In the remote workforce, it’s important to know how to navigate through distractions and find a work style that aligns with your needs. But how do you adapt to working remotely when your kids are at home with you too?
With more and more companies embracing the remote lifestyle, the lines between work and family life have become blurred. We asked some of our team members for their tips on how to stay productive and focused when working remotely with kids at home.
Here at OnTheGoSystems, we often emphasize the importance of communicating with your team members and sharing challenges you may be facing. As remote workers, we don’t have as many opportunities to engage in office small talk. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to get to know your team. Chances are a fellow team member is going through the same situation you are!
In our experience, keeping a nice work-life balance is crucial if you want to stay happy and healthy. Several of our colleagues are mothers. For many, juggling the responsibilities of a job and brand new baby felt like having two full-time jobs. This is why at OTGS, a mother of a newborn can take 3 months of paid maternity leave starting from any day before or after the birth of her child.
After speaking with some of our members who recently became fathers, we think it’s equally important for them to be able to bond with their child. That’s why we’ve recently increased our paternity leave to 10 days off:
Of course, we also understand that sometimes, last-minute situations that require flexibility may come up.
As Mercedes Barreda from our Compatibility & Administration Team notes:
“The benefits [of working remotely] are countless for me :) If one of my kids feels bad or has a doctor’s appointment, I can just make up for the time off afterwards. Fortunately, this does not happen very often.”
And Juan de Paco, Developer at Adelance Team completely agrees with that sentiment:
“Working from home allows me to not miss anything. I see Noa growing and learning every day, every moment of the day. I am there if she or her mummy needs me for something urgent, and I can kiss her and hug her any time I want.”
When working remotely, it’s important to have a schedule. We all know how hard it can be to disconnect from work. After all, your computer is right there – so why not send one more email?
When your children are at home with you, having a schedule is just as necessary. It can help establish boundaries and teach them the difference between work time and free time.
For Raja Mohammed, Project manager for WPML Support Team, it’s all about balance:
“My son (and other kids) always try to seek attention. When we give them the right attention, they then want to have their own space. I always try to pay attention to requests coming from my kids. It only takes a couple of minutes to let the child know that they are not being ignored. It is a kind of mutual agreement – I have given you what you wanted, now let me work.
Adjusting my schedule was a bit of a struggle with the first kid. At first, my wife and I agreed to a schedule which did not always work. We then decided to introduce strict work hours. It’s kind of a training for the kid, teaching him about my availability.”
Lauren Jeffcoat, Supporter at WPML Support Team finds that a flexible schedule works best:
“I find that making a flexible schedule really helps, otherwise my son would end up playing videos all day! So, I try to prepare some crafts that he can handle on his own, even if it’s just some drawing, painting, chalk, etc. I try to also make sure he gets some outside time. I have a workspace. I can take my laptop outside and Gabe can run around with the dog, or ride his scooter. The more time I can keep him active, the less bored he is when we are inside.”
Ashraf Hesham, Developer at WPML Development Team keeps track of his day with to-do lists:
“To-do or task lists are mandatory, along with having the work described in the YouTrack tickets. I make a separate task list of what I should be doing and start tracking what’s done and what’s left to do. Based on that, if at any time I have to cut my working hours to handle personal errands, I come back and check what I was doing or what’s left in my to-do list and continue with it.”
Having a routine is great, but things don’t always go as planned with children around. Regardless of their age, children may require some hands-on help at any moment of the day. Or, they may simply ask a question at the wrong moment and break your focus. You’ll be happier and more relaxed once you learn how to expect changes in your work schedule and accept that on occasion, you’ll have to adapt to the situation at hand.
Shekhar Bhandari, Supporter at WPML Support Team has found the secret to balancing work and childcare:
“My daughter’s school time matches my working hours, so most of the time I get to work without any interruptions. I start to look at tickets and try to take less chats during the hours when my child’s school starts and ends so if needed, I can drop and pick her up.
When there is no one to take care of her, and I have a heavy load of work, I take advantage of my double screen and play something to keep the kid happy.”
Agnes Bury, Client Advocate has mastered the art of tuning out noise:
“My kids are teenagers now, so it’s a lot easier. Yet, the biggest challenge is online school. We are all at home virtually 24/7 and we are missing one spare room. So I share my “home office” with my daughter. She is very talkative and takes an active part in lessons. So you can imagine what it’s like sitting next to her and working.”
“I’ve gotten used to, and have now developed the ability to focus on work even with the noise around. After all, when you work in a traditional office, there is no difference or it’s even worse. I also trained my kids not to interrupt me when: A. They hear my typing quickly on the computer keyboard and see me looking very focused. B. They see other faces on my screen (our Zoom calls).”
Dario Jazbec Hrvatin, Content Manager tries to stay calm, even though it isn’t always easy:
“I am lucky that my wife is a stay-at-home-mom, so she takes care of everything most of the time. But then, occasionally, when my daughter insists on interrupting me, it’s important to be smart enough to take a pause, talk to her, find a compromise and then go back to work. When you’re under time pressure, it’s easy to get angry but you have to understand that they’re kids and they need you, so being gentle and calm is the best way to go about it.”
Sometimes, work and child care can become intermingled. When your kids are on their summer breaks, you’ll no longer be able to drop them off at school and begin your workday. To avoid feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, try to split the responsibilities of childcare with other family members or take shifts with your spouse.
Juan de Paco, Developer at Adelance Team and his wife have a parenting plan:
“I have an agreement with my wife: she takes care of our baby until she grows up to attend school (which happens next September) while I focus on work and take care of our dogs. She finds activities and outdoor plans, so our baby girl is fully entertained. On weekends, I lead the baby-caring responsibilities so my wife can rest a little.”
Channa Ly, Developer at Proxy Team relies on the help of his family, but also stays involved:
“Fortunately, I am not alone in taking care of my kid. I have my wife and mother to take care of him as well.
I spend a lot of time with my kid in the early morning. I usually get up early, approximately at 5 AM to bring my kid out for some morning playtime and exercise, like running or cycling. We are back home ready between 6:30AM – 6:45AM to prepare him for school and prepare myself for work. I have very little interruptions from my family during my working hours, as they understand that I have a full time job that I need to focus on.
In the evening, after my kid is back from school, I have an hour-long break to help him review his school homework and other activities.”
Lauren Jeffcoat, Supporter at WPML Support Team believes that where there’s a will, there’s a way:
“Ask family and friends for help! Use summer camps! Anything you can plan to keep them busy is helpful. I have some other friends that work from home and we will often get together at one of our houses so the kids can play while we work from our laptops. That’s been a huge help! Being able to work outside so my son can run around and play and be loud is also a great addition. So if you don’t have an outside workspace, I recommend trying to set that up. Even if it is just a small table with an umbrella to shield your screen from the sun, it’s worth it.”
And Irina Sozonova, Support and HR Assistant can confirm that moms really are the best:
““I have three kids now, and when the older ones are not at school or kindergarten, I send them to my mother during weekdays and to my husband’s mother during weekends. They’ve gotten used to this schedule, however, we allow them to stay at home for at least one weekend a month and enjoy some family activities together.
My mother is a nanny, a cook, and a housemaid all in one. In return, I’m helping her financially and we’ve also renovated her house, garden, etc.”
Despite your best efforts, things may go wrong. As any parent will tell you, juggling young children and household chores is hard enough. Add remote work into the mix and all bets are off.
Paola Mendiburu, Supporter at WPML Support Team faced quite the scare:
“I remember that in the first week of the lockdown, we had to go to the emergency room. While we were working, my daughter went to the kitchen and drank some ammonia. Fortunately everything went well as she didn’t drink a lot.”
Agnes Bury, Client Advocate accidentally got her daughter in trouble:
“I was on a Zoom call while my daughter was having her online lesson and she needed to answer her teacher’s questions. Her teacher interrupted, a bit annoyed, and said to my daughter: “Could you please turn off the YouTube video you’re playing in the background when you’re speaking to me?” “It’s not YouTube,” my daughter replied. “It’s my mum working remotely”. Then I wrote an email to that teacher explaining that what happened is inevitable because we don’t have any extra rooms. She apologized and said that my English was so fluent and good that she didn’t think it could be me.”
Shekhar Bhandari, Supporter at WPML Support Team knows the danger of leaving your computer open:
“One time while I was away from my computer for a short break, I left Mattermost open. My daughter pressed every key on the keyboard and sent the message. I’m just glad that no-one understands the language she types in ;)”
Dario Jazbec Hrvatin, Content Manager sums it up nicely
“I would like to point out that in remote working companies, it’s super important that your colleagues support you and you support them. So, if anyone gets interrupted (occasionally), it is fine, there is no drama, it happens. We have this here at OTGS and this is super important!”
Being a parent and a full-time remote worker isn’t easy, and you’ll face your fair share of challenges, laughter, and teaching moments along the way.
Instead of adding to your stress levels, acknowledge the challenges you are going through, share your thoughts with your fellow co-workers, and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Here are some last tips from our fellow team members:
Interested in working remotely with a team that understands the importance of work-life balance and spending more time with your family? Take a look at some of our open positions and apply today!