Any parent knows that work and children do not go hand in hand. As the hilarious video of Professor Robert Kelly, discussing the situation in Korea live on the BBC and being gate-crashed by his children waltzing and wheeling in, showed all too well.
Maintaining concentration, a professional demeanour and meeting deadlines can be very difficult when you also have to entertain a toddler or bored pre-teen.
With the six-week summer holidays finally here, we look at the best ways to work from home with children (that don’t just involve Peppa Pig and Pom Bears.)
Set realistic expectations (for you and your clients)
Zoe Whitman, founder of But The Books accountancy and bookkeeping firm, says: “My clients know I have a toddler and that I sometimes need to work around her. Having open conversations about this means I can manage their expectations around my availability.” Whitman thinks these sorts of conversations have actually helped her build a rapport with her clients, especially if they have young children too. “It has allowed me to connect with my clients on a more personal level, which has been great for business,” she notes.
Schedule your tasks around your children
Choose your tasks wisely and try and fit them around your children as much as you can. “There’s no way I’ll get my most technical pieces of work done with a little one at home,” says Whitman, “but I can do the jobs that don’t really need that much concentration, like dealing with emails which just need a quick reply while looking after her.”
Go to child-friendly networking events
London is now home to a plethora of brilliant child-friendly co-working spaces, including Huckletree and Cuckooz Nest, some of which have onsite creches or which hold events where you can bring your children. This can be great for you and your child, says Whitman. “I’m part of a brilliant networking group here in Bristol called Freelance Mum. It’s a regular networking even which you can take your child along to and has been a great way to meet potential clients and catch up with current ones,” she notes.
Make the most of nap time
Freelance marketing consultant Stacey MacNaught says working from home when her two young sons (who are one and three) are in situation is impossible so she tries to make the most of nap time. “…. I have given up working when he’s home apart from during his nap in the afternoon.”
Set up a desk for them
MacNaught says: “I’ve set my three-year old up with a little desk next to mine. He has a little table and either his Kindle Fire Kids edition or an old Chrome book and pretends to work with me. Or we’ll get his crayons on and I’ll give him a “job,” to do (like “draw a car”). He’s fantastic. I can easily get an hour or sometimes more done this way with little by way of disturbance!”
Get them involved
Robin Young, AAT student and founder of Fitness Savvy price comparison site, says: “Once they are older than three and can talk, you can get them helping with filing. Maybe teach them about numbers while you work, allow them to help you with spreadsheets etc. At least you’ll get some work done while teaching the kids a little bit about maths and accountancy at the same time.”
Plan in advance and call on friends and family
Business mentor Katie Colella says planning in advance is essential. “If any family or friends ask if they can help, get them booked in, before they make other plans. If you leave it too late, often the options are gone,” she says. “Get together with friends and help one another out. If you have a friend who is in the same boat, could you consider having yours and her children one day in exchange for another day?”
Look into local kids’ clubs
Don’t forget to look into your local kids’ clubs too. Lots of schools run clubs over the holidays. “My children loved the kids’ clubs when they were younger and they often work out cheaper when booked in bulk and they are pretty reasonable when you compare them with the cost of keeping the kids entertained,” Colella says.
If you have a day that you have no help and have work to get done, make ‘deals’ with your children, Colella advises. “So if they are well behaved and play nicely for a couple of hours, say you’ll take them to the park for an hour in the afternoon. This works really well, as they know the quicker I can get my work done, the quicker they’ll get their time and get to the park.”
Re-jig your working day
“Make calls on the days when they are elsewhere and avoid trying to make them whilst they are around- something always crops up!” says Colella. “This summer, I am going to try and work more evenings to fit my work into a four-day week and take each Friday off to spend with my children. If you can fit in a few more hours of an evening, you’ll easily free up a day. And you tend to get more done of an evening when the children are in bed/quiet!”
Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.