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How to Juggle Remote Customer Service with Distance Learning Needs

Working from home for the first time as a customer service agent can be a mind shift. Add in new responsibilities as a distance learning instructor for your children—the situation in which so many of us find ourselves right now—and that so-called mind shift could make some feel like their heads might explode.

We’re here to help. We’ve scoured the web and condensed some fresh, easily actionable ideas for balancing your commitment to the customer experience with your children’s care and distance learning needs.

Create and help children stick to a workable schedule

According to Breck Middle/Upper Schools Learning Coach Jessica Wanless, “Structure and routine, with an abundance of flexibility and humor, are essential.” But what’s the best way to put a feasible schedule into place and be effective with it?

  • Involve everyone in the creation of the overall schedule, and adjust it day-by-day.
  • Discuss rules and expectations for the schedule while setting a clear understanding that things likely will change.2
  • Slightly stagger the school start time for each child, so one doesn’t grow impatient while you’re helping another get started.3
  • Try to match the noise level of different projects, so everyone is loud at the same time.4
  • Get up early and complete tasks that require more focus before your children wake up.5
  • Schedule quiet time for everyone in the home during work conference calls.6
  • Build tech-free breaks in to the schedule and leverage your time at home to help your children be more creative with that time (e.g., go play catch, take the dog for a quick walk, meditate, draw, etc.).7
  • Whenever possible, eat lunch together and talk about what was accomplished in the morning and what’s planned for the afternoon.
  • Use alarm clocks and timers to help children stay on schedule.8
  • Rotate who’s responsible for daily chores, meals, snacks and pet care.9
  • Give children something to look forward to each day—board games, a hike outdoors, movie night, FaceTime with friends, etc.10
  • Hang the daily schedule somewhere it’s easily visible.11

Discover how to best help children learn from home

Children of different ages have varied needs and learning styles, and will require different things of both you and the schedule.

“Younger children may need more support in the area of executive functioning: task initiation, materials management, predicting how long a task will take to complete, backward planning larger assignments and projects to meet deadlines,” according to Breck.

  • Develop a separate remote learning plan for each child that takes into consideration their unique needs.12
  • Work with older children to generate an ordered list of things they will try if they get stuck on a school assignment (e.g., ask a friend, ask the teacher, ask a parent, write down the question to ask at a later time and move on to the next task, etc.).14
  • Ask each child exactly what he/she needs from you if/when they’re having a hard time starting or completing a school assignment.15
  • Delegate a few teacher tasks to your older students/children—“Added responsibility can be inspiring for kids, even if they complain about it,” says Brooklyn-based Learning Specialist Katherine Hill.16

Set clear boundaries for both children and colleagues

It’s important to set clear boundaries and communicate to both your children and your co-workers when you’re available—and even more importantly, when you’re not available—to them.

  • If your work area is located in a shared space, place masking tape on the floor to mark where the “walls” of your “office” begin and make a rule that children must stay outside the lines.17
  • Ask younger children to make or decorate a homemade stop sign that you’ll hang on your door or desk during the times they need to be quiet and not interrupt you.18
  • Assign each parent either a morning or afternoon shift where they take the lead in tending to children’s needs, then make it clear to children who’s in charge at those times.19
  • Utilize the flexibility afforded to you by Calabrio Teleopti WFM—easily request overtime and absences based upon times you can/cannot work, and use Self-Scheduling to adjust your lunches and breaks as needed each day.
  • Make it a daily practice when you near the end of your workday to send a message to your team on email or chat letting them know you’re about to sign off.20
  • Avoid looking at work email or answering non-urgent, work-related calls/texts once you’ve signed off for the day—“Letting your team know you’re done for the day will hold you accountable to your own boundaries and help others respect them,” explains Matthew T. Riccio, MA, Ph.D. of Thrive Global.21

Clarify job/parental expectations and adjust non-essential projects

Now is the time to re-evaluate those work—and home—projects we deemed “critical” two months ago and figure out which ones can wait until our lives return to a more normal state.

Stewart Friedman and Alyssa Westring, authors of “Parents Who Lead: The Leadership Approach You Need to Parent with Purpose, Fuel Your Career, and Create a Richer Life”— explain:

“Even in the best of times, the parents we work with often come to realize that their bosses, colleagues, friends and family often want very different things from them than what they thought. So now is the time for clarification.”22

  • Ask your manager to review and validate that the expectations you have of yourself for the next two weeks match his/hers.23
  • Explain to your manager exactly what you need from them to meet these expectations.24
  • Work with your manager to identify the projects you own that can pause until this distance-learning paradigm has passed.
  • Discuss in detail with your parenting partner who will do what, when and where—don’t just operate based on old habits.25
  • Pause or postpone all non-essential home repair and renovation projects (which would only add more upheaval and disruption to an already stressful situation).

Give children more autonomy and occupy their attention

“Giving children the ability to choose some of their own activities and self-serve meals and snacks helps build independence—and allows you to get more unbroken time for work,” explains Teresa Douglas, coauthor of “Working Remotely: Secrets to Success For Employees on Distributed Teams.”33

  • For toddlers, set up a variety of simple activity stations they can choose from (e.g., a drawer in the kitchen stocked with toy pots and pans, a clean pile of socks for them to match, Play-Doh on the coffee table, etc.).26
  • Let older children choose some of their own projects from a pre-approved list of high-quality, educational activities (see this list of suggested resources).27
  • Develop (and update frequently) a list labeled “Bored?” with 15 or more activity suggestions for each child—coloring, dance party, Legos, tent-building, puzzles, crafts, scavenger hunt, outside play, etc.—and post it on the fridge.28
  • Encourage older elementary school students to check in with a grandparent or family friend via video chat each day.29
  • Set out clearly labeled snacks for each child, so they can self-serve when needed.30
  • Prep and package into single servings lunches for younger children, then leave them easily accessible on the counter or on a low shelf in the fridge.31
  • Give older children a list of lunch options they can prepare and/or warm up without needing your help.32

For more information on managing a remote workforce—including accounting for added distance learning expectations—visit our Definitive Guide pillar page.

1,2,9,10,12,14,15 Breck, “Tips from Teachers: Managing the Move to Distance Learning.” March 19, 2020.

3,4,13,16,27 The New York Times, “How to Home School During Coronavirus.” March 23, 2020.

5,6,7,8 Haworth, “Adapting to New Coworkers at Home.” April 7, 2020.

11 HealthyChildren.org, “Working and Learning from Home During the COVID-19 Outbreak.” March 31, 2020.

17,18,26,28,30,31,32,33 The Muse, “7 Tips for Working From Home With Kids When Coronavirus has Shut Everything Down.” April 7, 2020.

20,21 Thrive Global, “The Biggest Challenges Facing Work-From-Home Employees During the Coronavirus Pandemic.” April 10, 2020.

22,23,24,25 World Economic Forum, “Coronavirus: 5 Ways to Work from Home with Your Kids (and Stay Sane).” March 18, 2020.

19,29 The Washington Post, “How to Actually Do this Remote Learning Thing While Working from Home.” April 2, 2020.

Rebecca Martin
As Chief Marketing Officer at Calabrio, Rebecca is responsible for lead generation and pipeline marketing, content strategy, customer marketing, and corporate communications. An unflappable veteran of Minnesota’s emerging technology industry with nearly 20 years of experience, Rebecca has been entrusted with millions in venture capital and the formidable task of building lead funnels, and differentiating and positioning entrepreneurial brands. Most recently, Rebecca was Director of Integrated Marketing for Code42—a data protection and security company—where she fueled a content-driven lead-gen strategy, customer engagement/advocacy and communications initiatives. Prior, Rebecca held marketing leadership roles at Trissential, Stellent, and Oracle. Rebecca holds a B.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin.
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