From Home Office Setup to Working From Home Productivity:

Parents everywhere are in a brave new world: working from home while trying to homeschool our kiddos. Sometimes with guidance from their teachers, other times, not so much. For those of us fortunate enough to still have jobs we can do remotely, working from home can be a lot more challenging than it first seemed.

RELATED POST: Our Sample Homeschool Schedule

Having spent most of my parenting existence working from home, I’ve learned a few things along the way about how to be successful working from home. If you find yourself adjusting to remote working for the first time, here are my work-from-home tips and ideas for success, along with adaptations I’ve made in light of sharing my work-from-home schedule with homeschooling duties:

Working From Home Tips For Success:

A. Home Office Setup: Your Work-From-Home Office

If you haven’t set up a home office before, no worries. The main things to consider are

  • what you truly need to work, AND
  • how to make those doable given your current circumstances.

RELATED POST: Setting Up Your Home Office For Success

THEN: Home-Office Essentials

In the past, I would have said you need a separate space, off by yourself, so you can work without interruptions.

Trying to work from home while homeschooling your kids? These productivity tips for working from home w/kids around will help you survive AND succeed.

Virginia Woolf’s “room of her own” is NOT a workable home office design if you’re trying to homeschool at the same time.

In the days of telecommuting while homeschooling, this may no longer be realistic.

Instead, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much of your time telecommuting will be spent supervising your child’s homeschooling?
  • How much direct supervision/help do your kids actually need to do their work? (Older kids may be more independent in this regard. Younger kids and those with learning differences will probably need more direct supervision. Also, if your family has tech rules that require parental supervision, you’ll also need to account for this.)
  • Which of your work-from-home duties can you accomplish while your kids are around? Which (conference calls, video creation, etc.) require them to be somewhere else?
  • Do you already have a home office that affords them space to work, too? Or do they already have a homework station where you can also get some work done nearby?

RELATED POST: How To Make A Homework Station On A Budget

NOW: Home Office Plus Homeschooling

Instead of a room of my own, my current home office for the duration is a spot on the loveseat in our living room. From here, I can supervise the girls’ home-schooling on the couch next to me, or play on our enclosed porch or in the open space in our living room.

My current home office must-haves:

  • We each have our own device to work on; because I’m using my large-screen laptop, I have a moderately ergonomic workspace (this is also super-important, to avoid long-term injuries!).
  • There’s an old-fashioned analog clock on the wall, where it’s easy for us to all keep track of time passing.
  • I also have my Fitbit notifications on, which gives me hourly reminders to get up and move around (also super-important if you work from home!).

And most importantly, this is our current #1 must-have:

Trying to work from home while homeschooling your kids? These productivity tips for working from home w/kids around will help you survive AND succeed.

This is our secret weapon to making working from home coexist with homeschooling.

  • We all have a set of headphones/earbuds on! This way, the girls can listen to foreign-language lessons or “focus music,” while I can listen to the radio as I usually would. The girls are using their earbuds that they’d usually use for school; I’m using the noise-cancelling Bluetooth earphones Dear Hubby gave me for Christmas a few years back.

B. Your Remote Working/Homeschool Schedule

THEN: Maximizing time when kids aren’t around

My work-from-home schedule used to look something like this:

  • 5:30-7am Get up, shower/dress, try to squeeze in an hour of work (ideally, writing) before girls are up
  • 7am-9am Kid duty: breakfasts, school lunches, drop off for Kimmie, to bus stop for Essie, clean up kitchen
  • 9am-2:45 Try to get as much work done as possible while both girls are out of the house
  • 2:45-3:15 Pick up Kimmie, get her started on homework/music practice
  • 3:15-4pm Try to get in another 45 min work before Essie comes home
  • 4pm-8pm On parenting duty: homework/snacks, extracurriculars, dinner, bedtime routine
  • 8pm-9pm Try to get another hour of low-key work done before bed
  • 9pm-9:30 Netflix with Hubby, then bed

Notice how almost all of my work time was without kids around? That was deliberate.

However, that’s no longer realistic.

NOW: Family Routine

As I noted recently, the first thing I did when our local schools closed was establish a home-schooling routine for my kids.

Yes, part of this was because I thought they needed structure. But the reality is, needed them to have structure, too.

Without them having structure, there is NO WAY I’ll get anything done while they’re around!

But if they’re sitting doing schoolwork from 8:30-11am, and then playing Minecraft or watching YouTube Kids from 11am-12noon, that’s 3.5 hours when they’re quiet and occupied, and I can get some of MY work done!

Trying to work from home while homeschooling your kids? These productivity tips for working from home w/kids around will help you survive AND succeed.

It’s also a chunk of time when my husband can be upstairs in his home office working on his own distance-teaching prep without interruptions. Which means he’s more productive, and thus more available to get the girls out of the house for exercise or outdoor play come afternoon, so I can have some uninterrupted time to work.

My new work-from-home schedule looks something like this:

  • 6:30-8:am Get up, shower/dress, try to squeeze in an hour of low-brainpower work (emails, etc) while Dear Hubby monitors the girls
  • 8-8:30 DH heads upstairs to his home office; I feed the girls and make sure they’ve done their morning chores
  • 8:30-11:30 Girls’ morning school time/my morning work time – writing/more brain-intensive things if they don’t need much help from me, but able to pivot to helping them at a moment’s notice if needed
  • 11:30-12N Girls’ break; I wrap up my morning work
  • 12noon-12:30 Lunch time
  • 12:30-3PM Afternoon schoolwork/meetings and/or “specials”/creative play time for the girls; I try to get a little work done during this time, but it’s my most distracted/lowest-productivity time of the day
  • 3-5pm Get some exercise as appropriate (usually I take several shorter walks throughout my workday, but this is harder with the girls at home needing monitoring and help); get in maybe an hour of more focused work time while DH takes the girls
  • 5-8pm: Family time – dinner prep/play board games with girls, their bedtime routine and bed
  • 8pm-9pm Try to get another hour of work done before bed
  • 9pm-9:30 Netflix with Hubby, then he goes to bed
  • 9:30-10:30 Write for an hour before bed

Not really much different. But I am a lot more conscious of saving my lowest-brainpower tasks for when I’m splitting my attention between my work and their schoolwork/activities.

C. Best practices for remote working success with kids around:

Once you’ve nailed down workspaces and a rough schedule, you need to be aware of these realities of working from home – especially when you’re also minding your kids at the same time:

1. List and categorize your typical workday activities

If you try to barrel through your days with phone meetings all over the place, while your kids are teleconferencing with teachers across the room, you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Likewise if you attempt to tackle maximum-focus tasks during your kids’ playtime.

A much better approach: Write down what activities you need to accomplish each day or week while telecommuting, and try to estimate how much time you’ll need to set aside for each on a daily or weekly basis.

Then figure out how much brainpower/focus/peace and quiet each activity requires.

Until you do this step, there’s no way you’re going to be successful at working from home with your kids around. The ONLY way I’ve found to work productively from home with my kids around is if I can save the lower-brainpower tasks for when I’m with them.

Need help with this step? Then ✅use this handy worksheet (free download!) to help you pin down and sort through your work-from-home to-do’s!

Examples of different activities, listed by how much concentration and quiet they might require:

  • Maximum focus/quiet: planning, budgeting/number-crunching, final project/article revisions, virtual meetings, phone calls, writing reports, conducting interviews, intensive research, live presentations
  • Medium focus/quiet: responding to emails, reading reports/articles, preliminary research (e.g., SEO and keyword research for a blogger), brainstorming/outlining, initial drafts, video trainings that you can watch on demand, social media promotion and marketing, routine billing/accounting
  • Minimum focus/quiet (use your noise-cancelling headphones): checking email, monitoring social media, checking sales numbers or analytics, updating schedules and to-do lists, creating social media images and other promotional materials, bill-paying

2. Slot your work activities into your work-at-home/homeschooling schedule

The ONLY way you can be productive while working from home AND homeschooling is if you can accomplish work even while helping your kids with theirs!

Trying to work from home while homeschooling your kids? These productivity tips for working from home with kids around will help you survive AND succeed.

Unless you’ve got a live-in nanny/grandparent, or a spouse who isn’t working/can parent full-time, you’re going to need to get work done at times when you’re also minding your offspring.

The way to do this is figure out WHICH tasks require maximum focus and/or quiet, and schedule those in when your kids aren’t around.

For example, looking at my work-at-home homeschooling day:

  • 6:30-8:am Get up, shower/dress, try to squeeze in an hour of low-brainpower work (emails, etc) while Dear Hubby monitors the girls (this is low-brainpower time because the girls are still around)
  • 8-8:30 DH heads upstairs to his home office; I feed the girls and make sure they’ve done their morning chores
  • 8:30-11:30 Girls’ morning school time/my morning work time – writing/more brain-intensive things ONLY if they don’t need much help from me, but able to pivot to helping them at a moment’s notice if needed
  • 11:30-12N Girls’ break; I wrap up my morning work
  • 12noon-12:30 Lunch time
  • 12:30-3PM Afternoon schoolwork/meetings and/or “specials”/creative play time for the girls; I try to get a little work done during this time, but it’s my most distracted/lowest-productivity time of the day
  • 3-5pm Get some exercise as appropriate (usually I take several shorter walks throughout my workday, but this is harder with the girls at home needing monitoring and help); get in maybe an hour of more focused work time while DH takes the girls
  • 5-8pm: Family time – dinner prep/play board games with girls, their bedtime routine and bed
  • 8pm-9pm Try to get another hour of work in
  • 9pm-9:30 Netflix with Hubby, then he goes to bed
  • 9:30-10:30 Write for an hour before bed
Need help figuring out how to slot your own high-power tasks in around your kids’ schooling? The second page of my ✅free planning download is a blank schedule template you can fill out, as you pin down how your work to-do’s fit around your kids’ schooling.

3. Coordinate and tag-team as needed

With so many in the U.S. sheltering in place right now, it’s not like you can send your kids off to a playdate or a sitter for the afternoon. This means we have to do our best, starting with open communication:

  • If both you and your spouse are working from home, coordinate your schedule with theirs, and make sure everyone gets the maximum-focus/quiet time they need for phone calls, video meetings, etc.
  • Coordinate meeting times with co-workers and superiors, as best you can, around when your kids need to teleconference for school AND your spouse is also on video meetings. This will help you make sure you have enough bandwidth and quiet space for everyone’s meetings.
  • If you have deadlines or are getting behind on essential tasks, discuss this with your spouse (and, if appropriate, your kids). Work together as a family to juggle everyone’s schedules so that you can still get your work done.
Trying to work from home while homeschooling your kids? These productivity tips for working from home with kids around will help you survive AND succeed.

Dear Husband teaches his classes remotely from HIS home office while I’m with the girls; then he goes on homeschool duty so I can do my higher-focus-level tasks.

D. Final work-from-home tips for success:

Cut yourself some slack!

If you’re used to working away from home, working FROM home can be a real adjustment. There’s no way you’ll be able to power through meeting after meeting, or project after project, with the same level of focus and uninterrupted headspace you did before.

You’re still working, so act like it.

I’m guessing you get dressed and shower on the days you go to work; working from home should be no different. Starting your day the same way you would when heading to the office, as much as possible given that most of us are literally stuck at home right now, is critical.

So get up, shower, and get dressed. Make your coffee/morning beverage of choice, have your breakfast if that’s what you do (or a workout if that’s how you usually start your day), and get to work!

Likewise, schedule yourself the same lunch breaks, coffee breaks, etc. that you would when working away from home. Sticking to your normal schedule and regular habits, as much as you can, will help you to maintain focus and a working mindset.

Remember to “leave work”; don’t live at work 24/7

Another thing that’s difficult when first working from home is setting boundaries between work time/workspace and non-work time/workspace. Just as your kids should not be doing schoolwork 24/7, you should not be “at work” 24/7 either:

  • It’s important to set up mental (and when possible, physical) boundaries between when you’re working and when you’re NOT working.
  • It’s also important to communicate these boundaries clearly with your family. If you have a conference call coming up, let your kids know that you need your space (and, if applicable, that the other parent is the one they should bug while you’re in your meeting). If you’re getting behind on your deadlines, don’t work through family time later; communicate with your family members to rearrange things so you can be more productive when you need to.

Your turn:

Have you juggled working from home with homeschooling before? What are your top tips for success? Please share your top tips for working from home with us in the comments!

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Trying to work from home while homeschooling your kids? These productivity tips for working from home with kids around will help you survive AND succeed.     

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Working From Home: Tips For Success (Even With Kids Around!)
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