This is not normal remote work.  This is extreme work/life integration like we’ve never experienced. A rapid transition to remote work has left many of us unprepared to juggle work while also having children at home. A sudden full house, with children rightfully needing our attention or looking for help with schoolwork, can make it difficult, if not impossible, to also be as productive as a normal day at work.

Ideas to help:

1. Set expectations – with your manager and your teams

Setting expectations is a key tenet of successful virtual leadership.

Let’s remember again, this is NOT normal remote work. What might have kicked in for you is “Remote Worker Guilt” – wanting to be able to prove that you are dedicated, reliable and responsive. That remote worker guilt, plus all your personal life obligations and anxiety right now is a recipe for BURN OUT.

You cannot be expected to be available every hour of every day for work meetings and calls.

You cannot be expected to return every message from every communication channel immediately.

What you can be expected to do is communicate with your manager and teams about what works best for your unique situation.

You will need to speak up to say things like:

• I can’t take meetings before 9am because I need to set my kids up with home-schooling

• I can’t take meetings after 4pm because that’s when I need to cook for my family

• For non-urgent requests, if I can’t respond to you immediately during the day I will get back to you after my kids are asleep or within 24 hours

Managers need to provide a trusting environment by showing their own vulnerability and approaching the situation with empathy to help their team members speak up about their needs and create new team norms.

2. Bring the kids into the picture

Set a new norm with your teams that it’s ok if the kids are in frame on video calls or it’s ok to pause for a moment to answer a question from your family.  This is especially important for those with young kids that aren’t able to understand boundaries and aren’t able to be self-sufficient until you are done with a meeting.

I used to tell people that remote work meant a seamless, controllable environment.  That is just not the case with what we are dealing with during the COVID-19 office shutdowns.  We need to ease up on some of those expectations.

3. Create a flexible routine for your home situation

Each day is going to be its own adventure, so create some structure, but be flexible.  The amount of structure you can create and time you will have to focus on work will be heavily reliant on the age and personality of your kids and the amount of help you have from others in the household.  You will need to determine what works best for your situation, we just wanted to add a few ideas to your toolkit.

Screen time ideas:

  • FaceTime with Family: set your kids up for a video chat with grandparents or cousins.  We’ve had success with family storytime, with the older cousins reading to younger cousins.
  • GoNoodle: kid-appropriate dancing with easy-to-follow themed moves set to songs children love.  Warning – I’ve been known to get the songs stuck in my head “Oh, a milkshake! A sticky, sticky waffle!”
  • Drawing: 
    • My son loves Star Wars and he has now perfected drawing clone troopers by watching these YouTube videos.
    • Mo Willems has also provided some great content with his Lunch Doodles episodes

For some non-screen time idea inspiration check out:

For some additional ideas, check out these articles from some of our partners:

This can be a stressful time for all of us, your kids included. Hopefully, this article gives you some more ideas and resources to tap into. At times like this, lean on your support network, even if it is virtual at the moment.

Contact us to bring our Secrets to Successful (Sudden) Remote Work keynote or any of our Virtual Leadership Skills workshops to your organization. 


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