What I’ve Learned From Working at Home With Kids
Updated: Jun 2, 2020
I’ve lost track of how many weeks I've been working from home but I feel lucky that working in tech recruitment allows me the flexibility to work from anywhere. I, like everyone, don't know when this pandemic will end but what I do know is that I have learned a lot these past few weeks, especially when it comes to my two kids.
I’ve learned that not becoming a teacher was a good choice for me. I tip my hat to all of the teachers out there, including my wife for their patience and ability to control a room full of kids because homeschooling has been an eye-opening experience. I’ve learned about how to establish a routine when working from home, and how and when I work best. And like most things in my life, I learned them the hard way.
Perspective is everything
My family is one of the lucky ones living through the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all healthy, my wife and I can work from home and we have my mother-in-law here to help. Many people have lost jobs, or still have to go into work which I’m sure is very stressful. This situation has given me more perspective and I feel grateful.
I know what my real job is
I thought my job was working in tech recruitment but my real job is my kids, and family. Now more than ever, my kids need my support and everything else is secondary. My wife shared a quote with me the other day that help changed my perspective on things(not sure if it was a hint or not). “You are not working from home. You are at home during a crisis, trying to work." I try to remember this when I’m planning my day so I don’t end up forgetting to do my real job.
My kids are happier when they get my attention
This seems fairly obvious as I write it but it took a parenting video to remind me of it. Yes, things have been so challenging that I have signed up for all sorts of parenting coaching videos.
My kids are constantly coming into my home office to tell me things, see what I’m doing, or just get a hug. I try to embrace it each time. They are young, their life has been turned upside down and sometimes they just need their dad. In these moments I find myself needing a hug just as much as they do. It’s not distracting, it’s grounding.
Make time for recess
One great way to give my kids attention is by making time to play with them. We try to get outside in the morning and later in the afternoon. I put it in my calendar as recess. It gives me the chance to give them positive attention and gives me the chance to get outside.
I work when I'm most productive
I’ve learned what times during the day I’m most productive, and when I’m not. I was invited a few years ago to a talk by Dan Pink about his research for his book When where he explained with data why timing really is everything. It helped me understand why I’m so unproductive around 2 p.m. every day, and why I feel so productive between 3 to 6 p.m. I try to plan my day so that instead of pushing through unproductive periods, I take a break and go and spend time with my kids.
Make time for exercise
Before social distancing, I used to exercise when I woke up in the morning. Now, for some reason, it has seemed harder to make time for exercise. It could be because I’m sleeping in, or maybe it’s because we had a bottle of "wine with dinner" on a Tuesday night (which I normally don’t do).
I am now scheduling time to practice planks and push-ups at the very minimum. After reading about George Hood, the world record holder for holding a plank for over 8 hours, I thought I should be able to do at least one minute. It's not much, but it helps keep me active and improves my mood.
The importance of a support system
I have great friends that I don’t get to see as much as I used to because we all have young kids but in these times, we need each other more than ever. I never envisioned myself having a video beer with a group of friends but this has become the norm. The COVID-19 crisis obviously comes up in conversation each time we talk. We ask about each other's parents, talk about having the kids at home, what we are worried about and what we think will happen next. We also make sure to include important topics like the Raptors, NBA season and why Michael Jordan is the GOAT and Lebron James will always be in his shadow. These conversations are fun and are really helpful.
I’ve found support from a business perspective as well. My colleague has weekly calls with other small business owners to talk about ideas on how to manage through this. There is a great group of people who realized their small businesses were in danger and mobilized to try and influence the government's response.
We did an internal survey of the team and every person mentioned they were dealing with stress and/or anxiety when it comes to their health, the economy, or job security. I try to remind the team, and myself, that it’s ok to feel strange or upset about the current situation. We don’t have to pretend this isn’t happening and it’s important to be able to talk about how we are feeling.
Have a dedicated workspace
One thing I am sure has made me more productive at home is having the right tools. I find having a monitor, keyboard and mouse and door to close has helped. I've accepted that my kids will interrupt me. It’s not really the end of the world if they do - and I've found that if this happens when I'm on a call, the other person always understands. They are usually in the same boat.
Find time to learn or improve something
As a company, we are using this time to make some incremental improvements to how we do things. We are updating our website, adjusting processes and trying to win new business in other markets. There is an opportunity in forced change.
I tried for the fourth time in my life to learn how to play the guitar. I broke a string tuning it. I felt like I was in the Alanis Morissette music video for Ironic.
There is opportunity out there
I wouldn’t be working at home if there were no opportunities to be successful. There is an opportunity to improve and learn. There are still many great tech companies in Canada looking to hire.
I am confident that I will learn more as my work from home journey continues. When I do, I will add them here. In the meantime, I hope something I’ve learned the hard way can make your day a little easier.