Automattic had a 15-year jumpstart on how to do remote work, but in just a matter of weeks, millions of people have taken those tools and insights and put them to work in their own companies and social circles. 

None has been more instructive than how children are using them, for both learning and fun. Kids always seem to be more adaptive and creative than the grown-ups, particularly in this challenging environment. (We can confirm they’re already having more fun with Zoom games than we could’ve dreamed up ourselves.) Here are a few tips from homeschooling life thus far:

1. The reason we connect online is to energize each other. 

Just as children embrace new styles of virtual get-togethers, the work world can quickly discover which meetings should still exist, and which ones we should cancel or shift to another format. 

At Automattic we talk about the importance of over-communicating, but that does not mean “host more meetings and conference calls.” In reality it means fewer. We instead default to narrative-driven text communication on WordPress team blogs called P2s because they’re efficient, they’re easier to skim, and they’re asynchronous — meaning the information is accessible across timezones as people work different schedules. 

2. Zoom isn’t just for staring at each other’s faces. 

If you need some Zoom inspiration, spend a few minutes watching kids play with features like whiteboard. They’re using it to play Pictionary, or they’re screensharing documents for group writing games. They’re even turning Zoom into the ultimate tool for hours-long playdates. 

These examples might inspire your work teams to dream up new ways to collaborate and play together during a Zoom call, rather than simply sharing status updates. 

3. Structure is good, but so is flexibility.

Routines can go a long way, but not to the point of rigidity. We are not robots—our best work and our best thinking don’t always happen on command or in tightly managed schedules. As Fast Company notes, homeschooling won’t require the same hours or structure as a traditional school, so as we rethink how the traditional school day works, we should also rethink the flow of our workday. 

4. Give yourself time and space for sleep, eating right, and getting exercise. 

Some schools start before 8 a.m. and cram lunchtime into 20 minutes. With homeschool in session, that’s out the window! Just as we see with kids, making time for proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise helps grownups work better, too. At Automattic, giving space for important daily routines is just one way employees design their own ideal work environment, whether that’s with a standing desk, some candles, or a midday workout.  

5. Work independently, together. 

With kids suddenly at home every day of the week, there’s a temptation to recreate school as we once knew it—to try to do the same things the same way, but within the context of your own home. This “lift and shift” approach is almost certainly going to lead to frustration. The same goes for how your company works, as well as your own social expectations around your daily life. The people inside your house are now your coworkers—even though they’re all doing different things.

And who knows, your coworkers-of-all-ages might also be able to help you solve your most challenging work problems. (This post, in fact, was read and approved by an 11-year-old.)

Do you have tips on remote work, homeschooling, and juggling both? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Photo by Pragyan Bezbaruah from Pexels

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2 Comments

  1. At Automattic, giving space for important daily routines is just one way employees design their own ideal work environment, whether that’s with a standing desk, some candles, or a midday workout.

    This reminds me of a great post I read this morning by Ted Cooke (actually found via retweet from Matt) about time and space during this period of lockdown. He talks about how living in a confined space messes with our sense of time, but with imagination, movement, and discipline, we can better control this experience. There are some practical tips here like assigning activities to specific locations within a small space (“So, zooming in on my livingroom, we have three desks, pointed in different directions, for different kinds of work.”), and it’s overall a thoughtful read.

  2. We’ve learned during this time that my husband has had to move his office in our bedroom, so my son could take over the old desk and stay focused. It’s worked out well. If my husband is in same room, my son thinks he’s available to talk all day lol.

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