FAQ: Quarantine Tips for working from home (with kids)

James and I took our business full time back in 2011 so we’ve been working together from home for 9 years now, and the last 4 of those years we worked from home with little children underfoot! 😉 So this whole “self quarantine at home” situation doesn’t really feel new to us because this has been our everyday life – trying to work from home, manage our household, raise & care for our children, and maintain a healthy marriage – for quite a while now!

Here’s how it can feel trying to work from home without a plan (children attacking you at every turn)!! 😉 haha

Obviously, this is a new (maybe exciting, maybe terrifying) situation for most of you – so I thought it might be a good time to give you some tips from some seasoned veterans in this arena! 😉 Since working from home without children looks very different than working from home WITH children – I’m going to do this in two sections with advice and tips for both! Take and leave whatever you like from both! We will start with some tips for being productive while you work from home (and hopefully keeping your sanity)!

  1. Maintain a (somewhat) structured routine!!
    I think this is key to any productivity is knowing when you are working and for how long. It allows you to focus your time instead of feeling like you have “all day” to get it done, but then realizing at 6pm that you have done nothing so far!
  2. Wake up at a normal hour, eat breakfast, take a shower & get dressed as if you were actually leaving the house for the day.
    I can’t even begin to tell you how much more productive I am if I at least change into some cute workout clothes (“athleisure”, as the kids are calling it these days – haha), wash my face, brush my teeth, and feel fresh/ready for work – instead of just leaving my old pjs on!
  3. Designate a specific area in your home as your office space.
    Let your spouse know that when you are in that space you are focused on work. It helps to wear headphones as well so they know you’re in the “work zone” and tuned out to other distractions. I suggest making an actual desk area somewhere if you don’t already have one – even if that means the dining room table (if you don’t have an office space). I’m always significantly more productive seated at a desk than on a laptop on the couch! (If you only have one office space but both need somewhere to focus – I’d suggest setting up in two different areas of the house so you’re not looking at each other/distracting one another/or hearing each other’s work calls if possible!)
  4. Set a daily schedule for yourself / Work in time blocks.
    I like to do 60-90 minutes of work followed by a 15 minute break to get up, move around, and occasionally get some fresh air. It helps to set actual timers so you don’t lose track of time! If you want to get really in depth with your daily schedule and expectations – check out this post I wrote about setting your Daily Essentials for Happiness (which is something really important right now to stay sane as we’re all stuck at home!!)
  5. Take an actual lunch break and eat lunch elsewhere in your home – NOT at your desk while working.
  6. Remove your phone from the situation.
    Get out of the 24 hour news cycle, shut down social media, put your phone in another room completely! If you don’t need it for work – tuck it away so you can get done what you need to get done in each time block!
  7. Set time aside to workout or at least move!
    My energy tends to dip in the afternoon so that’s when I like to schedule some time to get a workout in. This could be a brisk walk with your pup, a 30 minute YouTube workout (PopSugar Fitness is my fave to find a workout!), some yoga, or whatever you prefer! It helps me to feel good and gets my energy up to tackle that last part of my workday.
  8. Have a set time at which you are to end work each day and stick to it.
    Knowing you have an end time will help you be more productive earlier in the day and prevent burnout. When the time comes – close your laptop, leave your work area and just enjoy being a normal person at home. (If it helps – set a date time with your spouse to cook dinner together or go for a walk or watch a show. Knowing someone else is expecting you at a certain time will help hold you accountable!!)

Now – if you have children and are both working from home while school and daycare are canceled – you’re going to have to really work as a TEAM to get anything done. The only way we can manage to be productive at all is by setting a firm schedule and voicing our expectations/following through! If we leave it as a free for all – literally nothing gets done and everybody (including the adults) are whiny messes by the end of the day!!

So here are my tips to hopefully managing to get work done AND making sure your children are cared for and learning during this crazy time!

  1. Don’t expect that you are going to be able to do both things (work & watch your kids) at the SAME TIME (unless maybe they are much older than our kids and very independent.
    I used to try to respond to emails from our kitchen counter while also making breakfast and watching our kids and let me tell you – it is just a bad idea. I wasn’t 100% focused on any task and it left me feeling short tempered and impatient with my kids because my thoughts were elsewhere. I also couldn’t form a coherent thought because they were often interrupted by kids needing something (mom! mom! mom! mom!!!) – so I felt like I wasn’t doing our business justice either.
  2. Lay out a schedule for your children for the day – then separate that into blocks of time between parents. We set time blocks for each of the following: KIDS / WORK / ALONE / FAMILY / MARRIAGE
    When do they wake, eat, learn, free play, go outside, nap – etc? Write it all down and get it ironed out so you and your spouse are on the same page. Then go through the schedule and separate it into blocks of time (I’d suggest 3-4 hours) where you note which partner is in charge of the kids during each block of time. That means one of you works for 3-4 hours while the other watches the kids (following their schedule!). Then switch when the next time block arrives – so the other is with the kids and the other is working.
  3. Set a work space AWAY from the kids.
    We all know if they can see you – they will talk to you, climb on you, and generally feel you are available to them. Give them kisses goodbye when you are “going to work” and head out to that space in the home. Lock the door if need be, and put in head phones! You may feel the urge to pop out and help your spouse out if you hear things getting crazy – but they got this!! Do your work and let them handle it!
  4. Set aside time for each parent to have a FREE 60-90 minutes.
    We personally think this is best used for working out/moving (or maybe napping if need be… haha). Something to fill your cup, clear your mind, and take care of YOU amid all the taking care of work and taking care of kids! Trust me – it will help your mood and productivity across the board.
  5. Go on a family walk.
    Along with all of the above – we love to schedule time in for one family walk a day. Everybody needs the fresh air and it is nice to have some time with all of us together – not just both parents tag teaming allll day. This is so vital during the quarantine too because we aren’t leaving the house much! Just make sure to stay 6 feet away from others and no playgrounds! We are big fans of walks & bike rides right now and running the bases at the local park. 🙂
  6. Set family time.
    Since the time from dinner to bedtime is a bit of a madhouse we like to set that as our family time so we have all hands on deck and can all just be together enjoying the end of the day. Helping make dinner, having dance parties in the kitchen, giving the kids a bath, watching a movie before bedtime – you get the idea.
  7. Set marriage time!
    Since we aren’t as busy with work right now it is easy for us to find this time every night after the kids go to bed. When we are swamped with work it is harder to do because we often both go back to getting more work done once the kids are in bed. But either way – it is important to schedule time in for your marriage/just the two of you too!! Even if that means just 30 minutes at the end of the day cuddling up on the couch and checking in – it is so important. Put your phones away, hold hands, look into each other’s eyes and remember – you got this – TOGETHER.

For those curious – below is a schedule for our current quarantined life! 😉

Obviously, this schedule varies during the year depending on how busy we are work work, shoots we have scheduled, and the boys’ pre-school/park district class schedule. In those instances – we just have separate schedules for certain days and put the correct schedule for the day on the fridge each morning so James and I both know what to expect. Some days I’m with the kids more and James is in the office more. Some days we have more free time to get house projects done, and some days our nights look whacky because I’m out at a sunset engagement shoot. The important part is that we have a plan of action laid out for each type of day so that J and I both know what is expected of the other. This limits miscommunications and prevents resentment. As long as we are on the same page and working toward our common goal – we are good!

Did I miss anything? Do you have any questions? Just comment below or message me if so!!

Good luck, friends!! Stay home and stay healthy! XOXO

*Professional photos by Britta Marie

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Christy & James are Chicago based but happily travel anywhere in the world that beautiful love stories take them!