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, or home-schooled, to the mix and it’s a whole new challenge for people.
With the new lockdown restrictions across the UK in January 2021 and most schools closed, we know that parents everywhere are tearing their hair out as the ever-evolving act of work-life balance comes into play as they venture into new unknowns.
How are we to manage our time, ensure the work is done, the children have learned all of their phonics and we are not all climbing the walls at the end of the day? As I’ve been working remotely throughout the pandemic with my two little ones (aged 6 and 2) throughout the pandemic, I’ve learned a few tricks that I want to share with you. I hope you find it helpful as we navigate yet another 'new normal' and try to do our best in this changing environment:
Expel some energy
That important work call will never happen if the children are hyperactive and have excess energy to burn. After breakfast, before the emails are even looked at, get the kids outside for some all-important running around.
Take them on a walk, bike ride, or, if parks are open, for a climb over some equipment.
Allowing them the opportunity to burn off some steam before the day has properly begun will hopefully allow you to tend to work matters when you return, without them running riot through your study space.
Spend a weekend putting together 'busy bags.' These bags should contain a variety of quiet activities that will entertain your children when you are on an important call or video meeting.
Activities can include crafts, Hama beads, Lego, colouring books, dot to dot, puzzles, drawing and painting equipment to name a few. If you are worried about mess, opt for mess-free colouring sets. For younger children reach for sensory bags instead, full of shiny paper, pinecones, hairbrushes, socks or mirrors. Ensure the bags are not overused and the contents switched regularly, and the children will enjoy revealing their wares.
Creating opportunities for children to craft is great for their creativity, patience and their mental health also. If you have an employee discounts scheme in place, you may find extra savings and earn cashback at places like Hobbycraft or The Works – our own platform through Reward Gateway has hundreds of retailers to help us save on purchases, especially those for the little ones!
Cooking with the kids
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.
I like to use our Wellbeing Centre to find family-friendly recipes, and can save on top of my weekly shop with a number of discounts through major supermarkets. While there’s a special Family Favourites category which has some great recipes for the kids, I can also appease my partner with other categories like Dietary Specials (food-borne allergies can be hard to navigate!), Healthy, Low-Calorie Meals and my personal favourite when it’s been a long day - Quick and Easy Recipes! I am a fan of the speedy BBQ chicken, and so is my eldest daughter.
Reading for learning and for fun
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 the 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 discounts platform, you can make some great savings with discounts at places like Zavvi.
Make sure there’s enough tech to go around
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. But if you want to boost your technology at home for the future, too, I always check first at Currys PC World, where I use our SmartTech™ salary sacrifice benefit to get the latest tablets, laptops and accessories with free financing so I can make sure my eldest has all the latest programmes right at her fingertips.
While we may be in this a little (or a lot) longer, there is more support than we ever knew around us, if you just know where to look next.