Years ago, before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic left millions of parents trapped at home with their kids for quite literally 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Professor Robert Kelly became the face of parents who work from home. While discussing South Korean politics via a live Skype interview on BBC News in 2017, Kelly was famously interrupted when both of his children wandered into his office. Now, as social distancing recommendations and state-issued "stay at home" orders leave parents struggling to work from homes full of cooped up children, Kelly, known also as "BBC Dad," and his family are back to commiserate and offer advice.
As more parents transition to working from home, who better to call on for expert advice than the so-called BBC Dad. Kelly and his wife, Jung-a Kim, spoke to BBC News Thursday about how life with social distancing has been with their two lively children.
"It's been tough for us," Kelly said, one arm extended out to play defense against his giggling and wiggling daughter's attempts to play with his hair, climb into his lap, and jump out of her chair. "I mean, as you can see, it's very difficult."
At one point in the interview, Kelly's son sneaks off his mother's lap, crawls under her chair and walks out of the room only to walk back in few minutes later with a game in hand.
So, what's his advice for parents and employers attempting work from home models? Drop your expectations and be kind to employees juggling children on top of work.
"Employers who have employees with kids our age, it's very, very difficult," Kelly said. "I get maybe two hours of work done a day, maybe three with this — we're fighting with them all the time, they've got nothing to do, they're climbing the walls — it's just really, really tough."
Earlier this month, Kelly urged employers to be "kind" to employees working remote with kids. "This is what happens when I sit down at my desk now to try to work," he wrote in a tweet featuring his son sitting on his shoulders as he tries to work. "It is basically impossible for me to work now. Be kind to your employees with kids. After two weeks penned up in the house, those kids are gonna be climbing the walls."
Kelly has also previously admitted via Twitter that his time stuck at home due to coronavirus closures and social distancing policies has involved more games of Connect Four than work. So it's no surprise that he understands the difficult situation so many parents are now finding themselves in with cooped up kids.
"Three weeks ago it was very, very hard because we couldn't go anywhere," Kelly told BBC News of life adhering to social distancing and stay home recommendations in South Korea. "There are only so many games you can play and puzzles you can do before they just kind of, you know, run around."
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