As working parents at Hays with 6 children between us aged 2-11 and partners who also work full time, like many we are both currently trying to navigate our way through full time remote working whilst parenting children at the same time. The challenge of confined living will have been particularly acute for those families spending days on end under the same roof, but despite being a relatively short stretch of time it is incredible how quickly we have adapted to our new and highly unusual existence.
What are our top tips a few weeks in?
With an event like this almost unheard of within living memory, and with no previous experience to go on, for many parents finding a way forward will simply have been a case of trial and error.
When the lockdown commenced we published a blog which contained a number of tips for adapting to remote working with children and making it a bit easier on your family. A few weeks on, we thought it would help to revisit and reflect on what we’re finding is working well so far…
1. Getting the day off to an active start
The beginning of the day can sometimes feel like the hardest, with a full eight hours of work ahead and a lot of your children’s time to occupy. In all likelihood they will be bundles of energy right now, being unable to burn it off in the school playground or tire themselves out with schoolwork.
If you need to reply to some emails urgently, jump on a conference call without interruptions (or just need half an hour to yourself) look no further than a Joe Wicks workout. Simulating a school PE class and aimed specifically at kids, these live-stream every working day at 9am for half an hour, and are the perfect start to the day. If you are looking for something specifically for little ones, Cosmic Kids Yoga videos provide gentle workouts for children aged 3 and up which follow familiar narratives such as The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland, effectively telling them a story as well as getting them to exercise!
2. Structure is still key
As any parent will know, children thrive on structure (although they seem to love chaos) and need a routine to feel happy and settled. Although ‘no school’ might have seemed an exciting prospect to start with, they will soon have realised that rather than the fun-filled summer holiday they were expecting, the reality is that they must stay at home with you whilst you work and not see their friends.
This is why it’s so important to still maintain a routine, even if it occasionally (and inevitably) veers off track. If there are two adults in the same household, it may help to work out a timetable where you alternate two hour blocks – two hours of work and then two hours of childcare. This is particularly important when it comes to scheduling conference calls. Starting work extra early or finishing late is also an option, so that you can spend time with your children in the day.
In addition, simple rituals like having dinner together in the evening (not in front of the TV), reading a bedtime story together or having half an hour of evening football practice in the garden will help keep a semblance of normality for your kids at this challenging time. You could even make an evening activity of encouraging them to self reflect – ask them to think of one thing they’ve enjoyed, one thing they’ve learnt and one thing they’d change for tomorrow.
3. There are plenty of free, fun ways for kids to learn new skills
All parents will know that if a child gets into something they enjoy, whether a book, an imaginary game, or something else, they can stay occupied for hours. Why not use the free time to get them to try and test some new skills or hobbies? There are plenty of free, fun options out there, and they may end up learning something that could really help them in the future, or even turn into a career…
As part of its Skills for Tomorrow initiative, BT is giving children free access to their online coding class ‘Code a Cake’, which uses baking as an analogy for coding and offers children aged 6-11 the chance to learn to code, for free. A really invaluable skill, especially as technology’s capability and influence continues to accelerate at pace, and it’s never too early to start learning. ScratchJr is another great, free kids coding app to try.
4. Imagine new ways to do outdoorsy things
In current circumstances letting your kids blow off steam at the beach or the park might not be an option, and they will almost definitely be missing the fresh air and freedom of being outside. When you get some down time, try and think of some creative ways you could replicate these experiences at home – for example creating an obstacle course in the garden, doing some planting and digging, or building a fort. If you have a trampoline in the garden, now is also the time to make use of it – it’s a lovely activity to do together and also great cardio.
You might even try letting older children camp in the garden for the night (regular check-ups and waterproofs advised), or if you’re lacking an outdoor space let them set up a tent in the living room – they’ll find it just as fun.
5. Try not to worry about school
It may be that when you heard about school closures you had high hopes of home learning plans, book reports and science experiments. Remember, though, that however important your children’s education is, their wellbeing is more important, as is yours. If they don’t want to do anything school-related, don’t force it. The stress it causes both of you may end up outweighing the good, and it’s much more important that you stay unified as a family during this testing time.
Every child is currently in the same boat and when they return to school, teachers will gauge the situation and plan accordingly. Your children’s memories and the way they felt during this time together will stay with them much longer than the temporary gap in their learning, and seeing your five year old finally manage to ride a bike without stabilisers after a year of trying is a memory neither of you will lose in a hurry. Try to make the most of it as best you can.
For more advice on remote working with a family, download our guide, or to access a host of resources for helping you adapt to the new way of working, visit our Inspire Me in the New Era of Work Hub. As your lifelong career partner, we are with you every step of the way and will be updating this site regularly with new guides, blogs and information to support you.
About the authors
Gaelle joined Hays in 1999 and in her time with the business she has led dedicated teams providing expert recruitment services for a wide range of sectors and professions, with a particular focus on construction and property. In 2018 she was appointed the Director for Permanent Recruitment, working across Hays UK and Ireland to improve business performance, drive best practice and shape Hays’ value proposition to both clients and candidates.
James is Director of Hays IT, Digital Technology and Project Solutions in the UK, Ireland and EMEA. Having joined in 2000, he is responsible for the strategy of Hays’ Project Solutions, IT and Digital Technology businesses, which includes IT contracting, permanent technology recruitment, resource augmentation and statement of work solutions across both the private and public sectors.