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):

family 1

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.”

family2

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.”

family 3Tip #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!

family 4

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.”

family 5

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.”

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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.”

family 7

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.”

family 8

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.”

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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:

family 9

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!

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Written by Nicole Miller

Community Champion at Buffer. Writer, reader, dreamer. Hanging around the home office with a baby, some chickens, ducks, dogs and horses.

  • Jason Poon

    Love this! Great stuff. Here’s what I’ve done in the past 6 years working on a distributed team while raising two daughters:

    1) Leverage time zones in my favor.
    Since everyone I work with is across multiple time zones, I try to schedule meetings when it lines up with my daughters’ nap schedules without it disrupting others who are on the West or East coast. Because of this, I also try to shut things down by 3pm CT so that when my girls get home from school, I’m a fully present father. I’ll work in the evenings if I need to catch up but it means front-loading any meetings into the morning. This works since people on the East Coast don’t feel up for a meeting at 4pm their time and people on the West coast love knowing they are done with meetings with me by 1pm.

    2) Wake up 2 hours before my children.
    I’ve learned that I do my best work when I’m alone. That is virtually impossible with children around. I tried to shift some creative work in the evening but often found myself so tired by the end of the day that I couldn’t deliver what I wanted. So I flipped my schedule around and I’m up 2 hours before my kids wake up so I can get some concentrated work hours before my attention starts getting divided. It’s also prime time to work since nobody else is awake so I’m not bothered by Slack messages or emails or text messages. It’s just me and my work.

    3) Mentally normalize having children in the “work place”
    The people I lead and meet with are in a similar life stage with young children around the house. I’m very clear that in no circumstance is anyone allowed to “apologize” because their child is on the meeting with us or because they need to go tend to a fussy baby. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but I’ve found my colleagues to be happier knowing their sons/daughters are always greeted and welcomed during our calls and it’s very normal to see them grab for an earbud and want to tell the group something.

    This last one was probably the best thing for me, my team emotionally. We never want our children to think work is something that parents do that takes time and attention away from them. Work is healthy and good for them, and I think it’s appropriate to find ways to engage them is good for their overall development and could shape their attitude towards work in the future.

    It’s also been great to see us embrace that having children around is normal in our work lives. It means we have to re-adjust expectations and also change how we work and communicate. It appears to be keeping everyone happy and delivering on great work so far.

    • http://www.nicolemillerbooks.com/ Nicole Miller

      Love, love, love all of this, Jason. ** Nicole furiously takes notes ***

      This is so helpful and such great advice!! I especially love #3 and have personally found that to be the biggest blessing here at Buffer — when my son might be crying in the background, I never feel any frustration — only pure understanding and generosity — from my team members and they are always so willing to let me tend to him. It’s such a joy in my days to see other kiddos across the team (and other pets, for that matter!) I hope this can spread to all the companies! :) What a powerful impact this will have on your children, on mine, growing up seeing these environments and taking those “norms” with them into the workplace! <3

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your advice here. Really grateful!!

  • Luis Novo

    Great stuff. Much of our remote culture (we are 20ppl today) came from the inspiration we got from reading your stories. We have a fully remote and distributed team and deal with the same types of challenges. In the beginning it wasn’t natural to have our kids show up in the screen. It felt wrong and unprofessional. As time goes by, we learn to relax into the uniqueness of this experience and enjoy it fully. Thanks for inspiring us on the way. Luís @ skore.io

    • http://www.nicolemillerbooks.com/ Nicole Miller

      Hey there Luis!

      Aw thank you so much for sharing this and following our Buffer story and it’s so great that you’re aware of your team experiences here! I imagine you’ll all settle into a good groove. We’ve found embracing the uniqueness of our culture and team allows for so much more depth! :)

  • http://lipstickingsociety.com/old-dog-learning/ Tom Collins

    Been working from home for over 30 years now and even though our kids are out living on their own, I was happy to see how many of your tips apply nicely substituting “pets” for “kids”! ;-D

    • http://www.nicolemillerbooks.com/ Nicole Miller

      Sooooo true, Tom! We recently got a puppy and so many of the same principles apply! :D Thank you so much for reading! If you have any extra advice from your years of experience — I’m all ears! :D

  • http://www.genuinejobs.com/ Genuine Jobs

    These photos are so heartwarming! Just goes to show you can have the best of the both worlds with a little bit of effort and planing ahead!

  • Alex Juchniewicz

    Hi Nicole,

    First of all, I want to thank you for posting this, it made my evening. I just completed filling out the Happiness Hero application and used to work remote from home last year, now I am in an office here in Houston, TX. My wife and I found out several weeks ago that we are expecting our first kiddo, due in May, and this article could not have been more inspiring. On top of that we are building our first custom home so there is lots happening in our life! The opportunity that Buffer provides for it’s team members is incredible, it’s one big family and each person is at a different place in life yet that doesn’t get in the way of folks helping each other out and encouraging one another.

    I am very blessed to have read through all the wonderful comments and advice for parents that stay at home and work while having their kids around. I hope to maybe have the chance to get on board and join the Buffer team as well!

    Take care and again thank you so much for the wonderful content, all the best.

    Alex

    • http://www.nicolemillerbooks.com/ Nicole Miller

      Hey there Alex! Huge congrats to you and your wife!! Thank you so much for reading this and for your kind words! It’s such a joy to work alongside so many families!

      (May is an AWESOME month to be due — my birthday is the 4th — Star Wars Day!) :D

  • Faith Stewart

    I love the “catch up later” tip. It happens too often around here, but it works well if you have a flexible scheduled. I mostly figured out I just have to work before they wake up and after they go down.

    Just let them go at it once in a while is great advice as well. Sometimes the mess to clean up is worth the work that is able to get done during the quiet time it creates!
    wahadventures.com