It’s perhaps a daily occurrence for a cat, dog, child or significant other to appear in a meeting between Buffer team members. And we’re okay with that.
More than okay. We love these moments and we encourage them.
Here is my son, Anthony’s, appearance at his first Buffer all-hands meeting when he was three months old (we’re towards the top left):
As a fully distributed team, many of us work from home. For the parents of Buffer, this allows for the opportunity to work from home with their kids close by.
Working from home with kids isn’t for everyone, and it might not be possible for you or your situation. Certain roles might lend themselves to more flexible hours and as children go through different stages, work styles might have to adapt as well.
At Buffer, there’s no one family that approaches this the same, though there’s an overwhelming gratitude for the unique opportunities that remote working affords.
If you happen to be working at home with kids, or thinking about it for the future, we’d love to share a few bits of advice and lessons from our Buffer parents.
Steve – Product designer – Father of one: “Having some sort of schedule is paramount.”
Tip #1: Enjoy the little moments. For me, there are often times when Leo wakes up and I hear him talking to himself and his toys — those moments are priceless.
Tip #2: Communicate clearly. Setting expectations with your partner is paramount to know when you can or cannot help.
Darcy – Twitter Happiness Lead – Mother of three: “Hire a babysitter part-time.”
Tip #3: Hire a babysitter part-time. I have a babysitter watch “The Wild 3” from 8am–1pm. She feeds them lunch. At 1pm, I take 10–15 minutes to play with them and then start nap/quiet time. During this time, I can hop on a video call or jam out on my to-do’s for the day. When they wake up, I take 10–15 minutes to get them interested in something (playing in the backyard, coloring, worksheets, etc.) and I finish up my work.
Tip #4: Take the pressure off! If things don’t work out the way you’d hoped today, it feels best to default to sending love to your kids and make a plan to catch up on work after bed or the following day.
Tip #5: Let kids be kids! Every once in a while, I just let them go at it with paint, sand, water, or cookies! It’s freeing and makes for a quiet 30 minutes!
Boris – Engineer – father of two boys: “I have my desk in the kids playing room.”
Tip #6: Put your desk closer to your kids, if possible. I have my desk in the kids playing room. I love to have them around and it doesn’t disturb my concentration at all. The only thing is that they often pop up in chats.
Nicole – Community Champion – mother of one: “Remember the bigger picture.”
Working from home and serving as the primary caregiver to our infant son has been one of the most challenge, rewarding, joyful and stretching experiences of my life. We had a part-time nanny for a few months and recently as my role has changed to be less managerial and more project-based, I’ve opted to be the full-time caretaker of our kiddo.
Tip #7: Utilize nap/sleep times. I get up as early as I can and sneak in some work time after baby goes to bed at night. Naps may not be easy to schedule or plan on, but making the most of each one has helped me relax when I might take a break from work to play during his awake times.
Tip #8: Rotate toys to keep them new and interesting. This can buy an extra 10–20 minutes of independent play time to get a few more things done!
Tip #9: Podcasts, audiobooks, TED talks. I find it inspiring and also relevant to progressing my work skills to listen to a book or podcast or stream a TED talk while I feed or play with the little one.
Tip #10: Have a bottle ready before meetings. If baby might wake up or get cranky mid-meeting, having a bottle ready to go can be a life-saver to distract and appease.
Tip #11: Remember the bigger picture. Some days may be a bit rougher than others. I strive to keep focused on the work tasks that matter most so I’m getting those done in my available times, and hold to the bigger vision and benefits of being able to work from home. These memories are worth it!
Hamish – Developer – Father of one: “It’s not always easy to strike a balance between work and family time, but it’s so worth it.”
Tip #12: Aim for the best balance possible. Take an afternoon walk if you can or even a morning to spend with your family at the beach.
Tyler – Respond – Father of one: “Be fully present in your current activity.”
Tip #13: Be fully present in your current activity. That means that if you’re home and spending time with your family/kids you’re doing that 100%. It’s so so easy to sneak in work here and there when you’re remote and work from home. It can be so hard to separate the two so I find myself being really conscious of this. When I’m playing with my daughter, I’m fully present (physically and emotionally) doing just that – trying not to think about work etc.
Michael – Data Lead – Father of two: “Take little breaks from work to spend some time playing, exploring or learning.”
Tip #14: Take little breaks from work to spend some time playing, exploring or learning with the kids. I also have the flexibility to perhaps take an hour or so during the week to join on a school trip, go the beach or do a hike in the forest.
Tip #15: Leave your phone on your desk. When you’re spending time with your family, try leaving your phone out of reach to really focus on your children.
Roy – Customer Research – Father of three: “Set guidelines so everyone experiences the benefits of this work arrangement.”
Tip #16: Plan ahead. Think through when it’s best to focus on working and when there’s more flexibility to hang out with the family — not just when there’s a mini-crisis but also when it’s time to have some fun with the boys!
Tip #17: Share your schedule. I strive to communicate with Deb, my wife, so that she knows what to expect from me day-to-day. For example, on really busy days she knows that it’s probably best to not come into my mini-office, but on less intense days she has the freedom to ask me to adjust my schedule so that she can get something done (e.g. taking the kids for an appointment).
Tip #18: Set internal and external guidelines. Setting guidelines (in my head and with my family) helps everyone experiences the benefits of this work arrangement.
Adam – Customer Success – Father of two: “I want to mindfully enjoy each and everyday what I have the opportunity to do this type of thing.”
Tip #19: Have structure. Though I’m working remotely and I love having my kids running and playing around me, I’ve also recognized how helpful it is to have structure for my day. This is not only for me – but also for my kids.
There is definitely flexibility within each day, but they know when I usually get started for the day and when I normally jump offline for the evening. They are familiar with my rhythms, the times that I typically take a break as well as the time I stop for lunch. This has helped to set expectations and create space throughout the day for meaningful interactions and life to be lived.
Tip #20: Mindfully enjoy! A bit of a silly one and it probably goes without saying – but I always feel the need to reflect and embrace this one anew each week. To work remotely is such a special opportunity that I want to mindfully enjoy each and everyday what I have the opportunity to do this type of thing.
Reflecting back on when I was first embarking on working remotely with children, I don’t feel like I fully embraced what I was doing. I was so caught up in wanting to succeed and push hard, that I missed many opportunities to engage in life and the lives of my family. The joy that could have been found wasn’t quite recognizable. I’m thankful that it is different now.
While there is structure in place, I feel the freedom hop offline for a moment to investigate the source of the giggles. I’m able to rush to help when I hear the sounds of tears. I’m able to be present at a moment’s notice and enjoy those special moments that come.
From our engineer, Ivana, and her daughter:
Over to you
Do you work from home (even for short amounts of time) with your kiddos? Do you have any tips or advice? We’d love to hear if any of these stories stood out to you!
Originally written Sep 14, 2016. Last updated Sep 12, 2016