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How to Work From Home with Kids

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Like most of you, my regular routine has been rocked. It has taken some time, and some trial and error, to sort out some kind of workable new normal for our busy family. In addition to running my business, I’m also writing a book this year, and had not factored homeschooling two children into my plans!

Obviously, everyone’s situation is completely unique, and there’s no “right way” to do this, but I thought I would share our current schedule and what’s working for our family. Please keep in mind that our kids are nine and eleven years old, and my husband, Jordan (who also works full time), is very involved – these things help a LOT!

How to Work From Home with Kids by Shira Gill Home

After a few days (weeks? what is time anymore?) of total chaos, Jordan and I came up with a schedule that allowed both of us to work without losing our minds. Here is our current family schedule that we adhere to Monday through Friday.

7am – 9am: Shira works on book in the bedroom / Jordan and girls shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and walk the puppy for an hour.

9am – 12pm: Girls work in their bedrooms on weekly homework assignments from school. Shira works in bedroom, and Jordan takes virtual meetings in the dining room.

12pm – 1pm Shira puts together a very non-impressive lunch (think: bean and cheese nachos or simple sandwiches with fruit. also think: fish sticks.).

1pm – 2pm Shira and girls take puppy for an afternoon walk / Jordan works at home.

2pm – 3pm Free screen time for girls / Work time for parents.

3pm – 4pm Shira hosts “office hours” for the girls and makes sure they have completed their homework and don’t have any questions. If this is quick, we play four square outside, make cookies, or play cards.

4pm – 5:30pm Girls have daily Zoom calls to keep in touch with their school and camp friends / Shira and Jordan talk to clients, wrap up work projects, check email, etc.

6pm Family Dinner. Jordan puts Shira to shame with his cooking (we look at the same cupboards, but he just seems to know what to do with what is in them). We each share a rose, thorn, and bud (highlight, low point, and something we’re looking forward to) from our day to check in and stay connected.

7pm Jordan does dishes / Shira tidies house / girls sanitize the high traffic areas like door knobs, remotes, chair backs, fridge handles.

8pm Family game or show. We’re loving Top Chef right now.

9pm Kids go to bed!

How to Work From Home with Kids by Shira Gill Home

Whether our specific schedule makes sense for your family or not, hopefully you can benefit from some of the following tips and takeaways that have helped us the most:

Create Blocks of Focus Time

Jordan is still working a 9-5pm job at a content strategy and copywriting firm, so he has limited flexibility even though he is working from home. I wouldn’t normally work straight from 7am – 12pm, but this new schedule gives me a solid chunk of time to focus on writing my book, seeing virtual clients, and running programs without interruption each day. When I go to work, I hide my mobile phone, turn off all notifications, and basically lock myself in our bedroom so I can minimize distractions – dog barking, kids eating breakfast, etc. As a morning person, I benefit greatly from the focused am hours, and generally feel ready to break in the afternoon to give the kids my attention, and take the pup on a nice hike, which has been my primary exercise since quarantine. Consider how you can chunk your day into blocks of focused time, and batch your work to increase productivity. This might mean waking up earlier or working after the kids are asleep if you are a night owl.

Structure + Schedule Your Day

One of the first things I did when I found out the kids would be off school indefinitely (I literally can’t even think about what summer will look like – help!), was to create a daily schedule for them and post it on the fridge. We structured their days so that they focus on schoolwork and educational activities from 9am – 12pm, and then get to enjoy social time, free time, and tech time in the afternoons, as long as their work is complete. They miss their friends, so the afternoon Zoom calls have been crucial for them not to feel isolated. I organized the calls as a repeat meeting and shared the link with all of their best friends via email to make it easy. The kids are loving the predictable structure, and actually complained that we hadn’t yet come up with a schedule for the weekend.

Working from Home with Kids by Shira Gill Home

Host “Office Hours”

It’s virtually impossible to get anything done when your kids are calling your name every five minutes. After a week of tearing my hair out, I created daily “office hours” for the girls. This allows them an opportunity to check in, ask questions about homework, and have my undivided attention. It also forces them to do their best independently, and then batch and consolidate their questions (a good life skill!) since I’ve made it clear that I’m unavailable in the mornings.

Clarify Expectations + Create Boundaries

I’m pretty transparent with my girls, and have been since they were quite little. When we learned that the four of us would be cooped up together at home, I sat them down and explained that Jordan and I still needed to work, and they would need to be more independent and responsible. I broke down that our careers enable us to pay the mortgage, buy food, and do fun things (like order takeout from their favorite restaurant and pay for Netflix) so I knew they would have buy in. For the most part, they have risen to the occasion. Emilie makes herself breakfast every morning, they’ve been helping more with the puppy when she needs to go out, and they have mainly left us to do our work while they do theirs. We’ve also made it crystal clear that they need to complete their schoolwork, and spend some time reading, before getting to watch TV or chat with their friends. This keeps them focused and motivated in the mornings, and excited for the flexible afternoons.

Divide the Space

It has been challenging for all of us to carve out our own space in our smallish (<1200 sq. ft.) home, but for the most part we are making it work. I spend my focused time in our bedroom, while Jordan occupies the dining room table downstairs. When I am hosting a call or workshop, we swap locations for a few hours. The girls each have their own small desks in their respective rooms, which they use for schoolwork, calls, and screen time. I am pretty sensitive to noise, so the kids wear headphones while watching videos or movies on their laptops, and Jordan and I always work from separate rooms. Even if you’re in a tiny apartment, consider how you can get creative and divide your space to give everyone their own zone. And headphones help.

Working from Home with Kids by Shira Gill Home

Go Easy On Yourself

Let me be honest. Our kids are getting way more screen time than normal. We’re also eating a lot of cookies. We instituted a weekly pizza night (Friday) that sometimes is bi-weekly. I’ve had moments of guilt about all of this, but do my best to shake it off and focus on the big picture – my kids are safe, healthy, and feel loved. There is no upside to judging or beating ourselves up during this time, or really ever. We’re all doing the best we can under unprecedented and challenging circumstances, so let’s agree to go easy on ourselves, and each other, OK?

I hope our schedule sparks an idea or two, and I’d love to know what’s working for your family during this time.

If you need some support to organize your home and life right now, join me in the Get Organized Master Class. This is where I break down exactly how to organize every part of your life without getting overwhelmed. You can sign up HERE.

P.S. I just shared more of my working-from-home tips with Forbes. You can check them out RIGHT HERE..

Image Credit: Vivian Johnson Photography

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10 comments on “How to Work From Home with Kids

  1. Love this, Shira! My favorite is your “office hours” for the kids—that is truly genius. As a long-time homeschooling mom, I’m very familiar with the incessant “Mommy mommy mommy!” cries while I’m trying to get work done. I actually set a timer for five minutes yesterday and asked that no one speak to me until it went off—I just needed five *uninterrupted* minutes to complete a task that was taking thirty minutes because of all the interruptions! To my surprise, the kids didn’t feel upset—they loved it, because they knew exactly what to expect and that they would soon have my undivided attention. Making office hours a predictable part of our day will help so much—especially for my quieter son who has a harder time getting my attention. Thanks for the tip!

    1. Thank you, Emily! Office hours has really helped us, and I love that my kids have learned to batch their questions. And love your timer hack 🙂

  2. Love this glimpse of a possible future! But with my kids at four years old and six, things are quite different even though we also have a routine. We have found that a daily morning walk to get them out and start our day is essential. And then we have circle time, work time, art and cooking. Another big difference is that my husband and I can’t set our own schedules or focus time – we both work on big teams and have lots of Zoom meetings with other people, And so our schedules are not our own to decide. Sometimes we both have critical meetings at the same time and the kids get iPads. This too shall pass.

  3. Love this Shira. I needed this today, we have been struggling to have a normal schedule and try to maintain work and helping the kids.
    This has inspired me to create a schedule we can all get on board with!
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. “office hours” for kids is a great idea.
    I want to ask, if you and your family are not in contact with anyone outside the home, and all of you have been healthy, why is it important to you to sanitize the items you use in your house? My strategy has been just to wash my hands very thoroughly when I come in from some other place, but then to practice ordinary hygiene inside my house.

    1. Great question! Our family lives in a dense city and we walk our dog several times a day and also go to the grocery store, pick up takeout, etc. We’ve been sanitizing doorknobs, remotes, and items that are touched with great frequency just to be safe, even though we wash our hands after coming home.

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