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I’m sitting outside on a chair with my laptop, watching my 3-year-old jump on a trampoline, singing ‘Let it Go’ over and over again. My husband kept her occupied all morning. Now he needs to get work done. I’ve worked the odd day at home with my daughter, but now this is my new normal.

With so many people working from home and trying to continue with “business as usual,” there are other factors to consider - barking dogs, cats that like to sit on your keyboard or an inquisitive 3-year-old daughter, our BAU is starting to change. I reached out to some of my connections and colleagues for advice, and I want to share their tips and thoughts.

Paul Zauch
Commercial Development Director Randstad Sourceright

what works for you?

Finding the kids' projects. I love coffee. I have a daughter who loves making me coffee, but she doesn't do it well. Every morning I give her a tute on making espresso, and every afternoon, she has a go when I am looking for my 2 pm fix. She is improving, and we are growing closer over the smallest thing. She is also thinking about becoming a teacher, so next week she’s helping me virtual babysit the Randstad Sourceright team's kids!

My oldest daughter loves to cook, as do I. She is picking recipes we can cook together, and in the last week, we’ve already made eggplant parmigiana and ratatouille. We are eating more veggies than ever before and, I hope, building memories with each other.  

2 of my kids also love Lego. I think this is finally my excuse to buy the Millennium Falcon and build it with them without any guilt whatsoever.

what will you do if you have to work with children at home?

It is what it is. I'm an early starter. I try to have 2 hours of solid work done before the girls - I've 3 daughters, 13, 11, 8 - get up. That way, I can be more present for little junctures throughout the day without feeling guilt or pressure.

We also have a newly instigated rule after I read an article by a submariner on staying sane in a submarine which said cleanliness and quiet alone time (non-work) is essential. At 2 pm every afternoon, the girls straighten up the house for 20 minutes, then have 40 minutes of reading or non-tech reflection/meditation in their rooms. The silence allows us to do some serious work and resets the house if things are getting a little ratty.

I joke with the girls that the hour was the idea of the great Australian philosopher John Farnham and it is intended to "take the pressure down.” My 13 year claims this is one of my lamest dad jokes! I feel it is one of my best.

what hasn't worked for you?

There is no point putting heat into an already tense situation. I am trying to respond, not react. Also, don't feed an 8-year-old too much Nutella. Chaos!

how are you keeping them and yourself happy?

You must think ‘big picture' here to keep perspective and make the best of this situation. You need to be calm and engaged - there is no telling what is going on in our kid's minds at the moment. They need us to be strong and consistent.

Right now is when parents are going to "earn their money" - I see it as a once-in-a-lifetime challenge and opportunity.

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know the tools for a satisfactory career

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Suzanne Gavrilovic, Senior HR Consultant MWAH

what works for you?

Staying connected with the team. Being able to be honest about competing priorities. I am concerned about my daughter, who is essentially a single parent and will need to see the progress of two kids at home (7 and 5) while staying sane.

what will you do if you have to work with children at home?

I will have to help my daughter out. I don’t work Fridays, so it’s a no-brainer for me to have her children then, but  I may also try Thursdays to give her two clear days to work. If they are out of school, my mother may also help. It will be different when we add the children into the mix, and we will have to do the best we can. The reality is we won’t be working a 9-5 day. We will have to get work done in and around everything else!

Sally Woolford, Business Director MWAH

what works for you?

I have an almost-8-year-old who has some learning difficulties; flexibility and support networks will work for us personally. Having a flexible employer who knows that a working day will be very different is critical right now. Having friends and colleagues connect and check in with each other is great and needed.

what will you do if you have to work with children at home?

I suspect my working day will extend to start early and finish late with lots of interruptions while also ensuring that I am supporting learning for my son. I’ve been compiling many learning activities, but we will also be heading outside (we live remotely in the Adelaide Hills) and learning through hands-on experience.

Juggling will be crucial but will ensure that we keep a sense of normality and calmness in our household. I will be sharing what my day is going to look like with colleagues, so they know what to expect. 

Rhonda Brighton-Hall, Founder/CEO of MWAH

what works for you?

My kids are 21 and 23, so they’re usually out and about and away, but they’re coming home to bunker down together. It’s scary times, so we want to be together. What does work for us? Respect and treat everyone as an equal. We’re in this together.

what will you do if you have children at home and work?

Have a family meeting and discuss who’s bunkering down here, what works for everyone, and how to give enough space. The first few days have been fun, but 624 days (I did the maths for 6 months) in a row might see the novelty wearing thin. You can only talk about work or Survivor for so long.

adult children may seem more manageable, but what do you need to consider when you could have 4 or 5 people working from home simultaneously?

Yep! We’re there, and it’s noisy. If we move to the dining room, the living room, or the kitchen, that room becomes a workspace, and we don’t want to turn ‘our home’ into ‘the office.’ It's about making free space that isn’t covered in work.

We’re still finding a balance, but the rules already are “you can’t have your own room and another permanent room.”

We each have our ‘home office’ space, and everything else is activity-based.

what hasn't worked for you?

Asking other people to be quiet. If you need quiet, you have to find a quiet space and not try to create a quiet house.

Lija Wilson, Founder Puffling

what works for you?

You need to shift your mindset. Sending emails in your pj’s or still wearing your morning gym gear isn’t the right way to start. I use a 2 coffee cup rule, one for work and one for outside work.

This helps keep you in whatever mindset you should be in. I make sure I write a to-do list before I open my laptop, so I know what the day needs to look like and avoid distractions.

tips from Parents at Work:

A man standing by his kitchen
A man standing by his kitchen

get creative to get the time you need.

Although flexibility is definitely needed, sometimes there are tasks you simply have to get done. Setting children up prior is the key to everyone’s success. Creative ideas like boredom boxes (filled with crafts, play-dough, etc.) or activity sheets for older children can provide entertainment. Ensure children have access to food and drink to limit interruptions. Making TV or iPad time a treat to save until you desperately need a distraction for them will help too.

manage work communication.

A major part of staying connected will be conducting work meetings via teleconference, Zoom, or the like. This can be tricky with house-bound children in the background but there are steps you can take to limit distraction. For school-aged kids, explain to them prior to the call that you aren’t to be disturbed and give them the option of writing notes in an emergency. For younger ones, scheduling calls over nap time or screen time can mean you have some quiet.

children do better when they can see you.

It can be tempting to close doors, but this can trigger them into calling out, banging on doors or complaining that they need something urgently. Remember that this unusual situation means we’re all in the same boat – so if you do get interrupted, don’t sweat it, solve the issue, and carry on as before.

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We have to take the rough with the smooth, and if that includes me sending emails while sitting on the grass, wondering if it’s too early to get my 3-year-old singing lessons then so be it. I’m secretly hoping Bluey releases an hour-long episode on isolation just so I know how to parent.


need additional parenting tips?

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thanks to:

  • Paul Zauch, Commercial Development Director at Randstad Sourceright
  • Suzanne Gavrilovic, Senior HR Consultant at MWAH
  • Sally Woolford, Business Director at MWAH
  • Rhonda Brighton-Hall, Founder/CEO of MWAH
  • Lija Wilson, Founder of Puffling

Check out Parents at Work for more tips.