As a young kid, my mom worked from home. She ran her own business out of our house and had to navigate caring for my brother and I while still serving her clients.
Sometimes that meant plopping us in front of the TV for an hour. Other times, she’d ask my brother and I to play (without bickering) on our own. And, occasionally, she’d stick a desk in her office where I could color and draw pictures by her side.
For me, that’s where I was most content. I wouldn’t talk or bug her (too much). But I was the quiet kid. Not everyone has the quiet kid – my brother, for instance.
Regardless of what working from home looked like day-by-day, the reality remained the same. My mom had to juggle keeping her customers happy and keeping her kids entertained at the same time.
And right now, many of your agents (maybe you too) are likely doing the same.
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School closures have impacted nearly 30 million kids in the U.S. so far. And with so many kids now living and learning at home, parents are stuck in quite a pickle: learning how to work from home with kids there, too.
With all these layers of complexity, how can you be a resource for your team? And, how can you accomplish what you need to with kids of your own scurrying about the house?
We asked parents. And, we’re sharing the time-saving, productivity-boosting tips they’ve discovered on how to work from home with kids, so you can ship them off to your agents. Plus, we’re rattling off resources to help navigate these uncharted waters.
Share this article with your agents (and pocket your own fav tips) to offer help and support as we all learn how work fits into our lives right now.
1. Talk to your manager about your needs and concerns.
Working while cradling a four-month-old is different from working with a mobile toddler on the loose taking a Sharpie to your freshly-painted walls. And, working with a curious eight-year-old is different from your three teens who lock themselves in a room (only venturing out for food).
If you’re working from home with your kids, talk to your manager about what it means for you. If your 3-month old is up before the sun rises but extra needy around 9 a.m. (the time you typically start helping customers), fill your manager in on the facts.
As we stay holed up, we’re graced with more flexibility in our schedules. Your peer agents who don’t have kids might be in a spot to swap shifts (when previously they had places to be). Or, you might have a coworker who’s been begging for the early shift so they can wrap up sooner in the afternoon – giving you those wee hours to care for your fresh-faced little one.
Be upfront with your team and manager about what working from home with kids looks like for you, so everyone can work together to adjust schedules and stay aligned with customer needs.
2. Create a daily schedule for kids to follow.
Have you ever heard of Summer Brain? Melanie Auerbach, the director of student support at the Sheridan School in D.C. told The Washington Post it’s a lack of schedule, routine, and sleep. When kids experience a change in routine, they need to reset (and find a new routine).
To combat kid brain-drain, my coworker planned a very simple (and flexible) schedule while working at home with her 8-year-old daughter. And, she said it’s been an absolute lifesaver. It offers structure and activities her daughter can explore, while still leaving room to choose how she spends her time.
Since kids are used to routines at school, following a basic schedule will be inherent for them. When their minds start to wander and they’re looking for what comes next, they’ll look to the schedule (rather than their working parent) for guidance.
Here’s a sample schedule (I snagged it from Pinterest) to share with your agents who have kids and need some tips. It has exercise, learning, and free time baked in, so kids get the right mix of activities. Your team can use it as a template and change it how it makes sense for their families.
Schedules serve as a way for your agents (and you!) to find your new groove. Do you remember the first week of school as a bright-eyed kid? You went to class, got your syllabus, and talked about projects and expectations for the year. Then, you giggled and chatted with friends. Not much real school work happened, though. You had to absorb, learn, and adjust before you could focus.
Treat this new home routine like the first week of school. The first few days might be a total wash. But the next week? Things will settle and you’ll all adopt the new routine.
3. Plan for breaks ahead of time.
As humans, we need breaks. Whether you’re a child or an adult, taking time away from your work to disconnect matters. But kids especially have shortened attention spans and won’t last posted up at a desk for three hours straight. They’ll get antsy (and bored) quickly. What’s next? They seek you out, hoping you have the cure for their unnerving boredom and urge to run 27 laps around the house.
Plan for this – it’s inevitable. Build breaks into your daily routine and keep your team (and manager) informed on when you’re stepping away.
Did you swap lunch breaks with a fellow (childless) agent so you can take an extra half hour? Are you headed outside for a 20-minute stroll to catch some rays? Or, do you just need 10 minutes to check-in with your little ones and say, “Hey, how’s your day going?”
Giving kids blocks of undivided attention throughout the day, even if for only five minutes, can make all the difference in your productivity. It will satiate their need for constant care and make independent play easier, later on.
4. Get outside.
Ahhhhh… smell that? It’s spring. Even when the world comes to halt, the seasons still change.
(Shout out to our all-star Senior Designer for the lovely reminder!)
Taking walks, riding bikes and playing soccer in the backyard are all ways to get rid of that stir-crazy feeling. Being outside, while still keeping your distance from others, is okay right now. In fact, it feeds the soul. Some psychologists and doctors are now prescribing time outside as treatment because of all the positive impacts on our mental health. Immersing yourself in nature has proven to: reduce stress, improve sleep, increase energy, lower blood pressure, and even reduce inflammation.
I’ll be right back…. Going for a hike (and keeping a six-foot distance from others).
5. Lean on others in your house.
Working at home with a significant other? What about a teenager who can help with younger siblings? Take turns and work in shifts to take care of (and entertain) the kids while at home.
If you need to have your headset on and help customers during the peak period WFM predicted, communicate that with your partner. See if they can step in to help during your busiest times, and swap shifts when you know interaction volume is typically low.
And if you need to shut the world out for your 1:1, it’s okay to slap a sign on the door and ask for quiet. Take 30-minutes to review your metrics, talk through development, and make sure you’re doing what you need to for customers. It’s important for kids pre-k and above to build their stamina for independent play and studying in a safe environment. While you may worry you’re not feeding your kids’ needs when you’re not with them every waking moment, you’re in fact helping them develop crucial life skills.
6. Breathe, and don’t consume yourself with guilt.
Figuring out the whole remote work and the working-while-parenting thing will have its hiccups.
Your kids will interrupt you. A lot. Even if there’s a sign on the door that says “Quiet please, I’m in a meeting!” Screen time might be more common than it typically is in your household. Breaks and lunches may last a little longer. Frustrations will brew.
Remember, your kids are in a tough spot – away from school or daycare and out of their own routine, too. They don’t have classmates or friends to interact with. They don’t have teachers or a class bell guiding them through their day. They’re going to seek your attention. Even if it’s your teen shouting down the hall from behind a closed door asking if the pizza rolls are ready.
Don’t feel guilty about any of it. We’re all doing the best we can with the situation we’re in.
Resources to keep kids engaged, so you and your team can be productive as you work from home.
Below, find a list of resources to help guide kids during independent play and downtime while you work from home.
Have a future Shakespeare or Einstein on your hands who’s always ready to learn? Supplement school elearning programs with these resources built to help parents with inquisitive minds.
- Learn at Home with Scholastic. This site offers courses for different grade levels. It has daily schedules with fun activities on topics like animal studies, earth science, and social studies.
- Khan Academy’s an Hour of Code. Explore tutorials and lessons and learn the basics of coding.
- Explore Earth’s Geography. Take tours of famous landscapes and learn about countries and landmarks across the globe.
- Free kid’s streaming on Audible. While schools are closed, Audible is offering free streaming and curating collections of stories for kids.
For many kids, we’re in the midst of spring break. It’s their time to unwind and get a minute away from classroom instruction. Here’s some entertainment for young minds while you work.
- Coloring pages. Our friends at Lessonly created a free, printable coloring book for kiddos who need entertainment.
- 27 indoor activities for kids. Buzzfeed shared a list of 27 (relatively) easy activities to set up for your kids at home. The perfect distraction.
- Cincinnati Zoo Home Safari. It’s just like it sounds. A guided Safari from the comfort of the couch. Catch it daily at 3 p.m. EST on Facebook Live.
- The Indianapolis Children’s Museum at Home. Kids can watch science experiments, tune in to story-telling circles, and take virtual tours of exhibits.
This. Is. The. Key. Kids are filled to the brim with energy. Include movement in your plan for each day so kids can let that energy out (and get some exercise, too).
- Cosmic Kids Yoga. Themed yoga for kids – yes, your little ones can find their inner Elsa and Ana and participate in Frozen-themed yoga.
- PE from home. Get a list of independent exercises kids can do outside while you work (or inside if it’s cold and rainy).
- Games to get kids moving. The more fun you can make it, the more appealing it will be.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll have resources available to help you navigate this new way of work.
We also have a program to help you spin up a remote contact center in 48 hours during this pandemic if you need help. For free. No strings attached.