5 Tips to Survive Working from Home with Family

Work from home - Mother with kids at the kitchen

5 Tips to Survive Working from Home with Family

A friend of ours recently shared how he has been quarantined to work from home in his small apartment in New York City. He is set up to work from a small desk in his living room where he shares living space with his wife and small kids. Over the phone he apologizes for screaming, and loud noises. I can only imagine the challenges he is facing. Though we may not be in his exact situation each one of us has experienced on some level an upset of our normal routine.

Like our friend, many of us are used to outside influences providing structure and routine for our daily life. Whether it’s our boss telling us what time to be at work or school telling us when to drop off our kids. Even teachers and daycare providers establish structured activities for our children. Many of us haven’t needed to develop such a structure within our home environments. Recently, COVID-19 has changed this. All of a sudden we are expected to do it all and many feel the pressure to do it perfectly.

My husband and I have worked from home and have homeschooled preschool aged kids now for over a year, and we have experienced first hand the difficulty of setting and managing a healthy routine for our household. We don’t have it down perfectly and there are some days where the weight is just too much and it seems nothing gets done. However, there are a few things we have learned that have helped us get work done, while still enjoying life together under one roof for most of the day.

Here are some things we have set up to help us establish a healthy working from home environment.

  1. Establish a “work zone” space in your house & communicate expectations.

Have a conversation with kids/housemates/partner about appropriate times and inappropriate times to interrupt. If you find yourself in a similar situation to our friend previously mentioned with younger kids, consider experimenting with a “working hat” that you physically put on to symbolize to everyone around you that you may not be interrupted. Or, a “quiet hat” when you are on the phone. How could you make it into a fun game? Whoever does a good job at responding to the various hats worn could get rewarded with something age appropriate to the child (e.g. screen time, 15 min of bubbles outside, trip to the dollar store – yes they are still open!).

Thankfully, we have a basement where my husband goes to work, and our kids know that they are not allowed in the basement at any time without permission. Contrary to some beliefs, limiting your child’s 24/7 access to you is not mean or unloving. On the contrary, boundaries and structure are in fact an act of love. By setting up healthy boundaries and structure in your home, your children will benefit in the long run. They learn by your example how to set boundaries in their own life and be self-controlled.

  1. Work together with your children to help them create a healthy routine.

Granted this will look different depending on the age of your kids. The older the child the more freedom they will have to choose their routine. For any age kid, being proactive will help you in the long run. Encourage your kids to engage in activities that will benefit their mind, body, and spirit. Discuss with your child the difference between activities that are expected of them, and activities of their choosing. What a great opportunity to teach your child about delayed gratification. Studies show that children who are able to practice delayed gratification are much more successful in life. Set up a routine where only after they do what is expected, they can do something they want for a limited amount of time.

Activities for the Mind:

  • Reading books (many libraries are offering online ordering and curbside pick up)
  • Memorizing a scripture passage or inspiring quote
  • Homework (do before play)
  • Puzzles
  • Free online music lessons (guitar, piano etc.)

Activities for the Body:

  • Crafts- free coloring pages online on Pinterest.com, Play Dough, painting!
  • Playing outside – for even just 20 minutes can make a big difference
  • Indoor exercise: Stretches, kid’s yoga, jumping jacks, etc.
  • Dance party! (Music Ideas: Hokey Pokey, Wheels on the Bus, Go Fish-Party Like a Preschooler, Father Abraham, Baby Shark, Ring Around the Rosie, Tiger Hunt-Ernie’s Hits)

Activities for the Spirit:

  • Read/say a prayer each day with your kids and partner
  • Attend church online each Sunday and find kids church resources to help them practice spiritual disciplines that will benefit them later in life
  • Begin a prayer journal – write down your prayers and wait in anticipation for the answers!
  • Talk to your kids about prayer, pray with them each night before bed
  1. Let your kids get bored! Boredom is a prerequisite for creativity.

If your child has difficulty coming up with activities on their own, spend a half an hour or so with your child brainstorming a long list of ideas they can try when they get bored. So when boredom sets in, point them to the list!

  1. Schedule time for connection and refreshment!

Once you are able to set structured time for work, don’t forget to structure in time for play too! Have scheduled “check-in” times with your kids, spouse, or partner.

Maybe for you this means:

  • Eating a meal together or two or three at a specified time
  • After an hour or two of working, you set the timer for 15 minutes to play on the floor with your kids – alternate with partner if you can
  • Go for a walk by yourself or with the family each day as weather permits
  • Get kids to bed early or wake up early before kids, but make time with your partner a priority
  • Schedule a “family night” each week and take turns choosing what the family will do together. Extra points for having good attitudes! (We have been enjoying Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Memory, Slap Jack, and Old Maid)
  1. Schedule alone time

Alright you introverts out there, you know what I am talking about! Being home with everyone 24/7 can really suck the energy right out of you really fast! Take time for yourself, your family will thank you for it, even if they do complain at first. Self care is extremely important in a time of crisis and transition. If you have small kids, maybe you and your partner can plan together how to give one another the time alone you each need. My husband and I have given each other one night a week or every two weeks to spend however we wish.

Schedule quiet time for your kids every day! Teach your kids the self discipline of laying in their beds for 30-60 minutes in the dark without making noise and without technology! It is possible, but it takes consistency and routine to build the habit and self-discipline. Some days are harder than others. Today no one wanted to nap so we cut it short.

Some of these ideas may work and others may not, but the key is to be intentional. The bottom line is, if we don’t manage our own life, someone will manage it for us. It takes extra work on the front end to plan and communicate, but it’s worth it in the long run to avoid the disaster and frustrations of unclear expectations and disappointments.

Good luck to you and your family!

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