Ultimate guide to working from home with children

We’ve got tips and advice to help you create a good work life balance when working from home with children.

The option to work from home has been a game-changer for many parents. Being in the house when your child gets home from school and not wasting precious time on a long commute are just two of the benefits. Family life is an ongoing balancing act. How and where work fits into the mix is a key consideration. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different approaches and speak to friends and family about what works for them.

Working from home and childcare: what are the rules?

Ultimately, the only rule is that you should let your employers know if you have childcare responsibilities. Everything else is up to you and your employer to discuss.

What support can I get?

If you need support to set-up childcare arrangements for while you’re working, check-out the government’s childcare choices website and consider applying for tax-free childcare.

Speak to your employer about flexibility and if it's possible to work hours that better suit your family. Make sure you know about any family friendly policies your workplace offers.

Finding what’s right for your family can be a challenge. There’s lots of advice and opinions out there about when to start using childcare. Parents can end up feeling guilty whatever they do. Remember, there are babies in childcare early and there are children who don’t go into a formal childcare or educational settings until much later. Both scenarios can be part of a happy, healthy childhood and the fact you’re reflecting on what you’re doing means you’re likely to tune into any change or additional support you and your child need.

How to work from home and juggle childcare?

With all the best planning in the world there may well still be times when you’re working and juggling childcare.

Expecting the unexpected is part of family life. The same week you've got a big presentation at work will be the same time your childminder gets flu. The following tips can help you manage working with a child at home.

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  • Print off and share a visual timetable that includes playtime and outdoor time, so they know what to expect from their day.

  • Do some roleplay. Toddlers don’t always understand why. Instead of just explaining that you’re working from home, roleplay with them to help them understand what being at work means and let them practice what you’d like them to do when you’re working - without the stress of being at work.

  • Give your child activities they’re responsible for and capable of doing - such as getting dressed, cleaning their teeth, doing schoolwork, setting the table for dinner.

  • Prepare a list of optional activities for them to choose from so they still feel freedom and in control.


Have some distractions handy

Plan some thoughtful distractions like toys or arts and crafts they can distract themselves with. Set out puzzles they can complete, or stream shows you’re happy for them to watch.

You could work together to make their own office with old equipment (an old keyboard, a toy smartphone, pens and paper) so they can feel like part of your team. (Who doesn’t want an office bestie?)

Be realistic

If your child is with you when you’re trying to work unexpected and unplanned things will happen, and that’s OK. Stay calm and be patient with them. Make sure you’re able to meet their needs and be compassionate with yourself and them.

How to concentrate on work while your children are at home?

You might have a partner, friend or relative who can support you with childcare at home while you work. If this is the case, there will still be times when your child wants to see you and interact with you and it’s worth thinking through what you can do to establish structure and boundaries.

Create structure where you can

  • Have set times of the day where you’ll be together as a family, even if this is only for short amounts of time it’ll still be valuable to you and your children.
  • Write a schedule each Sunday so your child knows what to expect over the coming week.
  • Take your breaks at the same time and spend ten minutes of chat or playtime with your child. Giving them focussed attention is beneficial, even if it’s only possible in short bursts.

Set expectations and boundaries

Having clear boundaries can help you feel productive, and your child feel safe as they know what to expect.

  • Plan with your child when you’ll come back throughout the day. Children find it reassuring to know the next time they’ll see you. Why not give them a count-down timer to your next break?
  • Wear headphones to show when you can’t be disturbed.
  • Use the pomodoro method. Have 25 minutes of focussed time and then take a five-minute break. That way you’re not expecting yourself to go a whole workday without breaking concentration.

Children like to challenge boundaries so make sure you stick to them as best you can. Read our advice on coping with toddler tantrums.

However you’re managing working from home and childcare:

Make a dedicated workspace

Establish a place to work from. A separate room is ideal but if you don’t have this luxury decide on a space in the house that you’ll use and be consistent. It may help to have a laptop stand or foldable desk in your space that can be put-away when work hours are over.

Get outside if you can

When you’re having a break move away from your screen or workspace, if you can, go outside. Fresh air and greenery can boost your mood and energy as well as giving your eyes a break. This will let your little one burn off steam too – just like break time at school, we all need to play.

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Working and supporting a family is an important part of being a parent. Letting kids see you work can be inspirational and will likely influence their attitude towards their own work.

When your children need you, take time off and return to your tasks later. Although it’s a complicated thing to navigate, you can enjoy both your work and family life.