Work Remotely With Kids

Full House: How To Work Remotely With Kids?

The new reality has affected a lot of people. For you, it may have happened for the first time. Now you’re working from home with your partner and kids around.

Key points:
  • How to adjust when you suddenly need to work remotely with kids?
  • What activities can your kids do at this time?
  • How to balance work and kids’ play during critical events?

For most of us, the change requires effort. The Internet is now literally loaded with tips on setting up an effective environment for your home office.

Companies that went 100% remote share their stories, manuals, etc. (You can read our own business guide here). You, our customers and readers, shared some tips too.

I went through all this information and put together a summary. It will not work for everybody, but I hope that at least some of you will find it helpful when you’re working remotely with kids at home.

You can check out our repository where I am also sharing my own story of how I put this guide into practice.

1. Accept limitations

When you work remotely with kids, your day will not be the same as it was when you worked from an office. Struggling to find peace and quiet from 9 am to 5 pm, at times you will most likely get frustrated.

You now have to do things differently. Accept it.

2. Plan your new scheme

Most typically, you stayed at home with your partner, who also needs to adapt to deliver remote work – respect that.

Depending on your situation (household setup, kids or other responsibilities) there will be different things to cope with.

Have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine together and define your challenges. Make a list. Figure out how to manage various situations. Here is my own example.

My example schedule

Each of us has to find the way that suits best. Here is how I am doing it.

My kids (Alek 7 y.o., Staszek 6 y.o.) get bored, yours too? And when they do, they start fighting over something abstract like “did the dinosaurs die because of the new coronavirus”.

My wife (Anna, she’s been around a bit) is a highly-reactive person, meaning that while I can focus in virtually any conditions, she is distracted by the kids laughing in the next room.

If we don’t have a plan, we will end up somewhere dark right around Wednesday.

Objective

To reduce the number of situations when the kids go crazy and we can’t work.

How do we plan to achieve it?

  • The kids are left with some highly self-engaging activity (the only way to manage a situation when we are both taking calls or need to focus)
  • One of us is engaged in an activity with the kids (most effective in creating conditions to focus for the other partner)
  • Both of us are engaged in an activity with the kids (works only if no critical tasks like calls are to be delivered).

What do we need to succeed?

We are open to planning our day differently than usual 

    • Organizing our working time to save some space for the kids during the day
    • Trying to maximize the productivity of the time we spent on commuting 
    • Being more flexible with our working hours
    • Accepting the fact that maybe we will have to start our day earlier than usual.

We will split duties

    • When needed, one of us will take a break and get involved in activities with kids, so that the other can continue work
    • We agree on the “a call is a priority, self-work is flexible” rule and support each other accordingly
    • We made call times visual to help us follow that.
A daily schedule will help you work remotely with kids at home

Kids’ IKEA whiteboard reinvented, guess who works in HR!

We look for available working space in our 64m2 flat

    • Bedroom: fine, quiet, good for a call or up to 1,5 hours of undisrupted work (more than that will end up in backache), weak wi-fi (needs a hotspot)
    • Kitchen/ living room: preferred, as the dining table is the only adult-sized-desk we have, good wi-fi, close to the coffee machine; cons: the only room with the TV and console, and we don’t want to change that (we simply need to take it into consideration when scheduling calls, etc.)
    • Kids’ room: conditions the same as in the bedroom
    • Balcony: a good place to make quick calls, but need to be careful with sensitive customer info when talking loudly.

The kids are easier to handle when separated

  • Our kids share one room, so we will try to create an equally attractive space for them to play separately
  • We will prepare self-engaging activities (I have gathered some ideas here: Self-engaging activities for kids)
  • If needed, we will split kids and:
    • involve them in different self-engaging, learning activities and encourage them to share this knowledge later
    • make them prepare different kinds of puzzles for each other – hopefully, they will spend some time solving them 😉

My new schedule

This is how I plan to manage it this week (a general idea, before each day I plan the next schedule in detail with my wife):

Time My working time What happens
5:45–6:15 0 minutes We both wake up and prepare for the day, no working in pajamas.
6:15–7:30 1 hour
15 minutes
Ready to go, me for sure, my wife needs just a few more minutes, kids sleeping.
7:30–8:00 30 minutes Kids awake and self-managing, this gives me an additional 30 min before I need to focus on them.
8:00–9:00 0 minutes Making beds, brushing teeth, breakfast.
9:00–10:00 1 hour We both work, kids are usually self-managed without direct exposure to screen 😉 (drawing, playing with bricks, etc.).
10:00–11:00 1 hour If there is no fighting and it’s too quiet, I become worried. Usually, there is something going on. We split – my wife engages in some activity with them.
11:00–12:00 1 hour After the kids spent quality time with mother, another 1 hour of focus is quite realistic.
12:00–13:00 0 minutes My turn. Since it is close to lunch, I will try to engage them in preparations. We eat.
14:00–15:30 1 hour
30 minutes
Netflix time! 
15:30–16:00 0 minutes

Dad, we’re hungry.

16:00–17:00 1 hour My wife or my console will do the thing. I can work for another hour.
17:00–18:00 0 minutes My turn – Ania finishes up her stuff, I am playing some board game or FIFA 18 (only if they didn’t spend time watching screens an hour before).
18:00–21:00 0 minutes Family time as usual.
21:00–21:45 45 minutes They sleep. I can rule the world now. But I have strength for 45 minutes tops. 
21:45–5:45 0 minutes Don’t even think about work.

This is just a framework. I accept the fact that it may not work that way every day and I am ready to improvise.

Photo of Alek and Staszek

Alek (left) and Staszek (right). What can possibly go wrong?

Stay safe and productive, wherever you are. Check out our rescue kit

3. Set up a schedule and include your kids in the process

Each working day will bring specific critical moments for you and your partner – a call with a customer can be a good example. Make a schedule for each day, which takes these situations into account:

  • include kids in your daily planning, schedule your work to have time for them and still do your 8 hours
  • save the most effective ways (your partner’s help, TV series, etc.) to engage your kids for critical events in your schedule. Check out this list, maybe you will find something interesting: Activities for kids
  • literally put a placeholder for time with your children in your calendar around your critical events. For instance: call with a customer 11:30-12:30, spend 11:15-11:30 with the kids to prepare them for the situation, book another 15 minutes after the call for them only.

4. Discuss your plan with the kids and make it visual

If you have kindergarten-age kids, then visualizing something abstract like a daily schedule can help things go more smoothly. You’ll need a small whiteboard, a blackboard or simply a sheet of paper. 

  • Create it together, using creative techniques (incl. drawing, sticking, gluing, etc.), mark up what will happen and when, when is the time for you to play together and when it is not. “Relax kid, there will be time for your favorite game, even more than before!” 
  • Refer to these visuals later on. 

Will it definitely save your day? Not necessarily, but it will help.

5. Support each other and recognize the effort

Remember the power of Thank you! Use it often. Recognize your partner and your children for the effort they make. Be kind to each other. Simple as that.

6. Be tolerant and don’t hesitate to ask for tolerance

Things like this will happen:

That’s OK. Tell other call participants about your situation.

Don’t turn your camera off, you don’t have to do that. Mute your mic if you are not a speaker at the moment and your kids are just about to invade Tatooine. Ask for a short break if needed.

Remember to enjoy these little “glitches”, and don’t get frustrated. Having to adapt and work remotely with kids is difficult. You’re not alone in struggling with this.

7. Remember that learning new habits takes time

Be prepared for the first few days to be difficult. Stay patient and supportive.

Ask openly for support.

This is a learning experience. Follow the plan but be flexible – adapt. Play with different scenarios to work out the best scheme for your family.

And most importantly – enjoy the extra family time!

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Key takeaways:

  1. Having to work remotely with kids around is a new situation for many don’t get impatient or frustrated. Try and be flexible and remember that others are also still working this out.
  2. Involve your family in your daily planning it will help everyone understand what’s happening and when, and follow the schedule more easily.
  3. Thank your family for their support it’s an adjustment for all of you, so be appreciative of their efforts.

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