Juggling Remote Work and a Toddler

The picture shows remote workers Elizabeth and Justin Osborne and their son, Ethan.

We are thankful for the opportunity to speak with Elizabeth and Justin Osborne, and their two-year-old son Ethan! Elizabeth works as an Enterprise Program Manager at a bank outside of Boston, MA. Justin works as a Network Administrator at a different bank in the area. They have embraced remote work while taking care of their son. 

Thank you, Osborne Family, for taking the time to speak with us. We wish you all of the best in the future!

Every morning while their toddler Ethan eats breakfast, Elizabeth and Justin Osborne compare calendars. Justin says, “usually the first thing we ask each other is, ‘What’s your day like? What time are your calls?’” On an ideal workday, the meetings won’t overlap too much. They can “tag team watch [Ethan]” and “switch off between the living room and the dining room” to work. When both Justin and Elizabeth are busy, the next question they ask is, “Okay, how involved are you in this meeting?” If both are super involved, they plan in advance for what Ethan can do during that time. “We reschedule if needed, or just let people know Ethan will be around during the call.” At the end of the day, Elizabeth says, “We make it work. We both have laptops, so we can sit on the floor with headsets and mute.” 

Both their companies are understanding

For instance, on Fridays at 9 a.m., both Osbornes have calls. Since Elizabeth’s is team and not company-wide, “they know I’m alone with Ethan and he’ll be part of the call.” Fortunately, their employers understand the Osborne family’s current situation. Elizabeth is nearly seven months pregnant with their second child and consequently immunocompromised, so Ethan can’t go back to daycare. Elizabeth notes, “My job has been great with that and so has Justin’s. It’s been fantastic.” Justin adds, “My manager says, ‘Oh, I see you have a little helper in the background,’” referring to Ethan. 

The couple find remote work productive

Both Elizabeth and Justin find they can work productively at home, as their careers are conducive to remote work. Justin’s company is merging with another financial company. He says, “The pandemic didn’t interfere, because a lot of the heavy prep work has not approached yet.” He adds that, “Luckily with IT, we’re able to do a lot of our functions remotely. If we do need to be on-site, it would be off hours.” Elizabeth feels that with the exception of having Ethan there, she’s actually more productive working from home. The office environment “can be very chatty,” she says. On virtual platforms, she feels people are “more specific about what they want to talk about.” She also enjoys not having to commute into downtown Boston. 

Justin and Elizabeth have tons of experience working at home even before COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, Elizabeth usually worked from home three or four days a week, and Justin worked on a help desk remotely for two years. He recalls at first, he “missed actually being there in person with folks.” He prefers to have some face to face contact in an office space if possible. Fortunately, his office has organized some social chats on Microsoft Teams. His office will soon begin using the software and want to get comfortable with it. 

Remote work means longer days, but slower mornings

Although she’s comfortable working remotely, Elizabeth does find her work days tend to be longer than normal these days. She exclaims, “I’ll think, ‘Oh my gosh, [Justin’s] not working right now! I’m going to do as much as I can in an hour.” At the beginning of quarantine, Ethan napped during the day. His parents could have the “most productive hour and a half ever.” Now, he no longer takes naps, so Elizabeth and Justin work later into the evening. Sometimes they use Ethan’s bedtime as catch up time. Both appreciate the flexible hours of remote work and the fact that mornings are more relaxed. The family no longer has to race out the door each morning. Justin says, “Now, I can eat breakfast and check emails.”

Justin is “happy to have the capability to work remotely.” He notes that in other careers, “not everyone may have the best setup at home.” Elizabeth says, “I’ve developed a better sense of patience and goal setting.” While she is “used to working in very quiet areas, she has adjusted really easily” to having Ethan around. “I like having Justin around. You’re not very loud,” Elizabeth adds to her husband. “And you have IT nearby!,” Justin continues. 

Family time is important

The Osborne family tries to “get outside as much as possible.” Both will schedule time each day to do things together. “Ethan Time, like a fake meeting.” Even though they can’t go anywhere, the Osbornes still have fun playing basketball, swimming, coloring, or going on walks. 

Justin recommends “finding a good balance and structure to your day. Know what works for you and focus on your strengths. Put as much on your calendar as possible, even if it’s spending time with people.” Elizabeth seconds Justin’s advice, and adds, “Don’t slack off, and get up on time like it’s a normal workday.” 

“Oh, and know what to wear!,” Justin laughs, “I wore a Star Wars shirt on a video call once, but everyone loved it.”