In recent years, the “teleworking” option, as it is often called, is an option to which more and more organisations are adhering either by choice or obligation. Not everyone feels comfortable not having a workplace to go to, however, new technologies, keeping us permanently connected, have facilitated the implementation and development of this way of working. The benefits are multiple, as it provides great flexibility for both the company and the worker, facilitating the reconciliation of family life and productivity, with a positive impact on the level of stress, which is reduced accordingly.
In crises such as the one we are currently experiencing, in which it is necessary to stay at home, many people have been forced to telework as the only option for continuing their activity. The extraordinary thing here, and the challenge to be overcome, is that those who have small children share the responsibility to remain productive with that of caring for their family.
Teleworking with children, mission impossible?
Working with your children at home can be quite an adventure, and if not, tell that to Robert Kelly, an American professor of political science in South Korea, who suddenly became a celebrity when a video of him being interrupted by his children in full live connection while being interviewed for the BBC was viralized.
Keeping your children busy, entertained and above all, willing to leave you space to concentrate on something other than giving them your full attention is a challenge. While the alternative of leaving your child with a mobile phone or standing in front of the TV all day is too tempting, it’s not the right thing to do and it’s not even an option if your child is under three. Making the day productive requires a minimum dose of discipline and creativity, and I offer some simple guidelines and advice that could help make the day more enjoyable for everyone:
If working with your children at home is not the usual thing for you, it is advisable that at the beginning you invest some time in explaining to them the reasons for the new situation: why mom and/or dad have to stay at home, what is going to happen, how many days the situation is going to last and why they do not have to go to school or daycare.
They may find it difficult to understand the situation at first and may also miss going out or sharing games with their friends. Making up stories or games can help you develop a tailored message.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Along with food and physical activity, you need to pay attention to breaks. If you are going to spend many hours at home, it is advisable not to have too many unhealthy foods in the house, such as processed foods or products with a high proportion of sugar, as being at home for so many hours at a time can make it easier to give in to temptation. It is advisable to eat as much healthy food as possible and to keep our energy level constant.
Let’s take breaks to stretch our legs and do moderate physical exercise, we can even organize it as a game and let the children participate too, the important thing is to move and stay active.
Our tiredness makes it more difficult to maintain control over our emotions. If we are tired or grumpy, we will pass on our moods to our children, there will be more chance of conflict and it will be much more difficult to make good use of our time. Therefore, it is important that we respect our sleeping hours and our breaks to maintain a good level of energy to help us get through the day.
- Identify the work space.
Ideally, of course, we should have a separate place where we can maintain sufficient concentration, where we can close the door and get on with our lives, but this is not always possible. The house may not be big enough or the children may need constant supervision. If this is the case, then the ideal is to keep the workplace always in the same place, separating it from their play area, explaining our activity to them, perhaps allowing them to feed their curiosity for a while and in this way making it easier for them to “respect” it.
- Adapt the schedules.
One way to optimize our time is to take advantage of the hours when the children sleep. It is possible that in the afternoon we are already too tired to start working, if not, I encourage you to do so if you are one of those who find concentration and maximum productivity in the last hours of the day. However, if you are one of those who gets out of bed effortlessly, you can bring forward your alarm clock and take advantage of the first hours of the day when the kids are still sleeping to give your projects a boost before the regular activity starts.
If possible, take turns with your partner so that at least one can change activities.
- Plan the day.
At this point it is important that you involve the children so that they can also participate in the planning. After breakfast, you can organise an assembly in which all the family members choose the activities to be carried out during the day. This is not necessarily a free choice, you can offer two options for the children to choose from.
The activities are written down on a blackboard or cardboard, providing visual elements such as drawings or photographs, so that the children can follow them.
It is important to include some special activity, some new experience that helps children to keep their attention and stimulate their creativity.
As for your working day, plan it by identifying the priorities of the day. Do not demand too much of yourself and be aware that the situation can be complicated for everyone.
At the end of the day, you can perform a small ritual of celebration or thanksgiving that will help you boost your autonomy and motivation.
- Follow routines:
To wash, to dress (even with comfortable clothes but not to stay all day with the pajamas on), to have breakfast, to meet in assembly, to air the house or to organize the toys before going to sleep, all are routines that allow us to maintain the order and to foment the discipline.
It is advisable to remember the day we are on. Doesn’t it happen to you that when you are on vacation, you end up feeling like you forget the day you are on? Not being forced to live by an agenda can make us lose track of time.
I personally love Montessori calendars as they are an exercise we can use to keep us connected and help our children maintain a time reference:
- Keep in touch socially.
Despite being at home and having limited movement to the street, it is important for children to keep in touch with the outside world, which can be a great ally to give us some of the space we need to be able to telework.
New technologies and social networking facilities are a great opportunity to encourage contact with other children or family members: an online storytelling session or even a snack with family or friends at school or kindergarten via Skype can help us reconcile work and family life when teleworking and, at the same time, keep morale high.
What is about for you working with children?