How to work from home with kids

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

The World Health Organization has declared a pandemic as COVID-19 spreads rapidly around the globe. For most non-essential employees, our local and state government have mandated we work from home. Same with our children – schools and daycares have shut down with social distancing (and even stay-at-home orders) put in place. This situation has sent millions of parents around the globe into new and uncharted territory: how do we navigate working from home with our kids by our side?

This new normal most likely won’t be smooth sailing. There might even be a bump (or twelve) in the road. We talked to Vistaprint employees from around the world to see how they’re navigating working at home while parenting full-time.

Here are five things they’ve said that have made their lives a bit easier while working from home with kids. And remember – we’re all in this together.

  • Maintain a schedule
  • Take shifts with your partner
  • Get up and go outside
  • Let the little things go
  • Embrace occasional screen-time

1. Try to maintain a schedule.

Easier said than done, we know. We’re not talking about a strict, minute by minute breakdown… just two to three-hour blocks of time with a rough outline of what everyone is doing. You don’t have to include things you do naturally, like eat or sleep.

Bhavani Lee, mother to an eight-year-old son located in our Sydney office says, “We’ve tried to implement a fluid schedule with a few dedicated activities to keep us motivated. For example, exercising in the morning, having breakfast/lunch together, going for a quick afternoon walk and having dedicated time for free play. We also set up alarms during the day that act like school bells – so our son has his break and lunch the same time as he would at school.”

2. Take shifts with your partner.

If you have a partner stuck at home with you, consider swapping times when you each work. For example, you get up early and work until everyone’s awake, then swap with your partner until lunchtime. Then you swap until lunch. Rinse and repeat until dinner – or until you feel like you’re in a good spot for the rest of the day.

Slim Guizani, dad of two and team lead in our Tunisia location, agrees with this tactic. “I’ve been waking up two hours before the kids get up. I enjoy the silence and get to focus on my most time-consuming work while my wife sleeps in. We then take turns to watch the kids every hour during the day – and use our kids’ nap time to deliver quick tasks: checking on the team, answering emails and doing stand ups.”

3. Get up and go outside.

It’s amazing what a little fresh air will do. Stepping outside – even if it’s onto your balcony – can help clear your head and get you energised for work.

David Reeson, dad of one and a colleague in our Barcelona office, has had to get creative given his city-living set-up.

“My daughter is almost three, so she has lots of energy to burn. Spain has a strict stay-at-home order, so we’ve taken to playing games on our small balcony. Hopscotch, arts and crafts, theatre, etc. Today we did a music session. I introduced her to some jazz greats while we danced and played all the musical instruments we had in the house.”

So, get out there – if you can – and take that conference call while taking a socially-distanced stroll in your neighbourhood or hanging on your porch.

4. Let the little things go.

Now’s not the time to worry about keeping your house spotless or your hair on point. It’s also not the time to worry about your co-workers seeing your kids playing ninja behind you on a video call, or your partner taking a conference call in the same room as you. Remember, we’re in this together, and we’re all experiencing similar challenges.

Matina Fell, mother to three in our Waltham, Massachusetts location, agrees. “I thought my kids were set up with their iPads during a video call I was on. Turns out, they had other ideas and decided to run around behind me. It actually lightened the meeting mood and we all had a laugh. Instead of being embarrassed, I tried to roll with the punches.”

5. Embrace a little screen time.

Experts say that children should get no more than one hour of screen time per day. But when you’re trying to take a conference call or finish a report, don’t be afraid to turn to a favourite movie or funny Youtube video. There are plenty of educational programs out there too, so your kids can stay occupied while learning maths or science.

Erin McGarry, a mother of two based at our Massachusetts office, has turned to technology to keep her sons in touch with their friends. “Since my boys are school-aged, they miss the friends they’re used to seeing every day. We’ve turned to Skype, Zoom and FaceTime so they can chat with their buddies and play games online together. It’s a sort of virtual play date, and it’s definitely helped them stay connected.”