How to stay productive while working at home with kids

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Working from home can be quite an adjustment for you. Not only will you be dealing with an entirely new work arrangement, you may also be supervising home study and managing bored or restless kids.

Here are a few tips and resources to help make this period more productive and less stressful for you:

  1. Stick to a routine

    Having a schedule is important especially for kids. They need structure and rules to guide them and regain a sense of normalcy. Check if your school kids have been given study materials and online classes. These will help you establish study times and choose supporting activities to help them stay engaged.

    Education is important – but recognize that their new schedule doesn’t have to be similar to a school day. They can have longer periods for exploration or shared activities with you or their siblings. Let them have more time to relax and enjoy this temporary period. Post the schedule in a prominent area (like a bulletin board in the living room, for example) so they can check activities on their own. This will work well especially with older kids.

    Online resources can help you sustain your kids’ curiosity as well as enhance their creativity and critical thinking. Plus, exploring these sites require minimal supervision from you:

    • Wide Open School (Common Sense Media) is a free online resource for parents and educators to support kids who are learning remotely. It has a suggested day to day schedule that you can follow or customize depending on the age of your child. It has video lessons, live events, games and other activities covering various academic subjects.
    • Scholastic Learn at Home contains day-by-day projects arranged per grade level. It is updated with new activities each week. It also has “Dav Pilkey at Home” (author of Dogman and Capt. Underpants) featuring creative projects, videos and other activities.
    • Crash Course is a YouTube Channel that’s great for your high schoolers. It covers subjects from history to physics, tackling academic topics in an engaging way.
    • Chatter Pack – Home learning resources list for schools and families contains a variety of lessons and activities on various subjects using different mediums (worksheets to podcasts). It’s great for learners of all ages (it’s entertaining and educational for adults as well!).
    • ToyBox Initiative are resources made by Manitoban educators for parents who are home schooling their children. Materials are sent three times a week with tips. An app is being developed but for the meantime, parents can email to sign up.
    • My Learning at Home (Manitoba Government) – A collection of resources for new early childhood, kindergarten to grade 12. It also includes adult learning supports.

    For other online resources for educational activities and entertainment, go to Bored at home? Here are awesome resources for fun, learning, work and everything in between (check out Resources for parents).

  2. Communicate openly

    In this time of change, open communication is important. Kids may be confused and feeling anxious about what they are hearing on media or from other people. This may cause them to act out or seek more attention from their parents. Encourage them to ask questions and share their worries. Provide clear and simple answers. Always be reassuring. Engage your school kids by involving them in making their new schedule and ask for their cooperation to make this temporary arrangement work. It will get them excited about the days ahead.

    Resources for talking to your kids about COVID:

    A message for Canadian children about these tough times from LEGO Justin Trudeau, Tyler Walsh

  3. Set boundaries

    Set some ground rules at home. If possible, have separate areas for yourself and for the kids where they can study and play. Make your work space as free from distractions and noise as possible. Invest in a headset to help cancel out noise when you’re in a video call.

    Let your kids know that they can always ask for help when they need it but there should be specific times when you can’t be disturbed. Establish a signal to remind them. For example, when you are in a meeting with your boss or clients, put a red sticker on your door. This means entering your work space and talking to you are not allowed unless it’s an emergency.

    Set daily work hours and stick to it. Fight the urge to work beyond your hours. This can become a habit and lead to burnout. Read How to work effectively online or remotely – Tips from veteran telecommuters for more tips.

  4. Alternate with your partner

    Share the responsibility with your partner to lighten the load. If they are working from home as well, take turns in supervising the kids, doing chores or running errands. Map out a schedule so you won’t be guessing who should be doing what. If your partner is not at home, ask if they can pitch in during the weekends so you can have a bit of time to relax.

  5. Inform your boss and co-workers

    Manage your boss and co-workers’ expectations by being transparent about your situation. These are extraordinary times – nobody was prepared for this. If you are having trouble adjusting, inform them about it. Chances are, they are in the same boat and can totally relate. However, let them know too that you are working on a better arrangement and that this rough patch is temporary. Communicating clearly is a proactive way of preventing conflicts with your co-workers.

Article updated May 7, 2020.
Sources: The Secret to Keeping Your Kids Happy, Busy and Learning if Their School Closes Due to Coronavirus, Susie Allison, Time Magazine; Tips for handling work and kids during COVID-19 isolation, Stephanie Pappas, Live Science; 5 tips for effectively working from home during the coronavirus outbreak, when you have kids, Courtney Connley, Make It (CNBC); Accessed March 30, 2020.

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