Pandemic lockdowns may be in the rearview mirror, but remote work is here to stay. For the work-from-home parents among us, summer break ushers in a new crop of officemates: our kids. To help ease the transition and keep the peace at home and at work, here are some tips for setting (and maintaining) work-from-home boundaries with your family.
Set limits for how and when your kids can interrupt you during your work hours. For example, if they’re older, you might ask them to text you before entering your office. A visual signal — such as a closed door or a “Stop” sign — is a great way to let your kids know when you’re in an important meeting and they should only disturb you in case of an emergency.
If possible, give yourself a dedicated office space that’s physically separated from the rest of the house (even if just by a door or a screen). This will not only allow you to focus better, but it will also help your kids make the mental switch when you head into work.
Create a work schedule and follow it as much as possible. Knowing when to expect you back on parent duty makes it easier for your kids to be patient while you work. Post your work schedule or put it in a digital shared family calendar so everyone is on the same page.
When working from home, it can be easy to slip into always-on mode. But the more you can truly log off at the end of your workday and be present with your family, the easier it will be for your kids to respect your boundaries during working hours. It may be useful to create a simple ritual like changing your clothes or closing your office door to indicate to your kids (and yourself) when you’ve clocked out.
Taking breaks while working from home is important so you don’t end your workday burned out and grumpy with your children. Since your kids are your new office mates, include them in some of your breaks — a walk around the block together or a quick snuggle session provides a needed moment of connection so they’re less likely to seek your attention when you’re back at your desk.
Be flexible to the extent that your job allows. Shifting your schedule earlier so you can drive your kids to their activities or bringing your laptop with you to work in the car while you wait are great ways to maximize your work time while remaining present for your children.
The beauty and the curse of having tweens and teens is that they couldn’t care less about their parents when their friends are around. Encourage your kids to make plans, even if that means a hoard of preteens invading your house for the day. You might need to stock the kitchen with more snacks or put on noise-canceling headphones to shut out the squeals, but you’re way less likely to be interrupted while you work.
Yes, screen time limits are important for kids. But if you need to dole out a little extra now and again so you can meet a deadline, don’t beat yourself up. Screen time is just another tool in your arsenal — as long as you’re intentional and balance it out with plenty of other activities, your kids will be fine.
Even the best boundary-setting efforts are bound to fail now and again. If your kids are arguing outside your door making it hard to focus on your Zoom meeting, simply excuse yourself to briefly deal with it. This isn’t always possible, but honesty (and humor) go a long way, and your colleagues will likely understand — especially if they’re also parents.
Life as a work-from-home parent brings with it both joys and struggles. Communication, clear boundaries, and flexibility go a long way to setting you up for success for working remotely while your children are home.