Get ahead of the game with these work from home hacks for parents

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Creating a schedule the day before is best, which caters for making changes according to each day's needs.   (Mladen Zivkovic/Getty Images)
Creating a schedule the day before is best, which caters for making changes according to each day's needs. (Mladen Zivkovic/Getty Images)

When the pandemic first began, adjusting to the needs of working from home was not easy. 

The struggle was particularly real for parents whose nine to five work responsibilities were forced to compete with heavy-hitting domestic responsibilities like remote schooling and childcare. 

The transition was tough, but at the same time gave us these classic moments: 

The mom who leopard-crawled to save her husband's BBC interview 

WATCH | 'What's his name, mummy?'

A better work-life balance? 

Nearly two years on, and it seems that working from home has moved from requirement to preference. 

One survey found that for the majority (58%) of respondents, a fully remote job post-pandemic was preferred. For 39% of the survey's participants, a hybrid work arrangement was preferred, while only 3% wanted to return to in-person work on a full-time basis. 

Some (17%) said they were so determined that they would quit if their employer would not offer remote work options. 

As to why remote work had become so favourable, 81% said it gave them better work-life balance, and 47% said working from home afforded them more time with family. 

Another survey by Mercer saw 94% of employers report that company productivity was the same (67%) or higher (27%) at the start of the pandemic despite employees working remotely. 

Sixty per cent of employers said they were willing to allow parents to work around adjusted schedules. 

Also read: 'Forget multitasking': How to improve productivity as a work from home parent

Helpful hacks

"There have always been early mornings and late nights, but it's always been worth it," says blogger mom Brandi Michel who has 15 years of work from home experience. 

Sharing Michel and other expert tips, here's a list of hacks for full time or hybrid work from home parents. 

An early start 

For Michel, getting an early start to the day has proven effective for getting things done. 

Admitting that her 5 am start is not easy every day, it's helped take the edge off of the morning rush. 

"It feels so much better to know that I'm ahead of the game before the day even begins," she says. 

Schedule, schedule, schedule

In their list of productivity hacks, recommends structuring the day according to a schedule. 

From wake up times to bedtimes and everything in between, scheduling "is essential to keeping everyone's daily routines somewhat synchronized". 

Creating a schedule the day before is best, which caters for making changes according to each day's needs. 

Preparation timing is key

Mom of two, Mandy Bowman, suggests preparing a day in advance and avoiding putting things off for the following morning. 

"Without fail, every time I think 'I will just do that in the morning', I will be up all night settling one of my boys. They just know you have plans for the morning! I will end up exhausted and frantically trying to do that one thing that I should have done the night before". 

Bowman recommends ticking off activities like setting out clothing and preparing school and lunch bags the night before. 

Hot blocking 

Your schedule should preferably include blocking off periods of time for either work productivity or parental duties. 

For parents of babies or toddlers, suggests blocking off nap times (which often become predictable) "to work as productively and efficiently as possible". 

For parents of older children, blocking off certain times can be done to make space for caregiving activities such as the daily school run where you need to be away from your desk. Once established, make sure 'away from desk' block off times are communicated with your team and manager. 

Don't skip lunch 

While it's tempting to push through the day, especially if you might need to take time for parenting duties, don't skip lunch. 

Even if only for 20 minutes, recommends taking a short lunch break to eat and take a breather.

"It will mean you have renewed energy for your afternoon work". 

Also read: Improve family balance with this handy guide to age-appropriate chores for kids 

Set boundaries for your children 

To prepare them mentally, make sure your children know your schedule, setting exact times for when you won't be able to interact. 

Adding a visual element might also help, says time management and leadership coach Alexis Haselberger

"Signage is key. If your kids are old enough to read, post a schedule outside your workspace clearly indicating when you can be interrupted and when you can't. If you've got toddlers/preschoolers, use a sign that is red on one side and green on the other to indicate when you can be interrupted". 

Manage your expectations 

The last two year has produced an "always-on" trend resulting in ever-increasing self-imposed expectations to do more, says Lauren Leyman, an occupational therapist practising at Netcare Akeso Randburg. 

She urges parents who work from home to be aware of the pressure they place on themselves, which not only throws off the work-life balance but leads to burnout. 

Let it go 

Try as you may, getting every single thing just perfect will not be achievable on certain days. On these days, says to let go of the idea of perfection. 

"It's okay to leave the family room messy overnight. It's okay to feed them frozen pizza and fries for lunch sometimes. Let go of the need to be perfect to feel good about yourself". 

What are your top work from home hacks? 


Share your stories and questions with us via email at Anonymous contributions are welcome.

Don't miss a story!

For a weekly wrap of our latest parenting news and advice sign up to our free Parent24 newsletter.

Follow us, and chat, on Facebook and Twitter.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.