FwdConf is X-Team's asynchronous conference that ran from the 6th until the 10th of April 2020. This is a recap of its fifth and final day, where we interview Josh Johnston, David Roberts, and Diego Seghezzo. All three have years of experience working remotely while raising their kids in the process.
In this interview, we discuss the challenges and joys of parenting as a remote worker. If you want to jump to the other interviews of FwdConf or listen to digestible audio snippets from each interview, click here.
Parenting as a Remote Worker
How to Stay Productive
Josh started the conversation by saying that there are two challenges to staying focused and productive while raising kids.
- Your kids might distract you.
- You might want to join in with what they're doing.
The obvious thing to do is to tell them that you're working and can't be disturbed. But you can be creative in how you convey the message. For example, tell your kids that you can't be disturbed if Mr. Fluffy is in front of the door. That means you're working. Find fun ways to communicate with your kids.
This being said, having some sort of allowed interruption should be okay too. Just make sure that your kids understand where the boundaries are and when they can cross them.
For Diego, too, it's crucial that he has a special place for work. Both his kids now know that he's working when he closes the door to his home office.
Noise-canceling headphones have greatly helped David. He doesn't hear anyone curiously knocking on the door and isn't distracted by any background noise, something that's particularly important when he's doing interviews.
He also schedules in certain tasks for certain hours. When his wife takes the kids out, he tries to do the tasks where it's important that he's not interrupted. That way, he has the day divided into "interruptable time" and "non-interruptable time".
Setting Expectations With Your Kids
Telling your kids that there are periods where you cannot be interrupted is a gradual conversation. You can't schedule in a 30-minute seminar to tell them everything they need to know and that's the end of it. You'll need to repeat yourself many times.
If your kids do interrupt you, and you're not in a meeting or an interview, don't make it a crisis moment. Sometimes, your daughter comes in just because she wants to press a button on your computer. Let her press that button (and perhaps run a script that returns a “Dad is busy” message).
David says he occasionally feels guilty when he closes the door to work, because he's technically able to help his wife, but he also needs to get some work done. Diego said that this is particularly true when he hears the kids are doing something fun and he'd like to be there with them.
Josh said that there's a strong trust element there. Regardless of what you hear on the other side of the door, you have to trust your partner that they have it under control.
This is part of working remotely. There's no easy way around it. You have to learn how to deal with these feelings of guilt versus what you have to do as a professional. It helps to think that you wouldn't even know what was going on if you were in an office somewhere.
All three interviewees have endless appreciation for their partners when it comes to dealing with the ups and downs of the kids while they're working remotely. It makes them more present when they're not locked away in their office.
Your Career as a Parent
While many believe that it's harder to be productive as a parent, there's also an argument that parents are more productive than those without kids. Parents have less time to squander. They need to get a certain amount of work done in a fixed period of time, and they'll be less inclined to waste that time.
Diego said that it doesn't make sense to waste time in front of your computer, because you can be with your family instead. David also agreed that he's more productive. He wants to finish work on time, so he can give his partner a break and spend more time with the kids.
The key is to have a clear distinction between your work and your home, particularly as a remote worker. Do not mix both up.
Involving Your Kids
Diego explains to his kids why he spends so many hours in front of his computer. He talks about work and the impact it has on their lives.
David said that introducing his daughter to people on his team, particularly to those from very different cultures, has been eye-opening for her. Usually, kids have to wait for a holiday to meet a different culture, but now they can meet different cultures regularly.
David also created a website together with his eldest daughter. It spurred her to start reading about creating websites and telling her friends at school about it. Eventually, as is inevitable with young children, she got bored with it, but David thinks it might come round again.
Josh said that the dev tools of a browser can be really fun to play around with. When your kids are playing a browser game, you can go into Chrome's dev tools and change their score to 999,999. They're bound to be amazed by your tech-wizard abilities.
More Time With Your Kids
Having the opportunity to switch from your work to your personal life is an amazing opportunity. Diego said it's a great way to refresh your energy when you need a break. David said he feels less stressed because of it; he gets time with his family every day, which he'd have much less of when working from an office.
Josh has a lot of context switching in his work. He needs to constantly jump from this thing to that thing. When he switches between contexts, being able to walk to a different space for ten minutes and interact with his kids is a great way to tackle the next project with better focus and energy.
The Future of Your Kids
Josh says that he hopes future workers will have more choice when it comes to work and schooling. If you want to work remotely, you should be able to. But if you prefer working in an office, that should be possible too. The same goes for schooling. If you want to home-school your kids, that should be totally fine. But if you prefer sending them to school, there should be great options too.
David agreed with that. The key word is flexibility. He hopes that schooling becomes more flexible. As long as you provide value to your child, as long as they're learning, it doesn't matter how it's done. The same goes for work. As long as you provide value it doesn't matter how it's done. Diego, too, hopes that his children will live in a world that is more tied to goals than it is to hours.
If you enjoyed this interview, please go have a look at our bigger post where we summarize the whole conference through audio snippets, quotes, and Slack highlights. There's a lot more to be found there!
Below, you can find the summaries of the other days of FwdConf.