Parent and baby 1

As the definition of flexible working broadens, many people are being granted permission to work from home, allowing them more flexibility and a solution to the ever growing costs of childcare

Working from home - while watching the children - works well for some people; however, it’s not ideal for others. Everyone needs to try it for themselves. Before you start, think about:

a) How productive will I be?

b) Can I work around the distractions at home?

c) And, will the ages and dispositions of my children be conducive with working from home?

We spend a lot of time working with mums and dads who combine work with childcare, and based on our experiences, we’ve got a few suggestions to share if you decide to do the same:

  1. Schedule your time. Remember you are doing two jobs, so schedule things accordingly. If you have small children about the place, things will take longer to complete so set realistic deadlines to avoid disappointing your boss or letting down your team. Just as you have set hours in the office, designate hours in the day that you are going to dedicate to work, give yourself built in breaks depending on the age and needs of your child. It may take your child a short time to get used to a routine and it may take you even longer – but it’s important to develop a working routine that you can stick to.
  2. Finding childcare. Use your parent network and if you don’t have one, it’s time to start. Trading children with other parents for a few hours is a brilliant way of having an afternoon of quiet time to focus on the task at hand. The other parent will be happy to help, especially if they know they can call on you when they need a hand. This will be easier as your children get older, but if they are still quite young, you might need to find someone flexible enough to come to your home. Know who you can call in an emergency and who you need to make plans with in advance, and ALWAYS reciprocate – you don’t want the relationships to be one sided. Even if you have family who can step up in an emergency, have a back-up, like ready in case you have a last minute meeting, or an outstanding deadline that you can’t avoid.
  3. Be Honest. Be honest with yourself and those you work with. Once you’ve got a schedule that works – explain it to your boss or line manager – let them know that you’ve put time and effort into finding a way for this to work for both of you. Be honest with those you’re working with; if you’re on a call and your child wakes up early ask to re arrange the call, it will be more productive for everyone.
  4. Remove the roadblocks. Make sure you have an area of your home that you can set up as an office – as your children get older, it will be easier to explain that Mummy is working if they associate you working with a particular location – even if it is a corner of the sitting room. Setting up your office in a location where you can glance up at the room and observe your child will allow you to work with the knowledge that you’ve got an eye on the situation.
  5. Entertaining your children while you’re working. When finding activities that your child can do self-sufficiently, think about the amount of supervision they need. Activities like painting are not ideal when you don’t have a watchful eye on the artist! Generally you want to think about activities that take a longer period of time, so that you can focus for longer. And you want to get them focused on one activity at a time – if you put all their toys in front of them at the same time, they will be bored in no time; if you slowly introduce toys or activities as the day progresses, you’ll hold their attention for longer.
There is no exact science to working from home with children; every household and every child will have different outcomes but ultimately, try and do what is best for you and your family.

By Kristen Harding, Childcare expert at Tinies