is to encourage plenty of playdates and hangouts with friends. And while it might seem strange to contemplate, you can even do this by having their friends come to your house. Most parents understand that kids are surprisingly good at entertaining one another. Having several of your kids' friends over to your house can be a great way to keep them out of your hair while you are working.
Conquer challenges as a family
If your kids are school age, then they are old enough to understand the difference between work and play. Now is the best time to get them invested in helping you to conquer your remote work challenges. Make sure that everyone knows their role in the family, and that every family member has a “job” to do that helps you avoid distractions while you are working. Pro-tip: that job does not have to involve actual work. Your seven-year-old's job might be as simple as doing the day's homework and then playing a game.
The important thing is that everyone is committed to meeting your remote work and home life challenges as a family. When you all know and do your part, you can create the work-life balance you need for long-term job satisfaction and a rewarding home life.
Recognize that nothing is perfect
Finally, recognize that nothing is ever perfect. No matter how well you plan or how successful your strategies might be, something always goes wrong. Remote work is always a work-in-progress, and that is even truer when you have kids in the home. Or pets. Or any distractions, really. The key is to persevere, learn from every new experience, and adapt as necessary to find the success you want and deserve.
It is also vital to remember that society and our interactions are always in flux. Covid-19 altered many things, including the amount of time kids spend at home, how they are educated, and what parents need to do to keep them on track. Working remotely can help you to stay on top of those things, but there will always be distractions and other complications that arise. With a little effort and thought, you can overcome all those challenges, if you work for an employer that is both supportive and flexible.
What if your employer does not provide the support or flexibility you need to succeed as a remote worker with kids in the home? If that is the case, then you should seriously consider a change and start looking for a new remote job that provides the support you need. Your kids must always come first, and that means ensuring that you have the right job for your needs. Fortunately, today's work environment offers greater flexibility than ever before, with many alternatives to the traditional 9-to-5 employment options.
Working from home with kids can be both rewarding and challenging. To get the most out of the experience, it is vital to recognize the obstacles and know how to overcome them. By adopting these strategies, you can more effectively create the work-life balance you need as a remote worker with kids.
If you are looking for ways to highlight your history of successfully working from home on your resume, get in touch with one of our TopResume experts to help you with that effort!
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