Working From Home with Kids
Working from home has its unique challenges, and those are made all the more acute by the presence of small children. So if you've got littles at home you're contending with, here's a few pointers from someone who has three under the age of 10.
Work ahead in the day while your kids are still asleep. If you have the flexibility to put in some hours before your kids wake up, take advantage of that uninterrupted time. Under quarantine, we've found that "bedtime" has lost of lot of meaning, both as a concept and a deadline, so our kids are up later and sleep in later. It's a dangerous game, but so far it's granted a few extra hours in the morning to punch out some to-dos.
Develop a game plan with your parenting partner. My spouse also has deadlines and responsibilities and require large swaths of uninterrupted time to do deep work. Sit down together to map out who take the lead with the kiddos when, and be generous with the needs of each other. Check in frequently throughout the day to pass the baton. When in doubt, err on the side of serving the other.
Children graze like herd animals. The stark realization of needing to feed all these people multiple times a day hits hard. Prepping a large platter of cut-up fruits and veggies can keep your kids from getting hangry and stave off little interruptions for snacks. A head of broccoli and a bowl of ranch is your friend.
Be clear about when you're working and when you're home. Yes, it's nice to work in your pajamas (though don't, if you can help it.) Yes, it's difficult to understand how work / home boundaries function when you're home all the time and expected to be available for work all the time. Be proactive with your team about your needs, and why you might not be immediately available via Slack all the time. In the words of Adam Grant, we're all the BBC dad now.
Give your kids some semblance of structure. Your mileage will vary based on the age and capabilities of your children. We've found a measure of success in defining the major blocks of the day (creative time, screen time, education time, reading time, quiet time, active time, etc) and letting them assemble those blocks as they see fit. It's not perfect, but some structure is better than anarchy.
Keep your dog in your office. Finally, if you have a fur baby, they're loving all the time they get to see you now. I moved my dog's bed into my home office so now she hangs out with me more while I'm at work. It's a nice perk in the midst of an uncertain time.
And most of all, be gracious with each other. With your teammates whose kids make noise in the background of a conference call, with a spouse who is stressed about how to be a full-time parent and a full-time employee/student/intern etc, with yourself for feeling like you're failing in every area of life. Most of us haven't lived through a pandemic before, and we're doing the best we can. What else would you add? Any tips you can give me?
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