Aug 1, 2019 - Sean McGivern  

How to make your home a space that works with kids

Here's our best advice on making your home/work space work for you and your kids.

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In part three of our series on working remotely with children we look at how GitLab team members literally make their homes work for them while children are around. In part one of our series we examined maternity/paternity leave polices around the world and in part two Jarka Košanová shared her experiences while working as a new mother.

At GitLab Contribute 2019 in New Orleans, we had an unconference session about working remotely with children at home. The facilitators were Lyle Kozloff and myself, Sean McGivern. Not surprisingly, the four sessions generated a lot of good ideas. The participants had all ages of children from 'not yet, but thinking about it' to older teenagers. They also worked in different functions at GitLab and had different tenures – some people had been at GitLab for years while others had just joined the week of Contribute. And others were community contributors or partners of GitLab team members.

No conversation about working at home with kids can fail to include ideas about how to structure the space. To make it all work, it's important to be creative.

Make use of what's available

I'd never had a remote job before and I didn't realize just how loud my daughter was. I got a noise-cancelling microphone because my daughter is in the next room to me. – Désirée Chevalier, test automation engineer

I have an open-plan kitchen/dining/living room, which looks nice, but with my kids around it's pretty much impossible to work from any of these areas. I'm planning to try making the loft "the office," but I haven't done it yet. – Marcel Amirault, technical writer

If you don't have a large house or apartment, you might need to think outside the box when it comes to managing your space. And things can change again as your children age or if you have more children. Even having a room solely for work might come with some additional challenges!

Designate spaces clearly

We have a one-bedroom apartment and I mostly work in the living room. When I take calls I go into the bedroom. We involved the kids in the planning about communication. The bedroom door has a sign with an X or an O on it. If there's an O they can come in, grab something, and close the door behind them. If there's an X they can't come in for any reason. When we moved in my son was still three, and it worked for the later stages of three – especially because he was involved. – Lyle Kozloff, support engineering manager

Minimum Viable Product for indicating space usage How one team member communicates whether or not he can be interrupted.

If you need to be uninterrupted, it's important that that is very clear to everyone else – especially the children. Having a dedicated space is great, but even a shared space can be turned into a dedicated space for some of the time before becoming a shared space again later.

Get out of the house if you need to

I find it better to set boundaries ahead of time instead of reacting to things that are happening. Four or five times a month I will work from a coffee shop to help enforce that too. – Mike Greiling, senior frontend engineer

I used to have a dedicated room then it became my son's room. Then I moved to the entrance hallway, because it's big and there was room for a desk. I tried it for one year, but my wife and child were always coming past. I've started going to a coworking space. It feels like a failure because I don't stay home, but it works best for us. – Alessio Caiazza, senior backend engineer

This is not a failure at all! Everyone has to do what they need to do for their own circumstances. Working remotely doesn't necessarily mean working from home, and stressed parents are not going to be able to be at their best.

In part four of our series we have advice on everything from time management to relationships.

Photo by Baby Natur on Unsplash

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