Working from home – three little words that can turn our little bundles of joy into a logistical nightmare as we try to juggle screams for Peppa Pig and snacks or statements of “I’m bored!” with conference calls and silent cries for the good old days of dreary commutes in Spotify silence. It does not, however, have to be this way. Indeed, there are many things one can do so that we can all live in a productive, harmonious environment in which deadlines are met to the sound of chirping birds and calls with colleagues and customers go as smoothly as at the office, at least after the obligatory ten-minute introductions of ‘can you hear me ok?’ – Kids are hardly to blame for that one.

So what can you do as a parent to keep everyone happy when working from home with kids? Here is a five-point-plan you can follow for better days regardless of how long this situation lasts. Be forewarned, however; going back to the office might not be as enticing of a proposition once you manage to get it working.

Understand

We must all understand the extraordinariness of the times we are collectively living through. Those of us working from home; are doing just that – working from home and for all the talk of work/life balance, understanding this new imbalance is key. This will help you get rid of any underlying tension you might feel about managing working from home and caring for, occupying and possibly also home-schooling your children. It will also help you approach everything in a calmer manner. After all, the children would most likely rather be at nursery or school with their friends, than being stuck at home with you.

Separate

Take the time to create a space from which you can work, and if possible create a physical boundary. Getting a Collie to herd the children away, might be overkill but creating a physical space to have some sort of separation is important. This works both ways – the school-age children need their ‘school space’ just as much, even if it means moving some furniture about. Try to make it fun, and try to involve them in the setup, which nicely brings us to the next point.

Negotiate

We are all in this together – literally, which includes your children. Involve them in the decision-making process by asking them for their opinions and explain to them the importance of having the time to do your work in a way that they can relate to. By involving them, you will make them feel like they are part of, and invested in, anything that goes on which can increase their appreciation of what is going on.

Activate

Albert Einstein proclaimed that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Keeping physically active is perhaps even more important now than ever before and that goes for you and the children as well! The good news is that every trainer under the sun is offering online fitness sessions. Most of them are free. Get a workout done with your children early in the morning to help them (and you) start the day right.

Engage

Most adults, and all children, find it difficult to stay still with nothing to do. Even Netflix binges can get boring and by their very nature children are curious little creatures that want to learn new things (coincidentally what they learn at this time is what will help them navigate through life when they’re your size). Crafts, reading sessions, writing, educational videos and toys, and a million other things can help keep them intellectually occupied and thus, quiet. Don’t just plop them in front of the TV and expect them to stay quiet – that is not how it works. After all, even you are at your quietest when you have something challenging to do.

Free bonus tip!

In his book The Art of War, which coincidentally can offer quite good advice when it comes to managing children, Sun Tzu tells us that rewards, when delivered in a timely fashion, can be very helpful in adjusting behaviour (I am paraphrasing here). Reward good behaviours, and you will see more of them.