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Working from home with kids

How to entertain your kids and still get your job done

My wife and I are two of the many parents who have been working double time. Neither of us has a system relevant job, and with the daycares closed, we now find ourselves juggling playtime while working from home.

With this blog post, I would like to share my experience as a parent working at home: what’s worked well and what hasn’t. Of course, this is a very personal perspective — if you have any hacks you’d like to share, please add them in the comments below!

co-working space

Our new work situation

Both my wife and I have been working from home since mid-March. I work full time holding down the Goodpatch Munich Studio, she works part-time, and we share the responsibility of taking care of our 2-year-old son.

Unfortunately, 2-year-olds cannot keep themselves busy over long periods of time, so there always needs to be at least one of us there to help him eat imaginary biscuits, enjoy an imaginary cup of tea with cake, build a fort of blankets and pillows, or sing children songs while chasing him around the flat.

My colleague described this situation the best:

It’s similar to the worst-case scenario in which your child is sick, both parents need to stay at home, both have to work full time, and there are no grandparents who can help with child care.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve established some workarounds and have developed a routine. Here are some small things that we’ve discovered work best while working and parenting from home.

Things I will do more often:

  • Make 2–3 hour blocks of time for each of you to watch for your child while your better half is working.
  • Create an analog calendar with post-it’s at the door, so each parent’s working hours are clearly visible. This way, schedules can easily be adjusted on the fly, similar to the liquid agenda work style we use at Goodpatch.
  • Have a weekly stand-up for a high-level overview and to streamline calendars.
  • Mutually agree on the most important meetings for each person. While they have said meeting, the other parent has to move around their schedule to make sure they are available for playtime.
  • Share your schedule with co-workers, so they are aware of your availability, and it is easier for them to communicate with you.
  • Adopt a clean desk policy if you work on a shared desk. This also gives you a routine to start and end your workday.
  • Adopt an open and closed-door policy if your home office is in a separate room. This also makes it easy for the little ones to know when they can and can not interrupt Mommy or Daddy: Closed-door = Please don’t disturb. Open door = I’m still working, but the little one is welcome to draw, check out the colleagues on the video call, or make sure that I haven’t accidentally fallen asleep.
  • Schedule an hour a day for family time and to go out for a walk, if possible.
  • Get some wireless headphones. It’s so nice not to be wired to the computer in case you need to quickly pick up your child and show them your colleagues during video calls.
  • Create a schedule for the child that takes the weather forecast into account. Leaving little ones in front of a screen for extended periods of time is never the best option.

Things I will do less often:

  • Schedule important meetings after the “afternoon nap.” Make sure you block at least 30min before and after the child’s afternoon nap time since you never know what will happen ;-)
  • Underestimate the time required to care for a little one. Try to be as flexible as possible, which may also require the occasional night shifts for work.
  • Schedule working blocks for less than 1h. This slices your day into too many small sections, decreasing your productivity, and making it difficult for your colleagues to reach out for you.

Some helpful ideas to entertain kids:

  • Alba Berlin sports hour on YouTube
  • Building stuff out of all the cardboard boxes you’ve acquired from all your online shopping. My colleague and co-dad has made some very cool things, including an espresso machine, cake shop, country house, etc.

While working from home as a parent can be stressful, I must admit that it has also been very rewarding. Before the pandemic, I would never have imagined that I would be able to spend so much time with my son during the day. Now, we’re able to enjoy breakfast and lunch together, and sometimes we’re able to spend a couple of hours out exploring the woods. My drawing skills have also improved with all of our new construction projects.

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Working into the night to make up for lost time sucks, but hey! There are worse things than a child falling asleep next to you in bed while you create invoices.

Thanks for reading! I look forward to hearing your productivity hacks.

stay home and stay healthy

Written by

Khanh Vo

Author

Khanh Vo

Topic

Tips & Tricks

Reading

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