By Jacqueline Zeller, CMO of Workplaceless. Currently working from home alongside two kids at home.
As many more of us are shifting our working habits to work from home, parents are increasingly finding themselves at the intersection of both emergency remote work and emergency online learning. Even for those of us who have been working remotely for years and have found solutions to some of the challenges, working from home with kids (#WFHWK) is a whole new ball game.
Step One. Forgive yourself. (This underpins everything that follows.)
There will be days that will feel like productivity triumphs and days that feel like the triumph is solely that everyone is still alive and fed. Forgive yourself. And forgive your teammates. This is hard and no one has a perfect solution.
With expected stay-at-home timelines continually being extended, looking back at the original two week guidance seems like a utopia. On top of that, advice is conflicting. Set a schedule. Let your kids set the schedule. Don’t plan anything. It’s confusing. My overarching motto is: do what works for you. However, if it’s not working, be willing to try another approach. The following outlines what has been working in our home (not without some hiccups) and yet I recognize that everyone’s situation is different.
Step Two. Time block your days.
This is a great strategy to integrate for any remote work schedule and remote team; however, I’m finding it’s critical to getting anything done with kids at home. While ideally, I like to work without any distractions, during this time I categorize my time across four different types of work. My partner does the same and the early in the week (or frankly the night before) we’re planning our kids’ days around parallel schedules. If you need some help with scheduling Owl Labs, a partner of Workplaceless, created a new app for helping to plan work from home family schedules.
- Independent work that requires full focus:
- In my role, this is often output that requires deep thinking like strategic discussions or activities that are external facing, such as our recent press release or the launch communications for our new Growplaceless program.
- These are the times where my partner is in charge of the kids or they are set up watching TV or a movie or I’m building in pockets of time for work after they’ve gone to bed. If I’m looking to be hyper-productive, I’ve leveraged Caveday as a resource quite frequently and would definitely recommend their remote options.
- Synchronous work that requires full focus:
- These are the blocks of time when I’m video conferencing with new partners or clients, or I’m conducting interviews and the interviewee deserves my undivided attention.
- I set my kids up with an activity that I feel confident will take the allotted amount of time or my partner is overseeing the kids or they’re settled in for a movie.
- Independent work that tolerates distractions:
- In this category, I’m including things that I can accomplish more from memory or are rote tasks that are easy for me to replicate, such as responding to emails or creating images for social campaigns.
- I’m typically in the same room with my kids and they are working on activities that I’ve setup for them or dialing into their own school or social Zoom rooms.
- Synchronous work that tolerates distractions:
- For me, this includes meetings with our internal, understanding, and flexible Workplaceless teams or partners with whom I’ve already built a rapport.
- Again, I’m often in the same room (or outside in the backyard) with my children who may be popping in and out of the Zoom frame.
Step Three. Find activities that will hold your child’s attention.
With this goal in mind, we reached out to our teammates and partners for Kid-Tested & Approved Working from Home Activities. Every child’s attention span is different so how you leverage these across the time blocks above may vary, but hopefully this will spark some avenues of help to get things done.
Here are some fun and creative ideas that our kids submitted:
Title: Indoor Scavenger Hunt
Estimated time to complete: 30 minutes
Best for ages: 3 to 8 years old
Supplies needed: Prepared list of items you already have at home.
Description of activity: Mom gave us a list with pictures of things we could find around the house. Then big bro and I went upstairs and downstairs to find all of the things and put them on our blankets.
Note from Parent: Here’s a template of items you could use to get started. Being that I have two kids, I give them separate lists to avoid spats about wanting the same item. Then we switched to create two rounds. They also put everything away between each round to give me a bit more time. Another modification is to consider a “Letter of the Day” or “Color of the Day” and there isn’t a list but rather finding 20 things that fit that category.
Kids will learn / practice: Problem solving, language skills
Submitted by: Celia Z., age 3
Title: Quarantine Collage (title as submitted)
Estimated time to complete: 45+ minutes
Best for ages: 4 to 12 years old
Supplies needed: Magazines, newspapers, poster board, paper, glue sticks, scissors
Description of activity: We cut out our favorite pictures from the different magazines and glued them on our big paper pieces. I liked all of the desserts and anything sugar!
Note from Parent: I just set up a workstation for each kid with supplies and let them get to work. I originally had a theme for each in mind, and that may work for older kids, but really my kids just cut out whatever they wanted.
Kids will learn / practice: Fine motor skills, creativity
Submitted by: Evan, age 5
Title: “Work” with Mom Box
Estimated time to complete: 30+ minutes
Best for ages: 3 to 8 years old
Supplies needed: Box with kid-safe office supplies inside: calculator, paper clips, whiteboard, binder with zipper pouch and blank paper, clipboard, hole punch, broken laptop, etc.
Description of activity: “Mom has a special box in her office that we only use for very important work. Inside are all of the things that we need to do our job, like a calculator, and a whiteboard, and stuff like that. I get to sit at the desk with Mom and work by her.”
Note from Parent: I keep a box of kid-safe office supplies in my workspace for my child to “work” with for the times they want to be nearby, but the usual books and games aren’t cutting it. Because these are things that (s)he rarely gets access to, attention is held much longer and the kids feel involved in my work—like they are collaborating with me—instead of me ignoring them.
Sometimes I give them a specific task (“Write a list of things we need from the grocery store”), and sometimes they use the supplies for typical activities (like drawing), but most of the time, they just explore the tools, which can last for at least an hour or two (stringing paper clips together, punching holes in paper, typing numbers into the calculator, etc.).
Kids will learn / practice: Fine motor skills, imagination/role playing
Submitted by: Cohen, age 7
Title: Toy Camp
Estimated time to complete: 1 to infinity hours
Best for ages: 5 to 10 years old
Supplies needed: Any fun outside things, such as colorful cones, frisbees, boxes, balls, bubbles, chalk, other outside items. Cardboard or paper for drawing on.
Description of activity: Set up “centers” around your yard or home for playing. You might have a hula hoop center, frisbee center, sidewalk chalk drawing center, performance center, dance center, whatever you can think of with the supplies you have. Once you set it up, take your cardboard or paper and draw a map of camp. Then you can create a “daily schedule” for camp. You are the camp counselor. Invite your siblings or toys to come play with you. (Most of the “time to complete” is spent setting up.)
Note from Parent: Dear parents, you will be called in at the end to play and/or see a show.
Kids will learn / practice: Organization, physical activity, creativity
Submitted by: Alice S., age 7
Title: Homemade Board Game
Estimated time to complete: 1 to 2 hours
Best for ages: 8 and up
Supplies needed: Coloring equipment, a pair of scissors, paper, a flattened-out piece of cardboard and a pencil (you can add any art supplies to the list that you want, for example beads for decoration)
Description of activity: To begin, take the piece of flattened-out cardboard and use a pencil or marker to make a pattern that will become the game board spaces. Then, draw in any other challenge, stop point, etc. Next, color the game board however you like. Take a piece of paper and write the instructions down. Make sure to include in the instructions how many players can play and create a title for your game. If you want to make game pawns, then take a piece of paper and draw any figure you would like and cut it out. Try to make six players and then color them in. Finally, find a safe spot where you can put your game.
Kids will learn / practice: This activity helps children experiment with their ideas and be creative!
Submitted by: Neven C., age 10
Title: Letter-Number Scribble Game
Estimated time to complete: 30 minutes to 2 hours
Best for ages: 7 and up
Supplies needed: Paper, pencil and coloring materials
Description of activity: To begin, take a piece of paper and draw a line through the center of the paper. Next, write a lowercase “a” on one side of the paper and an uppercase “A” on the other side. Then, make a picture out of the lowercase “a”, followed by making a picture out of the uppercase “A”. Lastly, color the picture you have drawn. You can keep making pictures from the letters a to z and the numbers 1 to infinity.
Kids will learn / practice: This project helps children use their imagination and experiment and practice with their letters and numbers!
Submitted by: Neven C., age 10
Title: Art / Drawing
Estimated time to complete: 30 minutes or more
Best for ages: 12 – 18 years old
Supplies needed: Pens, pencils, paper, canvas, charcoal, erasers, smudgers, watercolor pens, you name it
Description of activity: Get your supplies and just start drawing or doodling or painting. If u have an iPad or computer or phone you can draw on it, too. I like to use Procreate ($10) on my iPad when I’m not drawing on paper.
Kids will learn / practice: Patience, precision, and persistence.
Submitted by: Anya, age 13
Have an idea that your child would like to share? Tell us about it and we can feature it in an update!
If you need more support during this period of working from home, get yourself or your whole team up to speed quickly with our Unexpected Remote Work Course.