Five Tips for Surviving Work at Home with Kids
Amber Hartmann with Andrew Hartmann
🍿 3 min. read
Most lists about working from home focus on things like staying productive, how to keep focused, and setting up your ideal workspace. The situation many people are in currently - or about to be - is drastically different. We've been a work at home company from the beginning. And while we can offer advice on the above topics, we know right now it's a matter of trying to keep the lights on at your business. How do you keep things running when you unexpectedly have to work from home?
Amber's Five Tips for Working at Home with Kids
I've always jokingly referred to my son Andrew as my EdgePoint co-worker. In the early days that involved cramming as much work in as I could during nap time, and bringing him along for any in-person meetings. Now, 11 years later, it's spending the summers together in our shared space, and hiring him to do occasional voiceover and tidy the office. He has always been a part of my work life at EdgePoint. Together we have compiled a list of five tips for parents (and their kids) for working at home.
1. Create a shared space.
Kids want to be close to you, especially when they're nervous, scared, or their schedules have been disrupted. Having a specific space for them to set up camp and work on homework, research, read a book, or just play quietly nearby works a lot better than repeatedly having a kid come into your personal space trying to get your attention. Over the age of about 2, Andrew understood that he could hang out quietly, and that I'd need to be working, but was there if he needed me.
1a. Andrew's kid tip: Don't set up a small space that feels cramped, or an overly large space. Find the sweet spot in the middle.
2. Take breaks and go enjoy your kids.
Do lunches and snacks together, do 15 minute breaks to play outside, or take a walk around the block. The work will still be there when you get back, and your kids will remember your attention. If you miss an email or call? They'll still be there 15 minutes later.
2a. Andrew's kid tip: Take a few motor breaks and remember to stretch out between video games.
3. For older kids, set up a list of daily expectations.
The summer vacation lists you can find on the internet are a great start. Having a routine and a physical checklist of things they have to do before they park themselves in front of a screen is amazing - and it gives you a solid chunk of time where you can get through your more brain-intensive work in the morning. Our routine list involves morning hygiene, morning chores, reading, doing something creative, and spending time exercising or outside playing.
3a. Andrew's kid tip: Eat breakfast together and watch something funny on TV while you eat. It's a nice way to wake up together.
4. Schedule your parenting.
If you are co-parenting, schedule it out with your partner. You have all your meetings on a specific day? Have your partner run things so you can lock yourself in a room uninterrupted. With smaller children this works especially well - have one parent take the kids for the mornings, and trade off at lunch time. Or alternate days. Whatever works, just make sure it's equitable and the kids know who they're supposed to go to if they need something.
4a. Andrew's kid tip: If both parents are busy at the same time, it's a good time to read a magazine or book. Game Informer magazine is the best when mom and dad are both on a conference call.
5. Don't expect to work a full schedule, or regular business hours.
Kids take attention and time, and your co-workers and employers are going to need to understand that in the coming weeks. If you don't hit 40 hours in front of your computer this week - don't worry. Remember - the goal is business continuity. If you got done what you could, and did your work to the best of your ability? Then you're crushing it.
5a. Andrew's kid tip: Don't worry if your parents are working on the weekends. It will go back to normal soon. Think of it as a good time to binge something on Netflix or Hulu.