Monkey Monday - March 30th, 2020

Working from home when you have kids

Monkey Mondays | Communication | Project management

Greetings, friends! These are unusual days, so it's time for an unusual vlog - at least for us, that is. Today, Scott, our front-end web expert, is sharing his tips on working from home with children during the COVID-19 lockdown. This is something many of you will now be dealing with, and it can make a challenging time even trickier!

However, there are things you can do and structures you can put in place to make life easier, so be sure to watch Scott's vid to find out what he does to remain both a productive worker and a supportive parent.

Clicky linky

In the video, Scott talks about some resources that are helping him to stay sane, so give these a click if you need some help.

Don't worry, Matt and Chris are alive and well, and will be back to share their own tips on getting through this period, so watch this space.

In the meantime, we'd love to hear your stories about working from home, so don't forget to get in touch.

Transcript Show / Hide

Hello! And welcome to another Rusty Monkey Monkey Monday. I'm Scott, I'm one of the front-end web developers at Rusty Monkey and... it's been a crazy couple of weeks, nothing can kinda go to plan at the moment, so rather than talking about marketing and so on, this week we thought we'd talk about how a lot of people are finding working from home. And in particular, people like myself, who are trying to work from home, juggle a full-time job and a full-time kid. As always, click subscribe - there'll be some link appear somewhere. Over the next few weeks we'll keep bringing a few more vlogs and keep in touch.
So on Monday, we found ourselves - well, a week ago we were still working in the office, and then this week we've found ourselves suddenly working from home, and whilst that's great in a way, because it saves on the commuting and everything else, at the other side of it, trying to entertain children full time and do a full-time job can be a nightmare.
There's no sugar-coating it. It can be a nightmare.
We had a bit of a test run with this a couple of weeks ago, because our little, um, I'm gonna refer to her as a 'cherub' - it kinda gives some angelic kind of impression, but we all know as parents that 'angelic' - there is another side to that. So whenever I say 'cherub', if you think of it in terms of a sarcastic tone, you'll get the picture...
So yeah, a couple of weeks ago she was off from school for the day and I still had to work from home, and even by 8 o'clock in the morning, I was like, unless we've got a plan, this is going to be an absolute nightmare.
So I kinda thought let's treat this like a normal school day. Children function much better when they have a structure or their routine stays the same. So I created just a bit of a plan for the day. I suppose this is the same as any normal home-schoolers do.
And what that involved was, yeah, normal stuff, getting up at 8 o'clock like normal - or 7.30 - and then breaking the day down into 45 minutes or 1 hour slots - so 9 til 10, let's do some reading; 10 til 10.45, its writing time; then a bit of a break, as normal as she would at school, with a snack; then into some art; lunch; after that we were into some spellings, a few maths worksheets - I mean there's loads of stuff online that you can find, and I've put some links in the description below, but there's plenty of places online for resources that you can print out. And even materials like word searches and puzzles - anything really just to kinda break the day into what they'd be doing at school. But not forgetting outdoor play as well.
Now what that managed to help me do was it kept her - the 'cherub' - attention span entertained for those 45 minutes to 1 hour blocks. She thought it was great, because she kept changing subject when she was getting bored, and at the same time it meant that I could get little blocks throughout the day to get some work done.
And so at the same time we were both kept productive, and it actually turned out okay.
Monday this week actually saw that brought into real life, if you like. Suddenly now we find ourselves in a situation where we need this home-schooling every day. My wife is in the same position as myself, you know, we're both working from home now, we both have full-time jobs, the productivity needs to remain the same.
And at the same time we have the cherub, who needs supporting as well. I think it's important to remember that this is probably equally as difficult for the kids as it is for the parents. So yeah, we can only do our best.
First off, we kinda thought we'd have one desk in the bedroom, one desk in the lounge, and we'll have our own workspace. But in terms of making it work, we actually put everything into the dining room - you know, we only live in a two-bedroom house, we haven't got spare rooms really, or anything like that. So we've converted the dining room - so we have one computer on the dining table, we've brought an extra desk in there for my wife's computer, and then for the cherub, we've made a little desk as well using an Ikea table. So she feels part of the group as well, and that's actually worked really well for the mindset. When you're all at your desks, it's work time.
What has had to change is our working hours. So typically we'd work kind of 8 til 4, 8 til 5, 9 til half 5, or something like that, normal working hours. What we've found now is that our working hours are between 8am and 8pm. That gives us 12 hours during the day to get in our normal 7 and a half to 8 hours of work that we need to.
This week, what we've found is that during the normal working day we're probably managing to cram in about 6 hours each of work. So it's not bad. By grabbing - dipping into projects and breaking tasks down into smaller, more manageable ones, you're still managing to make progress throughout the day. And then once the little cherub is in bed, we can then just finish off that extra hour and a half.
It is super difficult when you're working from home to have that separation between the end of the day and actually switching off from work - you know, suddenly your office is now your home, and putting that to bed at the end of the day is hard. But you have to. Otherwise you're just gonna drive yourself insane. And it's important to make time for each other as well. Remember that whilst your office is now here, you're still a family, and you're still a parent ultimately.
So yeah, cramming it in as and when you can is the only way to get round it.
What we've found this week is actually - we've actually had more video call meetings, conferencing meetings than ever before. I think last year I probably did video calling twice; this week I've probably done it about 12 times. All those apprehensions about showing your face on the screen, they've suddenly gone, and you just kind of have to go with it and accept that you're going to see some of your colleagues in pyjamas, or onesies, and that's just the way it is.
I think it's important - well, in our experience, we've kind of admitted that we're in this together. So we're a team. If I have to make a call, my wife will take the cherub outside or away to do other activities - and likewise if she's on a call I'll then take the cherub out for our once-a-day permitted exercise, etc.
And just, literally, everything's fluid. You just have to kind of take it as it goes, and jump into work when you can.
In terms of - you know, on paper - this idea of what I'm saying sounds great. You know, make a structure, it's great for the kids because they'll keep to it, and off you go. Some days it works - some days it works absolutely amazingly. Other days, you just have to kind of roll with it. And there's no set rule.
The tips that we've got really are to break your work into small, manageable chunks - but also give yourself a plan for the day, so you know what you need to achieve. And if that's in a list, you can tick things off throughout the day, and it gives you a sense of achievement as well. So I think it's all too easy at the minute if you're stuck at home to get in a rut and to feel like... days can become very long very quickly if you're not careful. Whereas if things are in manageable chunks and manageable lists - particularly if you've got a child at home, or your own little cherub - you can dive into work as and when you need to, tick things off, and still be productive.
One thing that has been kinda helpful I guess is feedback from schools. Now, we're involved with two schools and one of them we've not had much communication from at all. Whereas the other one, they've been absolutely fantastic, and they've sent work every day for the child - cherub - but they've also admitted, you know, use this time as much as you can to enjoy time offline. So if you think back to when we were kids, we didn't have all this technology of being able to go YouTube, or CBeebies for games, or Instagram, etc. We were outdoors, you know, we were digging up mum's plants, we were making cakes, we were making mud pies, we were climbing trees. And most people have got gardens or can get out for that permitted time once a day - get outdoors, you know, enjoy the time.
One thing that we've found pretty good this week is keeping active. So we know that you need to - we all get endorphins when you do a bit of exercise or you get moving. So The Body Coach, Joe Wicks, he's launched a - well, he's got his YouTube channel - and what he's been doing at 9am every morning is 'PE with Joe'. Now we'll put a link to that down there somewhere. But this is great. So you're looking at sort of 20 minute videos that you can do just in your lounge, and for parents to do these with the kids, it's a great way to start the day. Gives you both a bit of a boost, because you're up and moving, gets the endorphins and the blood flowing, and yeah, it's - you need to keep moving, that's the thing.
So in terms of - in summary of this week, has it all gone to plan? No! But I think that's okay, you know, there's no judgement or expectation. There have been times when I've been on a client conference call and I've suddenly had a little cherub coming in the background saying, 'Can I go to the toilet?' That's the way it is. Clients are a lot more forgiving at the minute because we're all in the same boat. But all we can do is just do our best, and just get into work as and when you can.
But don't forget that at some point you have to close the door to your new office and make time for the family. It's super important.
So yeah, we'll put some links to some great websites in the description thing, and remember to click subscribe, and we'll no doubt have some more vlogs coming out soon.
Okay, thank you! Take care. Bye bye.

Is your inbox boring?

Subscribe to our newsletter for unique content, marketing insights and good times.