6 Productivity Tips for Parents Working at Home
Working from home is tough for anyone and having to do it for 8+ months has had a massive impact on the productivity of the nation with 39% of people stating in June that they felt less productive working from home. We bet that has only risen in the following months, especially for parents. With home-schooling, work meetings, projects and housekeeping on our plates it is no wonder that parents are beginning to feel the strain. Earlier in the year we gave some tips for how to remain productive and a healthy digital balance whilst working from home, now we have something to help those who are not only trying to balance their own screen use, but that of their children too.
#1 Swap child-caring shifts
If you are lucky enough be living with your child(ren)’s other parent then our first tip is to take advantage! If you have an important meeting (aka Zoom call), then your partner can take their lunch break early to keep the kids quiet. If your partner has a deadline coming up you can shoulder more of the burden for that week by working in the room with the kids, so that they are undisturbed and can focus fully. Your rota doesn’t have to be set in stone but if you can work out regular times when one parent can oversee the children each week to lighten the load, you will be amazed what you can achieve in those stolen undisturbed hours.
#2 Create a physical work space
As in our previous blog we can tell you that creating a defined workspace is one of the best ways to improve your screen-life balance and maintain a good level of productivity. If you have children, then it is unlikely that you can work effectively in the living space (unless they are doing online school from their rooms) so you may have to get more creative. Perhaps you can work from your bedroom, sitting at the other end of your bed or take over a child’s room during the day, if they are occupied elsewhere.
#3 Increase productivity with working hours
In order to get work done, it can be tempting to work at all hours whenever you have a moment in a haphazard manner. However, this is not the best for productivity. We recommend enforcing working hours. They don’t have to be 9-5. If you have toddlers and your job is flexible, you could work during nap time, a couple of hours when your partner is with them, and a few hours after dinner when they are in bed for example. Try to stick to this routine as it will enable you to plan your work better and get more done in a shorter period of time. It will also help you relax in your ‘off’ time.
Bonus: even with older, more independent children try to work in ‘bursts’. Set yourself achievable goals within smaller periods of time (such as ‘finish this proposal by lunch’) and then take regular breaks to get up and see your kids. This way you can stick to deadlines more easily and spend more time with your children: win-win!
#4 Screen-free childcare
One of the easiest ways to ensure that your kids are occupied whilst you get some work done is to put them in front of the TV or give them a phone to play with. However, this is going to be detrimental to their development, especially if they are already spending hours a day at online school. Research presented at the 2017 Paediatric Academic Societies Meeting found that every extra 30 minutes of device time (e.g. phone) is linked to a 49% increased risk of expressive speech delay in children under two years of age. Try not to fall into this trap. For younger kids, you could set them up with play dough, building blocks or dolls and work in the same room as them to supervise; ideally taking a break every 30 mins to play with them for a while and then set them off on a new task. This will also encourage your productivity to increase in those shorter periods of time. With older children, you could give them books, puzzles, games and competitions (if you have more than one) to keep them occupying themselves and each other for as long as possible.
#5 Work with your kids
If your kids are old enough you can explain to them the importance behind being left alone for short periods of time and reward them for letting you work. You could use a trusty sticker chart to measure their behaviour for example and reward them with their favourite dinner, a family game night or anything else they would like. Another way to frame this would be to cut out all screen time after dinner and make sure you all play together each evening so that you still get plenty of face time and updates from your kids, without them having to interrupt you every 10 minutes. Obviously, this won’t work for everyone and certainly not all the time but you could use it in increments. For example, you could ask your child to read a new book whilst you are in a meeting as a favour to you so that they can explain it to you afterwards. This way you combine an element of responsibility with time spent with you and guarantee yourself some uninterrupted time.
#6 Cut yourself some slack
Last but not least, it’s important to cut yourself some slack. Whether you are trying to pull teenagers away from their screens or keep three children under five entertained whilst you work, parenting is tough and it has only got tougher this year. If you slip up occasionally, it’s OK. However, every small step you can take towards keeping your children off screens that are unrelated to school while you’re working, will not only do wonders for your productivity, it will also do wonders for their wellbeing.