Working from home can be challenging for some people at the best of times: they may not have the right desk to work from, have noisy neighbours, a partner who is distracting or not much space to differentiate from work and rest. But if you add children who need to be looked after to the mix, it’s a whole new ball game.
As we all navigate this new world of hybrid work, we know that parents everywhere are forever re-writing the ever-evolving act of work-life balance.
How are we to manage our time, ensure the work is done, the kids have had some active play time and aren’t tearing their hair out (or ours!) at the end of the day? As many of us have been working remotely throughout the pandemic, our RG parents learned a few tricks along the way that we want to share with you.
Whether you’re a parent learning to exercise the 'flex' in flexible work or you’re a leader supporting a workforce who has a host of bossy, young 'colleagues' ordering them around in their home offices, we hope you find these tips helpful as we all navigate yet another aspect of this 'new normal' and try to do our best in this changing environment:
Exercise understanding and flexibility (aka Be Human)
Kylie Terrell, Employee Engagement Consultant, mum of one two-year-old
I am a working mum of a very energetic 2-year-old, so balancing working from home with taking care of a tiny human that is always on the go can be challenging. This past year has taught me that it is possible to integrate work/home/life and childcare successfully if you are open to being truly flexible in your approach and can be open and honest with your clients so they understand when they receive emails at unusual times that this is just the way you do things.
I appreciate that I have the tools and flexibility to be productive while we’re on the go, and that I have trust and freedom to choose when and where works best.
Recently, I was working on a new partnership with someone I have known for a few years and have had the pleasure of working with before. As we discussed the finer details of employee surveys on Zoom (with The Wiggles playing in the background, my daughter coming over for an impromptu 'hello' and her daughter coming out for 'another snack, Mummy!') I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that we had built a solid professional respect for each other that enabled us to also Be Human (one of our company values) and get work done in a way that worked for us in that moment.
My role requires a high level of responsiveness and this year has meant sometimes I’m taking calls and doing business in the middle of the many adventures we’re having out and about.
Be prepared for play
Joy Adan, Content Journalist, mum of two boys aged 4 and 8 years old
We use big collapsible storage boxes to store toys that keep my 4-year-old entertained whenever I’ve got a block of research or writing to work on, or when I’ve got an important call or video meeting (the bonus is they slide straight into our bookcase, so this makes for easy clean-up after he’s scattered them all over the floor house).
Activities include magnetic tiles, books, Legos, stickers, puzzles, water-painting sets (because that’s safer to use if they need to be unsupervised!) and a LOT of Hot Wheels track builder sets.
Keep their hands (and minds!) occupied
Natalie Savkoski, Head of Client Success - Enterprise and Corporate, mum of two, aged 3 and 7 years old
Craft is also great for kids’ creativity, patience and their mental health. If you have an employee benefits program in place, you may find extra savings or earn cashback at places like Kmart or Target – our own platform through Reward Gateway has hundreds of retailers to help us save on purchases, especially for all the little things your little people might need at short notice!
Cooking with the kids
Reece Jarvis, Client Success Manager, dad of two aged 2 and 4 years old (with #3 on the way!)
Getting the kids into cooking or baking is a perfect activity to try at home. Not only will it keep them entertained, but it’s a great skill for life and it’s an activity that needs to get done every day anyway – so you might as well get some help!
There are plenty of easy family recipes online, and we recommend that you start with recipes that only need a few ingredients and that won’t take too long to prepare or cook – that way your kids are more likely to stay interested.
Hend Dabash, Employee Engagement Specialist, mum of one, aged 3 years old
We often get into the kitchen to prepare healthy snacks and smoothies to enjoy during the week! It’s cheaper than constantly buying toys or packaged food. I always make sure to include frozen berries during my groceries run and get a discount off at Woolies! (Bonus - I bought his apron from The Iconic where we also get a discount thanks to SmartSpending).
Another option for meal inspiration with little ones is to ask employees what they’re cooking and share it on an internal communications platform. Not only will this help boost company-wide connections remotely, but it will also give you unique recipes in your toolkit that cater to dietary needs or even quick weekday meals.
Reading for learning and for fun
Eberto Lopez, Client Success Manager, dad of two, aged 5 and 14
Most schools will continue with online learning for children but it doesn’t hurt to get some extra workbooks or reading books in to keep older kids entertained. Reading is a great way to wind down at the end of the day, and after a busy day of home-schooling and juggling work it’s great for you to get lost in a good book too!
With an employee benefits platform, you can make some great savings with discounts at places like Booktopia or Dymocks.
Make sure there’s enough tech to go around
Kylie Green, Global Head of Consulting, mum to two girls aged 12
Many schools are providing additional technology to families who need it to support online learning, so it is definitely worth checking with your school first. Those looking to boost technology and study space at home can make the most of discounts at JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman or Freedom – I used our employee benefits to get my girls laptops and phones as they were starting high school this year.
Want a screen-free option? There are some fantastic podcasts and all-day streaming services from ABC and TED Learning that school-aged kids can tune into for music and educational content to keep them entertained.
We hope these tips have been helpful! And for those times when the day goes pear-shaped and there is little mental or physical energy left to think about preparing a meal, a discount on UberEats or Menulog (or Dan Murphy’s!) wouldn’t go astray.
While we may be balancing this juggle for a little (or a lot) longer, there is more support than we ever knew around us, if you just know where to look next.