Working From Home With Kids: The Necessary Products & Tools

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My dad worked from home for 40 years–using a landline and fax machine–with four sons running around the majority of his career. I remember when he had a phone call and us kids were being too loud, he’d snap his fingers and scowl at us. That was our cue to be quiet.

Let’s officially put that down as his top tip: Scowl and snap if your kids are being too loud.

But you may not need advice on working from home.

Working from home with kids? You probably don’t need advice.

I’ve been working from home since 2014 and about half the time so far has been with kids. I have some tips of my own, but my guess is you don’t need the tips and advice. (Plus, if you’d like some tips on working remotely in general, we have 105 ideas over here).

I’ve read a lot of the articles from WFH parents out there and the advice is all pretty generic:

  • Set clear boundaries
  • Get help with childcare
  • Develop a routine

You know all that! The most helpful things for me have been real products and software tools I’ve discovered to manage a home office with kids just outside the door.

 

Here are all the tools I use while working from home with kids

This is a summary of all the products and software tools I use to help the work from home experience with my kids around. If you’d like more detail about each product, scroll down below the table.

The Challenge

The Solution

Professionalize your background on video calls

Dampen the noise within a room (the nursery, the office, or both)

Divide a room to make it multi-purpose

Block the noise you hear in your background
 

Block the noise your colleagues hear in your background

Prioritize your internet connection over your kids'

Share calendars so your family can see when you are in meetings

Connect a smart light to your calendar so your kids know when you're in meetings

Philips Hue light + IFTT integration

Don't use your home address as a business address (and receive mail anywhere)

 

The physical products I use

There are some great physical products to help improve the experience. I’ll share the issue they solve and the product name.

 

Block out and professionalize your background on video calls: Anyvoo

Anyvoo is a physical video meeting backdrop. The virtual Zoom backgrounds are OK, but not very professional and they pixelate as you or things behind you move. They don’t solve the issue of hiding your home life behind you in video meetings.

Above, you’ll see a picture of my Anyvoo backdrop that goes behind me for my video calls. My wife has her company on one side and I have mine, Buildremote, on the other.

If you are trying to block out kids running by a window or door or a playroom or bed behind you, an Anyvoo backdrop is the way to go.

You can build your own Anyvoo here.

Dampen the noise within a room (the nursery, the office, or both): Acoustic Sound Panels

We have little kids – a toddler and a baby. At our house, at least one person is usually in a meeting, one is crying, and one is sleeping. That’s pretty standard. We have some sound panels we hang on our wall (in the office and the baby’s nursery) to help mute the noise within that room. It also helps any echo on video calls.

See Also: My Final Home Office Equipment List

This has been helpful to us as we work from home with a baby. It may not be necessary if you have older kids you can communicate with (“Be quiet! I’m on a call!”).

You can get a pack of those sound panels on Amazon.

 

Divide a room to make it multi-purpose: Room Dividers

We don’t use these anymore now that we have a dedicated home office. But we did use them when we lived in an apartment with two kids. We worked in our bedroom at that time. This is a subtle way to physically and psychologically break a room into two. If you don’t feel like working in your bedroom or a play area but don’t have other room options, this is a good way to go. The divide tells you and your kids the purpose of each space.

We personally chose this one from Wayfair. They are pretty nice, and help break up a room well.

You could also choose from a number of options on Amazon.

 

Block the noise you hear in your background: AirPods

There are two issues with background noise in an online meeting:

  1. Other people hear your background noise (your kids) and it’s distracting to them
  2. You hear your own background noise (still your kids) and it’s distracting to you

Noise-cancelling headphones help to solve #2 above. I never wanted AirPods, but my wife got them for me as a gift, and I have to admit… they are amazing. If you use the noise-cancelling feature, the background noise virtually goes away.

This is one great way to block your own ears from your own background noise.

You can buy AirPods (or Bose if you prefer) headphones on Amazon.

 

Prioritize your internet connection over your kids’: Ethernet Cable

You may have a few devices going at once around the house. You want to make sure Cocomelon on Netflix doesn’t hog up all the bandwidth while you are in an important sales meeting online.

*For important meetings, you can hard wire into your router with an ethernet cable. This delivers WiFi through a wire rather than wirelessly, which is usually more reliable.

*Bonus tip: If you can, put the router as close to your desk as possible for the best connection and the ability to hard-wire in when needed.

You can choose an ethernet cable here.

Here is an ethernet adapter (if your computer doesn’t have an ethernet port).

 

The software tools I use

These are the plugins, softwares, and online products I subscribe to for help.

 

Block the noise your colleagues hear in your background: Krisp

This video meeting plugin mutes your background noise and noise coming from your guests. I use Zoom for video meetings and Krisp is a plugin to Zoom (as well as other communication tools). You can switch from your own built-in microphone to the Krisp microphone to block out your background noise. You can listen to some demos of it on Krisp’s homepage if you’re interested.

Try out Krisp for free here.

 

Share calendars so your family can see when you are in meetings: Google Calendar or WeekCal

 

These shared calendars allow you to view your own calendar and other calendars (your spouse’s or a family calendar, for example). That way, you and your spouse won’t double book meetings if you share a home office. Or, members of your family can view your calendar so they know when to be extra quiet for important meetings.

You can learn more at Google Calendar or WeekCal.

Bonus idea! Connect a Philips Hue light to your Google Calendar so your kids know when you’re in meetings.

I saw this idea on Linkedin from Ethan Melious of OpenGov. Ethan says, “Every time I am in a meeting the light turns red and when the meeting ends, the light turns back to “warm white.” What an idea!

Ethan commented on the LinkedIn post that, “If you have 10 minute of time, you can install this in your office as well. Philips Hue + IFTTT account + google calendar integration.”

 

Don’t use your home address as a business address (and receive mail anywhere): Traveling Mailbox

This product is more for business owners, freelancers, and people who travel a lot while they work. Traveling Mailbox receives your mail and scans it into digital format for you to receive anywhere.

If you need to receive physical mail but don’t want to use your home as your business address for privacy reasons, consider something like Traveling Mailbox. This is a service that allows you to get a physical address for your business so you can receive mail. Then, they scan your mail and send it to your email (making it digital, essentially). I use this personally and professionally.

You can learn more about Traveling Mailbox here.

See Also: 

 

What tools do you use while working from home with kids?

If you’ve read this far, you DEFINITELY work from home and have kids. I guarantee that.

So maybe you have some good ideas that I missed. Would you like to contribute a helpful product or software tool to the list? Fill in the form below to be considered.

We'll follow up with some questions.

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  • Remote work is the great equalizer for women and parents in general. You no longer have to choose between your career and your family. You can do both and quite well.

    My hack for working remotely with kids is travel to less expensive countries/places so that you can afford childcare. We mostly live in the US but with a 1 and 3 year old that means $4-$6k per month in childcare so we came to Albania for a few months where its $350 for both kids per month. They are in kindergarten/day care from Monday to Saturday and parents have a minimum of 9 hours uninterrupted.

    So if you want to see your quality of life go way up start traveling with your kids to areas where childcare is dirt cheap and give yourself the much needed time you need to accomplish all your goals and dreams.

    As I’m writing this I will have lived in 3 countries this year and visited a dozen or more cities with both my kids in tow all while working remotely. I love my remote life!!!