As working from home becomes the new reality for many businesses, parents of young children are facing various new challenges. Naturally, trying to balance work with parenting in the same environment means the current climate can pose issues with focus, productivity and performance. But, to support you through it, we have gathered a few tips to help you establish an effective routine for working from home with your toddler.
1. Start the day early – or late!
Minimise disruptions and maximise productivity by working during your little one’s sleep hours. If your child is usually an early riser (and assumes the role of your alarm by jumping on your bed and wriggling around your pillow), try and dedicate the morning to some one-on-one bonding or playtime before getting started on work for the day. This will allow you to give your little one some valuable time and attention before the work responsibilities flood in. If your toddler is early to bed, your productivity levels are likely to be greater in the evening.
Alternatively, if your child sleeps through dawn (unlike some!), set your alarm one or two hours earlier. Working during these dark hours ensures you can achieve a solid one to two hours of uninterrupted work before the distractions chime in. Use this time to complete priority tasks that require more attention than you can give when a child is buzzing around your work station.
If your productivity doesn’t shine in the morning, you can use this time to organise yourself; respond quickly to emails and plan out your tasks for the day. Alternatively, you can also take the morning for a bit of well-earned self-care; being in quarantine with children can be tiring, so be sure to enjoy some breakfast, a cup of coffee or some downtime before the day begins.
2. Create a schedule & capitalise on time where possible
It can be especially difficult to host video meetings or finish urgent jobs with a child distracting you. Line your day up carefully by coordinating your office hours with your toddler’s routine. Separate the must-do tasks from the less urgent ones and use quiet periods of the day like naptime, mealtime or independent playtime to focus on jobs that require more attention, such as large collaborative projects or meetings with colleagues. Additionally, having snacks and meals ready to go before the hunger pangs begin will eliminate interruptions.
3. Separate parenting and business roles
If you are constantly trying to divide your attention between business and parenting, you may not feel like you’re doing either job all that well. This is an especially tricky balance to master when working from home isn’t your typical situation.
If you haven’t already, encourage yourself to maintain scheduled roles by setting up a work station at home – think stationery and natural light. Not only can this help your kids understand when it’s time to work, but having a door or a section to leave can help you disengage from work when it’s time to focus on family. Sticking to this routine will help both you and your child grow accustomed to this situation.
4. Plan different options for entertainment
To parents with energetic toddlers, keeping your little one entertained all day sounds almost impossible. Encourage independent play where possible; this helps with both productivity and toddler development. Setting up a designated play area and stocking it with activity bins or busy bags are a great way to entice your child to play by themselves and enjoy one toy at a time.
Alternatively, you can set up movie time or arrange virtual playdates during your work hours, or have a few favourite toys or tv shows up your sleeve for when desperate times call for more entertaining measures.
5. Give your undivided attention
If your toddler is one to desire bonding time, chances are they won’t stop until they get some undivided attention. So, plan ahead by scheduling these moments into your work day; update your colleagues, close your laptop and concentrate fully on your child. Set boundaries for when it’s time to play and when it’s time to focus and help your child understand this by sticking to the routine (repetition is key!). Planning disruptions and playtime ahead will help you stay on a more realistic track for getting work done.
Balancing your work and family time can be incredibly tricky, especially if you’re not accustomed to blending the two roles. Remember to be patient with yourself and know that it’s okay if the day doesn’t run as smoothly and productively as you imagined.
During these uncertain times, be sure to take care of yourself as well as your family. Whether it’s reading or watching TV, schedule in some well-deserved you-time and give yourself a chance to recharge and refresh for the busy days ahead.