Many parents entering the school year may now be working from home with kids. Several school districts throughout the nation are using online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ease of logging in to a classroom and listening to a teacher may sound appealing. However, for some parents there are new challenges to address that they did not have while working in an office or facility. Beyond managing their own time, now they must manage time for the kids. Also, many homes may not have been set up to create an ideal at-home learning environment.
GMS Experts Share Their Tips and Ideas for Working from Home with Kids
Similar to many of our clients and network partners, GMS has several employees who are parents and are currently working from home with kids. Many of these employees have had to learn how to manage the “new normal” of supervising their kids all day while also managing a full workload. We asked them if they would be willing to share their experiences. In this way, several of their best practice tips and ideas might help our clients, network partners, and their employees who are also working from home with kids.
GMS Experts: Working from Home with Kids
Ryan Burger, Proposal Manager
Sam Hoey, Senior Vice President, Business Development
Wesley Hurst, Director, Financial Services
Danielle Sanzobrino, Senior Vice President, Account Management
1. What is your current situation?
Listening in to Provide Guidance if Needed
Ryan: We’ve got 2 girls in Kindergarten and 4th grade who have been learning in a virtual environment since the 2020 Spring Break began. Fortunately, both my wife and I are able to work remotely from our home offices on both floors of our house. We have the kids separated in their own working areas, one on each floor. As a result, this allows us to keep an ear out while they work with their classes on Microsoft Teams in the event of a technical issue, or if one of our girls needs some “redirection” to focus on the task at hand.
Sam: We have two middle school girls who are on zoom calls most of the day. They have desks set up in their rooms with all the supplies they need. The downside to this though is that it can be very dangerous since I have caught both of them napping this week during a morning class.
Wesley: We have 4 kids (12, 9, 6, and 4). Currently they are doing distance learning where they have zoom chats with their teachers and classmates. Our youngest is at home with us working on Pre-K workbooks while the other kids are meeting with their teachers. Some kids are handling the added stress of distance learning better than others, but we all do the best we can.
Danielle: We have three children. Two in Middle School and one in High School. All three have online schooling three days a week, and in person schooling twice a week. The children log into a different zoom meeting for each class.
2. How you are juggling work time with supervision and/or teaching the kids’ time?
Ryan: To help keep the girls in the groove, we’ve come up with a pretty nifty schedule for them, with plenty of “brain breaks” throughout the day. These include times for them to step away from the computer, play in the back yard with our dogs, read a new book, FaceTime their friends, and maybe even unload the dishwasher every now and then (I’m still waiting for that to happen on its own). We’ve found that by segmenting their day in to dedicated times for learning and for having fun, they’re able to finish their “school day” on time.
Lunch with the Kids
Throughout the day, my wife and I pop out of our respective offices every hour or so, or between meetings, to check in with them and make sure they’re staying on target and on schedule. Rather than working through lunch, as I’m apt to do, I’ve been stopping to eat lunch with the kids daily, which gives me to opportunity to spend some time with them in the middle of the day, talk about what they’re working on, and help them to plan out their afternoon. Connecting with the girls over lunchtime makes working from home with kids a fun experience.
Sam: This can be challenging. I check in with both girls in the morning, at lunchtime, and then in the evening to help review their emails and To-do’s together. This helps us ensure that they are meeting deadlines and prepared for any upcoming tests.
Wesley: My spouse owns a business doing professional wedding photography, unfortunately with COVID-19 her business has slowed dramatically as weddings were canceled/moved. She has stepped into an additional role as teacher with this change. I wish we had a nickel for each time the kids have heard “Stay quiet dad is on a call!”…we might have enough to retire.
If Necessary, Contact the Teacher
Danielle: I check in with the children at lunch and after school to ensure they understand their assignments and responsibilities. Any time there is a question that we can’t assist with the kids e-mail their teacher and cc me on the communication. We are lucky that our children are old enough that they don’t require constant supervision during the day.
3. What have you purchased or modified to help working from home with kids be as good as possible?
Ryan: A useful set of gadgets we’ve purchased that have helped in keeping the girls on task has been a handful of Amazon Echo Dots (which I lovingly call “wiretaps”). Small and unobtrusive, we’re able to set timers and reminders throughout the day for the kids. When my wife and I are both on conference calls, our Echoes can remind the kids to log in to their next meeting, or notify them that it’s time to take a brain break.
Sam: I have one daughter who has ADHD and has trouble focusing and another who has high anxiety about her advanced classes – two extreme different cases. I called the girls’ middle school and asked if there were any teachers who were interested in a tutoring gig. One of the teachers happily accepted the job and comes to our house a few days a week. Honestly, she’s the best therapy around since she is able to calm the situation, provide the advice from a teacher’s perspective and help with the math skills that my husband and I have forgotten how to do. I constantly tell her that she’s better than a fine glass of wine!
Retail Strategy Pays Dividends for Working from Home with Kids
Wesley: We watched IKEA’s online stock like a hawk and when kid’s desks went on sale we ran to the store and bought one for each of them (under $50 for each!). Having their own little workspace has helped them get in the mood for school. Having over the ear headphones so they can tune out some of the ambient noise and focus on their lessons has also been very helpful.
Danielle: We are fortunate that each child already had a dedicated work space. We have placed limits on their I-Phone access during the school day. The only apps left on are school-related.
4. Can you provide any recommendations based on your experience that might help others in your situation?
Ryan: Set up a dedicated area for your children to do their work, preferably away from a family living area or where they spend the majority of their free time. We wanted our kids to have the ability to finish their school day and “walk out” of their physical learning area. Being able to close a real office door and walk into a space dedicated for family time has been an extremely successful element in my personal work/life balance so far in 2020. Allowing our kids to have a similar set up allows them to check out mentally for the day and go back to “just being kids.”
There’s Always Tomorrow!
Sam: When feeling overwhelmed, reach out to teachers, counselors and other parents for support. Everyone is in the same boat working from home with kids, and have all had frustrating days that don’t go very well. Take deep breaths and remember that tomorrow is a new day.
We are all in this Together
Wesley: I think remembering that this is hard for everyone is important. It can feel isolating when we are all struggling with our individual challenges. I think we need to extend grace to our teachers who are struggling as much or more than we are. I also think we need to give ourselves some grace too as we are all trying to deal with an unprecedented challenge.
Danielle: Plan each home school day as if your child was actually going to school. Have your children get fully dressed, make their beds, and pack a lunch.
5. Do you have any specific tips for managing the work hours versus school hours intersection?
Ryan: My advice is to set up a routine and stick to it. It may not look or feel glamourous, but a schedule is one of the few things you have complete control over during the madness of 2020. By generating a predictable, repeatable routine, you’re able to settle in and relax because you know exactly what you’re going to be doing next.
Walk the Dog for a Quick Break
Sam: When stress levels are high, I send the girls on a bike ride or outside to walk the dog. Taking a quick break and getting some fresh air and exercise works wonders. Also, a quick run to the Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts drive thru is another winner!
Alexa to the Rescue
Wesley: We have an Amazon Alexa upstairs and downstairs. The kids have learned to get in the habit of setting timers for themselves. For example, we might tell them for the next 45 minutes they need to focus and get their homework done. Helping them schedule dedicated time to specific tasks has been instrumental in all of us keeping our sanity.
Healthy and Nutritious Snack Options
Danielle: We write out afterschool chores and snack options on a white board at the beginning of each week to help manage their down time. We do not ask the kids to start homework until their father gets home from work, typically between 5:30-6:00. That way they have some down time before evening activities begin.
What Should Employers do to Help Employees Working from Home with Kids?
Employers should encourage employees who are parents working from home with kids to develop optimal solutions to issues such as time management and productivity. Talent Management programs should take into account how remote workplaces might affect employee performance. Helpful resources should also be made available for employees.
GMS’ team of corporate relocation experts has helped thousands of our clients navigate issues that impact employees working at remote locations. As a result, our team can help your company share tips for parents who are working from home with kids. Remote work environments should be conducive to the employee’s health, welfare, and productivity.
GMS was the first relocation company to register as a “.com.” The company also created the first online interactive tools and calculators, and revolutionized the entire relocation industry. GMS continues to set the industry pace as the pioneer in innovation and technology solutions with its proprietary MyRelocation® technology platform.
Contact our experts online to discuss how your company can share tips for parents who are working from home with kids, or give us a call at 800.617.1904 or 480.922.0700 today.
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