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11 Worst Distractions For Work From Home Mum And Dads

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The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it. The most glaring disruption has been in the way we work and how business is conducted. Many employees, particularly in the service industry, have been forced to work from home, and according to Stanford University; nearly 42% of the labor force will have at some point worked full time from home in 2020. 

Needless to say, there are many parents amongst that number who are happy working from home. And while many will be keen to spend more time with their children, the whole arrangement comes with inherent problems. Disruptive colleagues are now replaced by a new form of tiny attention seeking minions.

The pandemic has made the whole situation even more difficult to manage due to the closure of nurseries and schools. In some areas, you cannot even drop the little ones off at the daycare or call someone for help due to lockdown restrictions.

Studies have shown that working from home can increase productivity for a lot of people, but if you have children at home, the boundaries between being a parent and a productive employee can become blurred. The distractions created by children can lead you to lose perspective which in turn can have a negative effect on your work.  

Kids require attention throughout the day and juggling them with work can stretch you too thin. If you want to successfully do both, make sure you communicate clearly with your kids. Set realistic goals and a schedule that works for everyone. You can also explain to them that if you are having an online meeting then they can not disturb you unless it’s an emergency.

In this article we’ll explore why working from home is especially tough for parents of young kids, as well as list 11 of the worst distractions work from home mum and dads face each day.

First and foremost, it is important to realize that working from home with a house full of children means that there will be interference with your work. We have all seen the adorable video of the BBC presenter whose daughter walked in during the live interview. 

Being stuck at home with kids means that there will be many new distractions to contend with. How does this list compares to your own experience?

  • Online school classes
  • Homework
  • Making food
  • Constant cleaning
  • Noise
  • Chores
  • Breaking up fights
  • Genuine emergencies
  • Helping with pets
  • Sharing a workstation
  • The parent guilt

Tips as to how you can counter these distractions and maintain  productivity while working from home are listed below.

Online school classes

If you have school going children that are not going to school (pun intended!) then there is a high chance that their classes have shifted online. And if you have young children then you  better get ready to be a part-time teacher.

Getting your children to sit in front of a laptop and concentrate on any task can be difficult, to say the least. And if you think you know the meaning of frustration, try getting a 4 year old to sit in front of a laptop and concentrate.

One thing you can do to minimise distraction is to set up your kids near your own workstation so that you can keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t doze or just plain run off.

 

Homework

If online classes are not enough, your children will most probably need your help with their homework. Their natural instinct will be to come running to you for help whenever it is required, whether it’s their lost pencil or a task they do not understand. This can be a major distraction as you will inevitably have to help with their coursework.

One thing you can do to minimise distraction is to set a time, preferably after your working hours, to help your children with their homework. 

Photo by C Technical from Pexels
Photo by C Technical from Pexels

Making lunch

If you are working from home with kids then you might actually start to miss waking up in the morning and packing lunch for them. Especially young children do not have set eating times and unless you have help, you will spend quite some time preparing food for them.

It’s not only lunch or breakfast you will have to worry about; when your kids see you at home snacks aplenty are requested whenever they have cravings. And let’s be honest who can resist those puppy dog eyes staring at you and saying, “I’m hungry mommy”.

One way you can better manage this aspect of distraction is by preparing food the night before or early morning when you’re not yet required to be on-call, or at your laptop. 

 

Constant cleaning

If you have an infant then washing and cleaning can be a never ending source of distraction to your work. You will just have to accept that there’s nothing you can do about regular diaper checks and changes. 

 

Noise

One thing that all parents who are working from home should get ready for is noise. Children at home can make quite the ruckus, from running around and screaming at the top of their lungs, to turning the TV volume up way too loud. The noise can be debilitating for anyone who’s worked up into a flow state and can make the mute button on your video calls your new best friend. 

One tip for work from home parents is to try using noise canceling headphones. Most modern wireless headsets have a noise canceling feature that can be particularly useful during stressful Zoom calls. 

 

Chores

When your home is your office, the boundaries between the two can become blurred. Housework and chores can get mixed up with your professional life and make you feel like you have to choose between them. Watching dirty clothes and dishes pile up can be very distracting but watching your children add to the mess can be particularly frustrating.

 

One tip that you can follow is to set aside your old commute time for daily chores. The 30 minutes you used to spend every morning driving to work can now be used to get things in order for the day. Also for maximum productivity try to get your kids and partner involved using some clever incentives

 

Breaking up fights

If you have multiple children who are home all day with limited resources, it is inevitable that they are going to have a squabble. And when they fight you will have no choice but to interfere and be their peacemaker.

Believe us, it is hard to ignore your 3 year old who is crying because her elder brother will not let her have the remote. Breaking up fights can be very distracting but the important thing to remember is to not lose your cool. Easier said than done if you are already stressed with work tasks.

Photo by André Noboa on Unsplash
Photo by André Noboa on Unsplash

Genuine emergencies

With children, you should always be ready for the unexpected. From paper cuts and toilet disasters to more serious emergencies, work from home parents should be prepared for it all. Despite this, it is important to explain to your kids what emergency actually means so that they don’t come running after every little inconvenience.

If you are working from home with kids then it is better to let your work manager know your situation. Tell them that there may be situations when become unavailable for a short period so that you’re able to the little ones. 

 

Helping with pets

Pets are the ultimate winners of the pandemic induced work from home because they get to spend more time with their owners. Many people have shared photos on social media of pets who have become their new part-time colleagues.

Setting boundaries with pets can be even more difficult than with little humans. You could signal to your pet that you are working and off-limits by working behind a closed door or alternatively, find ways of keeping them entertained while you work.

Puzzle toys and puzzle feeders can be great for dogs and cats and can keep them entertained and burn off some energy.

 

Sharing a workstation

If you want to keep a close eye on your kids, it might be a good idea to share your workstation or home office with them. This in itself can be quite distracting especially if you have limited space. resources, for example, if your family has just one laptop. If you are very particular about your work area, you might need to make a few adjustments.

Just because you are sharing the same space does not mean that you cannot set boundaries and maintain a general decorum.

 

The parent guilt

Lastly, the biggest distraction for work from home parents can be their own guilt.

When you see your children around you all day, the feeling that you are not being a good enough parent or giving them the right amount of attention can stress you out and distract you from salary earning tasks in hand.

It is extremely important to not lose perspective and remember that your children require quality time rather than quantity. And if you are constantly torn between work and caring for your children you will not be able to do either.

 

Conclusion

Remember that home working, including home schooling is new for your children as well as yourself. It is only natural for them to lose their cool from time to time, so go easy on them, and yourself.

If you still think that you need help, there is no shame in hiring a stay at home caregiver or sitter. However, if you are unable to do so due to financial reasons or lockdowns in your area then that doesn’t mean all is lost. You can still minimize the effect distractions have on you.

The most important thing to do is to set boundaries with your children. Close the door to your room especially during meetings and calls and tell your children to knock before entering. You can also take advantage of nap times by setting up important meetings or calls at times when your kids are likely to be sleeping.

Lastly, it is important to have realistic expectations otherwise put bluntly you are setting yourself up to fail. You might think that you can be a productive employee and a super dad/mom at the same time but it is just not realistic. Tell your kids the importance of your work and why daddy or mommy needs to focus.

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