I should be an expert at remote work. My daughter has never tried it before.

My 8 year old and I now share an “office”

My daughter and I are both “working from home” now, so I thought that I would compare our approaches and the experience we are having at the moment.

My daughter is at school (grade 3) and I am an experienced worker who had worked at home, in cafes and even on planes.

My daughter has received a face to face education for 3 years (plus kindergarten) but she is suddenly doing her schooling at home for the first time. I am also working from home, though the term “work” is a little loose this week.

Preparation and organisational design

I have never thought that working from home was hard, unless there are other people around trying to interact with you. So my preparation was pretty simple:

  • Australians are now know for hoarding, so I thought that I should do the same. I raided 2 local libraries for books to read and now have over a dozen books to read. I also stocked up on tea and a lot of chocolate. No matter how many breaks I want to take – I am ready for it.
An Australian supermarket during the great hoarding phase

My daughter’s school took a slightly more formal approach.

Planning before the event

  • The teachers have been doing a lot of preparatory work, both getting things ready and setting expectations. I imagine they are on a huge learning curve themselves but my daughter is happy that they are doing what they can and they are happy to “fail and learn.” They have also communicated extensively with other stakeholders who might struggle helping a kid be educated at home (parents like me).
  • In fact the state government here is also providing a huge amount of supporting material, but I have only skimmed the surface. https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/curriculum/learning-from-home
  • The teachers and students started practicing their “work from home routine” at school when they anticipated the possibility it would be needed. They tested their iPads and their online interaction to iron the bugs out and get used to the process. Some glitches were resolved and the kids were good to go.

Structured kick-off

  • My daughter was told to have a specific place for work and to make sure she got changed before school, so she was not in her pajamas. She was also told that the workplace should be somewhere quiet outside the bedroom if possible. We both complied with this and now have specific desk spaces for working
  • All the required stationery, work materials and equipment was provided, so my daughter set these out ahead of time so everything was out of the way but accessible on a small table
  • The teacher had clearly been telling them stories and jokes to help them prepare and my daughter logged into her first daily check-in as prepared as she could be for this new challenge.

Technology

My daughter has a standard tech stack – Seesaw for lesson management, Google Meet for video calls, Canvas for learning and content management and Google Suite for some reason.

They also have laminated cards with some reminders and some guides to exercises on them.

I have a similar toolkit – Zoom for video conferencing, MS Office for documents, and twitter for distractions whenever I feel too productive.

Routine

I am an expert at this, so my day begins with getting a coffee and then checking the news and social media. After some elapsed time I get another coffee and transition into work.

My daughter begins at 8:45am sharp for a class roll call. There is also a regular assembly and some other scheduled meetings during the week. She then checks her schedule, which has a prioritised list of learning for the day. Each couple of items includes a break, where there are some suggested physical exercises which range from light, fun things, through to a scheduled workout. Apparently kids benefit from a regular physical break from work rather than just scanning social media.

Some of the scheduled work is tough but there also a couple of fun learning activities that involve some interaction with another human and some less boring thinking.

My daughter works through to 3pm in the afternoon, when she then stops work. She prefers to have specific work time and specific play time.

Her work day also includes some scheduled eating and play breaks away from the desk, while I am able to raid the kitchen at any time and get food to eat at my desk while still kind of working.

How is it going?

My daughter is enjoying herself so far, though it is early days. I am still getting into it, but with the absence of any urgent deadlines I am a little slow to get started.

I like to tell people that I am motivated self starter but really I am someone who focuses well on important goals, responds to pressure but actually working and is a little prone to cruising in the absence of the “clear and present danger” of something urgent.

So we are both off to a good start.

I have a horrible feeling, though, that habit is going to trump experience and I think I might adapt my approach over the next few days to replicate what my daughter is doing.

Peer group pressure from an 8 year old does help focus attention and I don’t want to be completely outclassed here. We shared our breaks together today and I will start implementing some of the other lessons too.

Habit trumps experience. Go for a regular rhythm over hard work or intelligence in most situations

I also think I am probably consuming too much news about Covid-19. I want to stay informed but not overwhelmed, so I might schedule a couple of update times and accept being a couple of hours behind the news.

Longer term

I might revisit some training on EDX or Coursera if I need to spend more time online. If you have not seen them then I would recommend browsing for something interesting – and at times like these it might even be worth trying this set of courses, which I can recommend.

Foundations of Positive Psychology – https://www.coursera.org/specializations/positivepsychology?

I found the second course better than the first, I skipped the third course and I found the fourth course brilliant (resilience). The work well in the right order but you can jump to any of them. You can also choose to audit the course (do it for free) or do it full-on and get a certificate.

On the physical side I found this course great for learning about exercise at home, without spending hours on it.

Hacking exercise – https://www.coursera.org/learn/hacking-exercise-health

The delivery is a little slow but the advice is really practical and even I am using it.

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