This is an unprecedented time when many are required to work from home. Parents are finding it particularly challenging as they struggle to balance work without childcare.

Anyone who has spent time with children knows they thrive on routine. When, suddenly, they aren't going to daycare or school, and their parents are home, everything gets out of whack. At first, kids might be thrilled to have their parents around, but when they realize it’s not all fun and games, that’s when tensions rise.

These tips will help you develop strategies to get your work done and keep your kids happy while you’re at home.

How to Work from Home with Kids

1. Work When Your Kids Are Asleep


Is it possible to adjust your hours, so you mostly work when your kids are asleep? It may depend on the type of work you do or the flexibility of your employer but, if at all possible, try to do the bulk of your tasks when your kids are in bed.

It may require late nights or early mornings, but an added benefit of working at odd hours is you may have fewer interruptions from colleagues. Minimizing distractions, like a steady stream of emails and instant messages, can yield drastically improved productivity.

2. Take Shifts


If you have a spouse, significant other, or even a close friend or neighbor, you can take shifts watching the kids and working. By taking turns and developing a schedule that accommodates the needs of your employers, teamwork can pay off.

Related: Should You Take an Online Class? 9 Things to Consider

3. Work in Sprints


One technique borrowed from the Montessori teaching method of work cycles could enable you to get more done in far less time. Experts say breaking your day into a few 90-minute uninterrupted periods leads to greater efficiency.

In his book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, author Tony Schwartz credits working in 90-minute intervals, followed by 20- to 30-minute breaks, with having a profound impact on his productivity. Schwartz asserts that Leonardo di Vinci also embraced such an approach, which may have helped him become one of the world’s most famed and prolific painters.

For this to work best in the modern world, turn off social media and silence your notifications and phone. Then, block time off your calendar, so your colleagues know you aren't available. You may find you are so efficient that, with just a few sprints a day, you free up more time to spend with your family.

4. Be Ready with Rewards


Children tend to be highly motivated by incentives or rewards. If used selectively, promising prizes or treats—like pizza, ice cream, or a trip to the park—in exchange for good behavior can be useful tools for when you have an important meeting and can’t afford to be interrupted.

Be prepared with dependable distractions, like special toys and games you keep hidden. Only bring them out when you really need them. Some parents might also occasionally rely on TV or video games. By restricting screen time to a certain number of minutes or hours per day, and only for educational games and TV, you may minimize your guilt.

Be careful with rewards, though. If overused, they can backfire.

According to an article in Psychology Today, “What this type of reward system does is teach an individual to expect a reward in exchange for certain behavior. The danger is that if you stop rewarding the behavior, there’s a good chance it will go away. Another potential danger is that if you use it with your children, eventually when you ask them to do something, they might respond with, ‘What will you give me for it,” or, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

Access Your Free E-Book | Download Now

Staying Productive While at Home

Trying times can lead to heightened creativity and extraordinary breakthroughs at work and at home. Being inventive and finding techniques that improve your productivity now may make juggling work and family easier even after life returns to normal.

Once you have your new routine down and find you have some spare time, consider brushing up on your business skills by taking an online course. Check out our course catalog for a variety of engaging and interactive courses on business fundamentals.

Michele Reynolds

About the Author

Michele Reynolds handles brand marketing and PR for Harvard Business School Online. Prior to HBS Online, she led communications for TripAdvisor and Gazelle and has been widely quoted in national media outlets, including CBS News, Reuters, and The New York Times. Michele earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University. Outside work, she spends time with her teenage daughter, plays tennis, and visits her enormous extended family.