A snapshot of our daily retrospective

Corona-hacks for working parents

By now, most of us have been hit hard by the effects of the Corona aka COVID-19 outbreak and we are all struggling and coping in our very own ways.

During the last week I realised that working from home with two small children and two working parents is harder than I thought it would be. Here are the hacks that worked for us so far:

Do a daily retrospective

My wife, our two energetic boys (2 & 5) and I live in a small 2,5 room apartment. Although I am used to working from home, the setup usually doesn’t involve all of us at home while two of us try to work.

We started to adopt the idea of retrospectives, often used in software development, to improve our situation quickly. Basically, we ask ourselves every evening what should we keep, stop and try.
“Keep” are the rituals and practices that work very well.
“Stop” are all the things that didn’t work and that we explicitly want to discontinue.
“Try” are small improvements and explicitly small experiments.

The retrospective is a good conversation starter to reflect on how the two of us have experienced the day. Equally important, it puts an emphasis on the idea of continuous improvement. We try do do at least one experiment every day, so we get better at what we do and how we do it.

Embed clear rituals

I’ve seen many posts about clear schedules, great educational videos and podcasts for kids and all that. My problem was, that many of those are made for kids at school but don’t work for very small children. What made it even harder, one of my two sons was in quarantine, so it was impossible to just go outside with both kids while the other one of us was working.

What we found useful is to copy rituals that our children already know from kindergarden. This involves a morning ritual to start the day, but also small things like signs to put on their buildings that say “Stop” so nobody else will destroy the built structures.

Stop signs for the boys’ built structures. They both understand them so there is less conflict.

We also experimented with giving rooms names (like “kindergarden” and “the office”) and created signs for them. Using a traffic light system, our living room now has a sign that can be flipped so it sometimes is the living room (green) and other times the office (red).

Move out

Although the small initiatives above improved our lives somewhat, the first week was really hard on all of us. After a brainstorming session with some more or less crazy ideas, we realized that many ideas were about not working from home, even though coffee places and shared offices weren’t an option any more.

So we looked at Airbnb for one-room apartments very close to our home (even accessible during a potential lockdown) in which we could work. I found a couple of places nearby. I was specifically looking for places that looked like they were for tourists only. Assuming that requests had severely gone down already, I contacted the hosts and negotiated the usually high prices. I got a large discount for one of the places and booked it to try it out for a week.

As of yesterday, we now work in a one-room Airbnb apartment. It is a two minute bike ride away from home. My wife and I take shifts to work there while the other one of us has the entire apartment now to play with the kids, be loud and make the best out of the situation.


I would be curious to hear about your hacks with small children and two working parents. Please share them below in the comments!

I am an independent service design consultant and father of two sons, based in Berlin.