This is the fourth and final blog post in our series on working remotely with children of all ages. In part one we looked at maternity/paternity leave policies around the world; in part two Jarka Košanová shared her experience working at GitLab with a newborn; and in part three GitLab team members had good advice to make the most of workspace shared with children.
During GitLab Contribute 2019 in
New Orleans, facilitators Lyle Kozloff and myself, Sean McGivern, hosted
four unconference sessions about
working remotely with children at home. GitLab team members had helpful and practical
advice on everything from flexibility to time with a partner.
1. Embrace a flexible schedule
My son started playschool (recently) and it's only two hours. I don't go home
because it's a waste of time so I work from there – no coding, no
deep work, just going through mentions and stuff. – Heinrich Lee Yu, backend engineer
My daughter has always been a great sleeper, so my husband
and I wake up around 5:00 each morning (he also works remotely)
to get a head start on work. We are usually able to get a couple
hours of work in before she even wakes up, freeing up our afternoon
to spend time with her. – Annabel Dunstone Gray, product designer
By working asynchronously we can arrange our time to match our own schedules. (This doesn't only apply to parents, of course; anyone can do this.) Different roles have different expectations, of course. If you work in Support you’ll need to provide timezone coverage, but even within that, there
is a lot of scope to arrange your work schedule to match your childcare,
rather than the other way around.
2. Be more disciplined with that schedule
I had to get a lot more disciplined with my time. When I was young and
single I could just get behind and pull an all-nighter, but I can't do
that any more. I'm more efficient. There's a switching cost, but
you'll be better in the long run. – Eric Johnson, VP of Engineering
Having kids will make you develop this efficiency, I have to pick my
son up from kindergarten at four and sometimes no one else can do that, so I need
to schedule my work around that. - Grzegorz Bizon, staff backend engineer
Being flexible doesn't mean being undisciplined. With children at home,
there are a lot of competing demands on your time. For many people, this
means that they become more efficient out of necessity. It’s hard to partly work and partly do something and then make up for it with extra hours at the keyboard, because there are no more spare hours.
3. The role of relationships
My wife and I made an agreement that we're not going to let kids stop
us doing sports. We play on the same teams, and we just bring our
kids. There's normally enough people around to help keep an eye on
them while we're playing. It's hard when my wife's working one night,
though. – Chris Maurer – manager, Customer Success, Public Sector
When we had the first kid, we were doing everything as a couple:
whatever it was, we were together. Then, with the arrival of our
second kid, we felt like we had to care for one kid each. With time,
the fear of ending up alone with both kids had taken root. We had to
change something: we simply had to let go. One person can care for both
kids for the night, and the other one is free to go out and do
whatever they want. Turns out this actually totally removed the fear
of being alone. We both let each other go out to do something social to
reinvigorate a bit. We even started bouldering, but we never go on
the same night. – Micaël Bergeron, backend engineer
It's important to keep doing things you enjoy when you have children. It
sets a good model for your children, and will make you happier which
will help you be a better parent.
4. Set expectations
It took us an entire child to realise that while co-suffering feels
like the right thing to do, it's less efficient – you both end up tired
and exhausted. – Lyle Kozloff, Support engineering manager
Don't keep count of the things that you and your partner are doing,
just do everything you can. I did the majority of the raising the
babies, but my husband would take night things. – Karlia Kue,
Business Systems Analyst
This relates to every other point here. The worst thing that can happen
is that people get resentful or stressed, and that is more likely to
happen when it's not clear whose responsibility it is.
On a personal note, and although it sounds a little goofy: The concept
of directly responsible individuals we use at GitLab also helped my partner and I manage the way we think about who's responsible for our
son at any point.
5. Enjoy it
My daughter is my best friend, and I am so blessed to be able to see her
grow into her own little person while still accomplishing my professional goals.
Seeing her interact ("Hi!" for everyone) with all of my GitLab teammates at
Contribute was also very special. – Brittany Rohde, Compensation & Benefits Manager
I really appreciate the amount of time I can spend with my son. I see
him for several hours every single day. Coming to New Orleans for
Contribute was hard!
Having a child has been the best part of my life so far. A big part of
that was having a job that meant I could spend a good amount of time
with him every day without feeling like I was doing something wrong or
not being productive.
Remote work makes it easier
Working remotely doesn't change the fact that being a parent is
challenging, but it does help provide time and space to navigate those
What tips have you stumbled across while working remotely with kids at
home? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @gitlab.